For the first time in my 36 years (I know…it took me that long), I traveled overseas to spend 2 weeks in a foreign country. The country of choice? Spain. The trip was full of a lot of firsts for me and I can’t help but compare everything I do back to 834 and running a business.

Here are my takeaways from my whirlwind of a trip, besides the amazing cheese and sangria.

  1. Understand your customer. Understand their behaviors, needs and schedule. Prior to arriving in Spain, I did a lot of research on the history, culture and attractions…I apparently missed the information about the country shutting down for a siesta. Depending on what city we were in, this meant from 2 or 3:00 p.m to 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. the ENTIRE community shuts down. Now before you lecture me on being culturally appropriate…keep in mind that the majority of places we visited were larger cities or tourist attractions – this is how they make their money. Hotel bars, shops, restaurants, town bars, tours and everything else closed. Compare it to Mackinac Island shutting down for 3 to 5 hours. How would a tourist respond? As a business owner or brand, it is important to cater to your customer or client…and that means communicating with them based on their needs and wants…not what works for you.
  2. Communicate. This seems like an obvious…but many of the places we chose to visit in Spain, whether it was a restaurant or an attraction did not have websites, updated Facebook or social media channels. This reminded me of the often stagnant Facebook pages or websites that brands will throw out there with no maintenance or messaging strategy. Why aren’t you blogging? It is your job to make yourself accessible with important information, like contact info & hours. It is also your opportunity to educate your target audience – if the content is there…they will read it. Once you frustrate a customer…they won’t easily reengage.
  3. Be memorable. While we were in Barcelona, we came upon this little restaurant in a long row of restaurants…there was nothing exceptional about it. The menu was ok, the location fine…but the human factor was what blew us away. The host and more than likely owner, made us feel like we were the most important people in the establishment. He was funny, engaging and attentive. We chose that restaurant because he stood outside the patio and chatted with us and I really liked him. It was our best dining experience in Spain and it wasn’t because of the food, it was because of the experience. Companies need to create a personality for their brand and carry it through a customer’s entire interaction. Be memorable and they will keep coming back.

Spain was full of learning experiences. Perhaps the most important for me was learning to appreciate another culture, traditions and people.

Spain taught me to relax, slow down and take a deep breath. Life moves at a different pace there and being able to reflect was perhaps the greatest gift Spain could have given me. I still think the siesta makes no sense, perhaps if just one bar was open…I would have been able to adapt.

In case you ever need to order red wine with ice in it: Vino tinto con hielo. That’s right folks, I brought some serious class to Spain.

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