Turning Around a Business
Nancy Adamo purchased a run-down 28-room inn in Ontario in 1985 and, with a $20 million overhaul, transformed it into a 104-room ski and golf world-class conference centre and recreation facility called Hockley Valley Resort (www.hockley.com). During the process she employed over 1,500 people and coped with a host of challenges, including a contractor who went bankrupt and an opening in 1990 that coincided with Canada's worst recession to date.
The three previous owners of the inn had gone bankrupt and everyone around Nancy was writing its obituary. "But I fell in love with the scenic beauty of the valley, and it had location, location, location," she says. Her vision paid off, as Hockley Valley is now the closest four-season resort to Toronto and has been voted as the number one meeting place in Canada by Meetings and Incentives Canada magazine. In 2001, Nancy added a diverse, state-of-the-art European style spa, called The Spa, to her all-season resort - another step in her continuing commitment to provide guests with world-class quality.
Here are some of the strategies Nancy applied to turn Hockley Valley Resort into a first-class resort and one of the 50 best privately managed businesses in Canada.
- Have a vision. Nancy saw the future of an uninhabitable 28-room inn as a four-season resort close to a big city.
- Believe in yourself. "A lot of people tried to discourage me, but I had the desire and the determination." She also did her research, confirming that golf was the fastest-growing sport.
- Persevere. "There were many times when it would have been easy to throw in the towel, but I kept going." She was turned down for financing by every major bank, until RBC Royal Bank came through with $5.5 million for the first phase of her renovation.
- Be proactive. "Particularly if you have no industry experience in your start-up, be prepared to put up collateral, especially your home."
- Lead by example. "This is especially true when it comes to belt-tightening."
- Don't just put money into the bricks and mortar. "We allocated a marketing budget that I feel is key in any business." Her guideline is 6% of total sales.