Special events create a range of exciting opportunities for local business owners in the host city.  Sporting events, political conventions, music festivals, concerts: these are just a sampling of the types of large events that are known to bring high volumes of visitors and typically an economic boom to the region. And the businesses that serve the local community-- the restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, taxis, hair salons-- are dramatically impacted when these live events come into town.

So earlier this month, I traveled down to New Orleans to talk with some business owners and their employees to see how America's biggest game, the Super Bowl, would impact their business and to see if I could dissect some best practices for my fellow business owners.  

Here are three points of advice that I took away from my stay with the great folks of New Orleans.

You Gotta Be Ready for Change

Don't assume that more people means more business for you.  

This was the point I took away from visiting the fantastic Bittersweet Confections in New Orleans who are known for it's amazing cupcakes.  The week of the Super Bowl, like many major special events, is filled with road closures and changing logistics that bring new unexpected challenges to business owners.  

The folks at Bittersweet Confections knew their storefront alone wouldn't maximize the possibilities of the high volumes of visitors so they created a strategy that kept their bakery opened but also made sure they had a remote presence on site where all of the tourist activities were planning to happen.  They literally took their business to where the activity was happening--not simply hoping the business would come to them.

The Happiness Factor

While eating at one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans, the Bon Ton Café, I had a talk with the waitress asking her about how she felt about the "Super Bowl crowds."  She spoke of how she loved interacting with the tourists and then proceeded to tell me how the restaurant has prepared to handle the projected increase in patrons.  

She seemed authentically happy to be at work.  This "happiness factor" is almost always in jeopardy when business owners don't adequately staff their operations during the boom time.  The most successful businesses I met on the ground shared one common theme – they aim to create great customer experiences despite how long the line is and put a focus on keeping their staff engaged.  

A boom for business should be good for the staff and the business owner and that can only happen when adequate staffing is in place.  If the front line workers who are speaking with customers are burnt out and demoralized, it will be reflected in all facets of a business.  Every customer leaves with a megaphone in hand holding a report card of how they felt about their experience with a business – just take a look on Trip Advisor if you need some proof of that.

Maximize Your Window of Opportunity

There is a very small window to maximize the opportunities presented by a big special event.  That's why it's important to be proactively planning as far in advance as you can.  In New Orleans, local businesses worked with the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee--responsible for planning the cities activities.  

Businesses were also encouraged to actively engage with the local government to get all of the necessary information on how road closures would impact their business.  I had dinner at a restaurant outside of the city's center called Atchafalaya where I had the chance to talk with the owners who were fully booked the night I was there--a feat not all restaurants could claim that weren't in the core of the tourism action.  

While speaking with the owners they clearly had done their homework and knew based on all of the activities in the city, including road closures, where their customers would be coming from.  Like all business owners I spoke with confirmed, it's hard work and a lot of planning but, in the end, good for business.  So, be sure your whole team has on it's game face.



Feb 15, 2013