So most of the painting, hammering and building is now complete (for the first two rooms anyway). The website is live, the shop sign says “Please come in, we are OPEN” (as the dorky video of me posted last week attests). The booking system is live and we have had our first few teams play the rooms.
Overall feedback has been fantastic – nineteen 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor, thirteen 5 star reviews on Facebook and quite a few repeat bookings (e.g. played the 50s rooms and now booked to come back and play the 80s). But what are some of the main lessons that we have learned in the 1st week.
1. Do have a plan
Sounds very obvious, but take the time to map out everything you need to do and by when. My brother (and business partner) is a little bit OCD when it comes to lists and when I say “a little bit”, I mean unbelievably obsessive. I tend to be a bit more laid back when it comes to the detail, but his commitment to project planning has kept us on track superbly well.
2. Do budget carefully
Take the time to really think through all of the costs. Initially my brother and I said “we could probably lay that laminate floor ourselves in the reception in an afternoon”. In the end 2 skilled carpenters took 3 full days to do the job! Happily, as we had carefully budgeted for such a contingency we could afford to pay them. One of the other costs that was more than we thought was the mandatory work required following the fire inspection.
3. Do be prepared for lots of hard work
I previously had an office based job and so to go from that to 13 hours of actual physical work 6 days a week was a bit of a shock! Comfortingly, I still have all 8 fingers and 2 thumbs (be careful with the circular saw) and have learned a lot about DIY. I have also learnt just how robust a room needs to be to stand up to the most inquisitive of minds and fingers!
4. Don’t treat the competition as the enemy
We have met up with several local competitors and it feels like we are already forging some really nice relationships – they are lovely people and we are happy to recommend their room to our customers and they are doing the same – the challenge of course is that you can only play each room once and so why not recommend a quality local competitor to raise awareness.
5. Don’t ignore the local community
We are on Shirley High Street in Southampton and there are around 150 businesses on the High Street. We took the time to go and speak to all of them to say hello as a new neighbour and to offer them an introductory discount. We also ran a competition to see which business on the high street could escape the room the quickest! Could Lloyds Bank get out before Paddy Power etc!
6. Do have fun!
I know this is an odd final bit of advice that probably sits in the “well, thanks very much, I would have never thought of that myself” category, but from my experience the best escape room experiences are the ones where the owners seem to be having as much fun as the customers!