Surfing business lessons

I’ve been frequenting Surfer’s Corner at Muizenberg beach since late last year as my surfing addiction reaches new levels. Luckily, my Norwegian business partner, Magnus, shares my enthusiasm and over the past couple months (on his extended Cape Town visit) we’ve had many “strategy” sessions in the most scenic and inspiring office environment available.


The business side of surfing

Surfer’s corner is very much a beginner’s wave, with some days providing very nice glassy sets – when the wind blows in the right direction. It therefore attracts many locals and tourists with crowded waters of keen surfers challenging for ownership of waves.

Over time a load of surf shops have popped up renting and selling surf equipment and clothing catering for the demand and increasing the competitiveness to capture customer attention.

One of those shops is Muizenberg’s oldest and best located surf shops, Lifestyle Surfshop. Over the years I’ve bought a couple of wetsuits, clothing, a bodyboard and my surfboard. More significantly, over the years I’ve also recommended Lifestyle to friends, international guests and work colleagues.

To somewhat quantify these referrals – Magnus has bought a wetsuit and has rented longboards (well over 20 times). Magnus’s girlfriend has also rented equipment, and when their Norwegian friends visited Cape Town they also rented equipment, and had some surf lessons. On our annual WooThemes get together we attempted surfing as a team build and rented a heap of surfboards and wetsuits for the team. The list goes on.

Why the loyalty?

It’s safe to say I’m pretty loyal to Lifestyle, and that’s happened quite sub-consciously. I think the reason is two part:

The Daily Surf Report

Fun and friendly surf reports – For years Lifestyle has provided a daily surf report, not only of Muizenberg, but other beaches around the coast. It used to be a pre-recorded voice memo you dialled a number to listen to. As technology has changed it’s now a simple Facebook update on their business page. Usually accurate, often humorous and with a distinct Lifestyle personality it’s part of my daily routine of check-ins.

A car key safe – Well it’s actually a simple draw where they can store your car keys whilst you are in the water. Where else do you put your fancy electronic key card or immobiliser? No questions are ever asked if you are an existing Lifestyle customer, and you’re always greeted with a smile. Just walk in, throw your keys over the counter, and they’ll assign you a number to remember for safe return post-surf.

The startup analogy

Both of these offerings are simple, free services that yield no direct return. It’s a surf shop, run by pretty chilled surfer dudes, so unlike data hungry online startups there’s no conversion tracking, unlikely even a database of customer details to access.

It’s sometimes important to step back and question your business thought process. Think about the seemingly small, insignificant customer services you provide, that data might even suggest are a waste of time – they could in fact be having a huge impact on acquiring and retaining customers.

2 responses

  1. i recently moved to Muizenburg around the corner from Lifestyle. I’ve been thinking about learning to surf and got a headache on which shop to walk into… You can now add me to your list of referrals…

    On the other note, it is important for every startup to carefully think and craft:

    1. who they are
    2. how they express their identity in mind of their target
    3. creating a unique, somewhat individual attention-tailored strategy.

    these are key differentiators, for any enterprise starting out with the intent of flourishing… hope to see you around Surfers’ Corner one of these days 😉

    (i’m actually now thinking of doing a post to expand on this…)

  2. […] Surfing business lessons […]

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