Blog Post

Three 2020 Things I don’t want to change in 2021 – Part 2 of 3

Hey gang, 

In Part 1 of this series, “Where do we go from here,” We took a look in the rearview mirror at the year that was. In 2020 we dealt with extraordinary uncertainty and considered our reactions to uncertain circumstances; our team’s reaction to uncertain circumstances. 

The pull to “Get back to the way things were” is powerful. Sometimes I visualize 2019’s ease of travel, freedom to go to church gatherings, and family friend get-togethers free of the invisible fear. 

My challenge to you in Part 1 was to consider the idea that you DON’T want EVERYTHING to go back to normal. That you do not want things to return completely to 2019’s parameters! 

Sounds crazy, right? When I first caught myself thinking about NOT wanting everything back the way it was, I became immediately self-critical. I thought, “How can you say that?”and “Are you crazy?” 

Then I saw a similar thoughtful post from my friend, Gurleen. It’s her post, so I won’t quote it or link to it, but paraphrasing she asks, “What if 2020 was this time you found your inner strength and overcame so much that you realized you were stronger than you thought?”[sic] 

Her post was the encouragement I needed to explore this idea that going through 2020’s challenges could provide something positive. If fact, successfully navigating difficult times specifically indicates that you learned and grew and fought and overcame and are now different than before. 

So here are some very practical things I do NOT want to change that came from 2020’s harrowing adventure: 

#1 Pre-selling products before events. If you followed last year’s blog, you know that we shifted to Drive-Thru events for strawberries, blueberries, local foods, peaches, wine, even dinners, soup & pit beef. Though the logistics held a learning curve, we knew in advance exactly how many flats of berries, beef sandwiches, and bottles of Cherry Infusion to prepare. 

Think about your usual pick-your-own weekends. It’s hard to know if you’ll have 50 or 500 pickers, wine drinkers, and sticky bun buyers. How did we ever plan for these events?! Pre-selling products is an idea we are specifically working to continue, pandemic or not. 

#2 Timed ticketing. In 2019, we experimented with timed ticketing for our Sunflower Festival simply because we had to haul people on wagons to the field and festival area. It was quite rudimentary using 2-hour time blocks. 

Sort of unbelievably, timed-ticketing became mandatory in 2020 as we all raced to comply as best we could with, not only the state-mandated requirements but also the public’s perception of “Is this business doing a good job social distancing?” 

Each week as we watched the tickets surge, I’d pop into my TicketSpice Event Settings and change the 2-hour window to a 1-hour, then to 30 minutes, and we ended up selling tickets by a 15-minute interval to keep constant, but not crazy flow into the corn maze & fun park. 

I think many of us discovered that timed-ticketing leads to some unforeseen benefits.We found reduced staffing requirements at check-in, shorter lines for food service, less crazy peak times as ticketing forced guests to the fringe hours, and finally some appreciation from guests that Maize Quest Fun Park might sell out because it is VALUABLE!!! 

Some operators, like my buddy Jon, are going COMPLETELY to online ticketing with essentially no walk-up registers. If you don’t have a ticket at his place, there are signs in the parking lot and on the approach to the entrance that prompt you to ‘text for a ticket-buying link’ so all transactions are reserved online. (I think this is a NEW feature – Text for Tickets. I’ll find out more and let you know. We haven’t done ‘text for tickets’ yet!) 

We will not be going back to 2019 on this one. Timed-ticketing, for a venue like ours, IS the ‘new normal.’ 

#3 Focus on family & employ family wellness. The year certainly shined a light on the importance of family, on the importance of your team, and on the importance of essential workers. 

Our family has been well. Since we’re so rural and bought in early on masks and sanitation, we’ve avoided any specific cases in our family and even extended family. My kids have been home when normally they would be out with friends 2-5 nights a week. While I would love for them to have regular teen years, it has been fun to have family movie & card nights more often. 

The extended employee family’s health and wellness have been highlighted as well.We had a scare or two with people close to employees getting positive tests. Those team members quarantined and the rest of the gang covered the responsibilities, and – shocker! –things were just fine. 

We learned that the team could and would step up to cover for each other, and generally go the extra mile to care for one another. I don’t want this feeling and understanding to go away in a rush to get back to the hard-driving, work-before-all-others mentality I had before. 

#3.5 Your group is not the boss of me. Just a little bonus. This season we scheduled nearly ZERO school groups and still set a record for total attendance. One of the things we learned, I should say Michelle learned, even before 2020 was “Your group is not the boss of me.” 

When we were young, we’d take any group at any time they requested at their first requested date and time. Now, Michelle very wisely stack-schedules. “Stack-scheduling” means, she’ll push groups onto a day in which we already have other groups to be efficient with payroll. She only opens a new day of any given week once the first scheduled days are full. 

2021, we’re planning to ratchet this up. Tours are Fridays, then Thursdays, then Wednesdays, and maybe not even Tuesdays or Mondays EVER. This year, we enjoyed the breathing room to get ordering and employees rested from crazy weekends with fewer groups. 

So, what would you like to see STAY from 2020’s learning adventure? This is a conversation, and I appreciate the emails received so far 🙂 

Have a great week! 


PS Shadi at TicketSpice reached out to let me know that they are doing some benchmarking to see if they can spot any useful trends from all the online ticketing data farms processed through 2020. Email if you’d like to join for a first look at the trends.

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