COMPETING with the big boys is one of the major pressures facing small businesses.
But eight small county firms have now been recognised for their success and believe they can still thrive in the company of bigger rivals.
They have been shortlisted for this year’s Beautiful South Awards.
The awards celebrate the best in tourism and hospitality and the 16 winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 27 at The Felbridge Hotel, near Gatwick, West Sussex.
The eight said the key to their success was hard work, not resting on their laurels, listening to complaints and building on their successes.
Tony Timmer, who owns The Feathered Nest pub, in Nether Westcote, West Oxfordshire, has been nominated for three awards: Outstanding Customer Service, Flavour of the South East and Tourism Pub.
He said: “I would put our success down to sheer hard work and belief in our product.
“It starts with having excellent customer service.”
He said that simple presentation issues like the pub sign and quality of the car park make a vital impression.
He said: “If you don’t get those things right, people won’t come through your door.
“They are all tremendously important to the customer’s perception of your premises.
“Then of course we need to make sure we look after our customers properly as they are spending their hard-earned cash.”
Didcot Railway Centre has been nominated for the Small Visitor Attraction award.
Centre manager Roger Orchardsaid staff listened to customers’ complaints and strived to build on their success.
He said: “We are always improving and always trying to get the general quality of our exhibits better for the public.
“We also make sure we keep a good rapport with our customers and also take note of any complaints they make and learn from them.”
Bill Ritchie, aka Bill Spectre, started his ghost trails in Burford in 2006 and now operates in Oxford.
He said: “I am a one-man business and I think I might be the only one nominated for the awards.
“I am pleased I have been recognised for my hard work and for doing something I enjoy.”
“I am delighted and amazed, but very pleased,” said Bill Ritchie of Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trails.
“I feel very pleased that I am able to do something that people enjoy. I try to make my tours as interactive as possible.
“I get a mixture of people coming, from locals who come back and bring their friends, but I also get lots of tourists, particularly in the summer.
“I am a one-man business and I think I might be the only one nominated for the awards.”
Wallingford Food Festival
WALLINGFORD Food Festival aims to support small producers with two days of good grub and drink.
May’s event ran over two days for the first time in its three-year history and welcomed an estimated 2,000 people at Bridge Villa Campsite, Crowmarsh.
Festival director Paul Bellchambers who runs catering and cookery teaching business The Late Chef, in Moulsford, said there would be a two-day event again next year.
About a quarter of the 45 stalls sold out on both days of the festival.
He said: “I am ecstatic and this is a mark of recognition for the efforts that go into putting the festival on.
“We can look forward to increasing the profile of the event and getting even more visitors in next year.”
Didcot Railway Centre
“I am feeling very upbeat about the nomination. It’s something we always strive for year on year,” said Roger Orchard, manager of Didcot Railway Centre. “We are always improving and always trying to get the general quality of our exhibits better for the public.
“We have focused on what we can do and we do that as best we can.
“It is important to make sure that what we offer is not too expensive, but at the same time not too cheap, so that we can invest back into the centre.
“So we have got to be careful that customers are getting value for money.
“We make sure we keep a good rapport with our customers and also take note of any complaints they make and learn from them.”