How we turned a bankrupt business around. Lessons for others to benefit from.

Oh wow… My mom would have been so proud. 4 years ago she closed her eyes and we inherited her essentially bankrupt lodge. We turned it around & today I discovered we are ranked 5th best lodge in the #waterberg according to TripAdvisor ( )

Thank you to all your support!

But the reason I’m writing this is that I want to share the steps we took to turn the business around in the hope it will be of help to other entrepreneneurs.

As a background: It is a safari/game lodge (1h20m from Pretoria) in the breathtaking Waterberg so the learnings to turn a business around are sector specific… Here’s what we did.


1. We dropped the prices to something ridiculous knowing that people like to book where other people go. So our aim was a) contribution towards running costs (reduce losses) and b) reviews

2. We incentivised people to write reviews across multiple platforms (a little gift or something extra) as we saw that reviews are the single most powerful way to get reservations.

3. We asked specialist friends to stay barter their expertise to help us save money by staying at the lodge. Eg. heat blankets for geysers which dropped our eskom bill by 10% and connecting 2 rooms per geyser instead of each room (the geysers are huge!)

4. We looked at the fixed costs and variable costs with a fine comb and realised we were bleeding cash by not doing accurate stock control and paying attention where we bought. Many cents make a rand….

5. Staff… We looked at shifts and training to see who we could empower more (and pay more – which sounds like a contradiction). this reduced overall overtime and extra staff costs = 15% less expenses a month

6. We really (and still do) went out of our way to make sure each guest has the best time at the lodge knowing that our lodge reputation is only as good as the last guest’s experience.

7. We cleaned up our old stockroom, garage and sold or gave away things we don’t use. This has a more impact on state of mind than anything else. Decluttering helps to focus

8. We looked carefully at who the ideal match was for what we offered and didn’t try to add activities and be someone we aren’t so we focused on families and friends with kids who want a safe space to truly relax and enjoy the bush but close to Pretoria

9. We stopped hoping for a lucky break and rather paid attention to the small details and on a realistic 2-3 year turnaround horizon.

But the biggest thing that we did right and that I think my mom would have been proud of is to give 20% of the entire lodge as a thank you for 20 years of service to manager Promise who started as a bricklayer with us long ago. (here’s him talking about a spot we found at the lodge ). To put that into perspective, It is a R 5 million equity. He started as a bricklayer 20 years ago and today he is the general manager and my business partner.

Here’s to Promise who showed us that everything is possible even when you don’t have much at the starting line. Here’s to mom for taking deciding to try and not just talk about starting her business. Here’s to our guests and friends without whom this article would have been titled very differently 🙂











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