Working with Frank at the Quinta

Frank is the owner of Quinta das Relvinhas.

Surfer, ex snowboard champion, visionary, action man, lunatic, lawless party lover, bongo drummer and canny business man.

So he is the perfect person to host 14 volunteers who have come to invade his house and his personal space.

The plan was that we would work for him at least one day a week.

The stages so far have been:

1/ Frank and Sylvia identified areas that needed work on the Quinta. Most of these areas are physical changes – creating a permaculture garden, an adventure playground for kids, a house for Frank himself to live in. Other areas were more strategic though eg. writing a business plan, creating an info area for tourists.

2/We started by clearing the top garden – a day of moving tiles, major strimming, weeding, bramble cutting and wood tearing. This was a good day but even at this stage it was clear that some volunteers had not signed up for physical labour.

3/ So….Fee and I interviewed all the volunteers to find out what people wanted to do with their time here.

We presented our findings to the group so everyone was aware of everyone else’s skills and strengths and what they wanted to develop while they were out here. Also how they wanted to help Frank and how they wanted to help Lucio.

This went well.

4/ We started working Mondays at Frank’s all together. I mainly work on Frank’s business plan with Fee, Nic and Veronika. I have also done some gardening and learnt how to build a stream. The others have revealed some lovely vines (and accidently chopped down a vine that was over 100 years old!), taken the roof off the donkey house and made a gate to keep the goats in.

With the business planning, we have looked at what is unique about the Quinta, Veronika did a SWOT analysis, Nic showed us her model STELLA and we completed it for the Quinta.

We talked to Frank about his marketing and what his vision is for the future. I have created a budget with him and tried to pin him down on the income and expenditure for 2010 and 2011. This has not been easy but it is finally done. The Quinta relies heavily on the family programmes and staff are paid in food, tobacco and drinks. They do not have to pay anything while they are here but do not get paid either. I have been working with Frank on another model.

5/ We presented to Frank the idea of the Quinta becoming like a hostel, as it all makes sense:

– Frank is charismatic and would be a great host and travellers would love his unorthodox approach

– If he got the right staff, the ‘hostel’ would run for itself, freeing Frank up to go off with his surf board whenever he wanted

– There is a serious lack of budget accommodation in Monchique (and the Algarve in general) and for people walking the Via Algarviana

– There is no hostel in Monchique and no accommodation for independent ‘alternative’ travellers between 25-45 and Frank and the Quinta would be a perfect match for this type of person.

He seemed excited and up for it.

6/ It is getting rainy and we need to transform the Quinta in order to attract guests from January who are not just friends. Everyone wants to be involved. I led a group session with Fee on Wed morning asking the following questions:

– What is the bet place you have ever stayed in and why?

– What is unique about the Quinta?

– Go in groups and draw the kitchen, games rooms, bedrooms and wintergarden after they have been transformed.

This went really well. We have some great sketches and are going to do the next stage on Friday morning – creating a timeline, getting Frank to agree to buy the things we need and deciding who is going to focus on what. Meanwhile, I have created a new staffing structure for 2012 to present to Frank and am working on a pricing structure for whole group bookings.

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