This blog entry today is tinged with great sadness as well as excitement as I announce that our time in Ubon Ratchathani and Thailand is fast drawing to a close.
On November 8, 2008 I started this blog to keep some kind of diary of my time here in Thailand, to provide family and friends back home with an update on what we are doing and to perhaps provide a little information for people visiting Ubon Ratchathani. Almost six months later I wrote an entry announcing that we had gone into partnership in a Cafe and Bakery venture in down town Ubon. What followed over the next 16 months was truly a roller coaster of a ride!
The first month was hard but exciting work as we brought the property up to scratch before eventually opening Peppers Bakery & Cafe to the outside world. We were all pumped as very early on in the piece we could see that this business was going to work. Of course there were numerous teething problems but most of all the feedback was very positive and within a few months the figures were reflecting the good comments.
In August 2009, as planned, our partners headed home for a few months as they were expecting their second child. Seerung and I worked full time at the shop easily knocking over 100 hours every week as we increased the menu, the staff, the turnover and the profit. Imagine our disappointment when we found out that the business partners were unable to return to Thailand in November and that they were not sure when they would be back at all. We were never interested in running Peppers by ourselves as we have young kids and were not prepared to put the necessary hours into the business which is why we sought out partners right from the very beginning.
Over the next few months there was much frustration and hurt before we eventually took the only available option and that was to buy out their share. During this time we cut back the staff, the menu and the hours because if we didn’t we would have simply shut the doors and walked away. That is how exhausted we were. I remember on two occasions we actually decided to do this before changing our minds at the last minute because of the staff and our loyal customers.
We took a week off and feeling refreshed we got stuck back into it but on a much smaller scale. We stuck to what we were good at and sure enough the customers continued coming and for the first time we were really enjoying working as the stress had disappeared. We enjoyed talking with old and new customers every day and our staff became more settled which makes a huge difference. We knew however that this was not going to last for ever.
When we moved to Thailand, Seerungs Australian residency application was still going through the motions. We knew that within 2 years that we would have to head back to Australia for a few months to fulfil some of the visa requirements. This was not going to be a problem when we had business partners but when they disappeared we had a problem. We did not want to forfeit the Visa which was already five years in the making so we had to either find a manager or sell. We spent a few months talking with various people regarding the management position but could never find what we were looking for so we decided to quietly start advertising the business for sale just to test the waters and see who was out there. We didn’t really want to sell as we had put so much hard work into Peppers and whilst it was making a decent profit the best was still to come now that things had sorted themselves out.
After a lot of tyre kickers all of a sudden we had three serious people interested. It all happened so fast. Lots of meetings, emails and phone calls later we had made a deal with John. (I will introduce John in my next blog entry.) John was a professional right from the very beginning and we immediately felt very comfortable with him. We felt a real peace when he made an offer that was very close to what we were wanting. A counter offer was made, accepted and everyone was happy.
Settlement was yesterday, August 1. We still have some training to do as well as a lot of government offices to visit to sort out all the paperwork that is involved. My guess is that by this time next week we will have finished completely.
It really has been an amazing time. A time of fantastic highs and unfortunately some days that were so very low that we just wanted to walk away. We have learnt so much in such a short time that we would be quite confident in doing something similar somewhere else. We know we are good at it and that we were successful, but whether we will do it again, only time will tell.
The best part of the job apart from seeing people enjoying our food that is unavailable anywhere else in this part of Thailand is the people you get to meet. I have meet people that have become great friends, people I will remain in contact with for years to come. I have helped some of these people and in return they have certainly helped me. Of course, with good there is also bad and I have met some customers that I hope I never have the misfortune of ever meeting again. These people read this blog and know who they are and I am happy to say that we well and truly proved you wrong.
Our main reasons for coming to Thailand was to finish building the house which we did. Spend more time with Seerungs Dad which we did before he passed away and allow the kids to learn Thai which they certainly have done. Peppers was a distraction which I am glad happened but now it is time to move on once again. We are also proud to leave a small part of us in Ubon in that there is now a decent place for breakfast and a great place for a real coffee!
So where to now? A holiday! We are going to hit the road as soon as we can and enjoy all that Thailand has to offer. Khoa Yai National Park, Bangkok, the beach and maybe Krabi way down south – and that is just for starters! After that we will come back to Ubon and finish packing up before heading back to Australia. After being away for three years it will be interesting to return. Once in Australia we will sort out the Visa and then decide where life is leading us next.