Doing anything new in life is a massive challenge and starting a new business is no different in that sense but a rewarding challenge nonetheless. The beginning for me was solitary, I had no one to rely on and was working lots of hours without any rewards in sight.
Gaining credibility was the biggest first hurdle for me. Getting customers to trust me and buy into my product/service when I was an unheard of profile and company. Trying to get suppliers to buy into your offering, getting banks to trust you; all these tests came up on a daily basis.
So how can new businesses and entrepreneurs make this transition from the unknown into growing credible companies?
I first made sure I controlled costs carefully, ensuring every single penny I was spending was spent wisely to secure the business. When I did start generating revenue, whatever I earnt I invested back into the business to make sure it thrived. This way I could begin to think about expanding. The biggest challenge when scaling up a business is managing it financially. Fast growth means more expenses and more investment back into the business. Getting the balance right with cash flow is essential.
Knowing your industry well will not only assist you gaining credibility through knowledge but can also present exponential growth opportunities. I first focused on building my own personal expertise. I started talking to lots of people over the phone, over the internet and did lots of research around the travel industry. Even though I loved travelling, I wasn’t an industry expert but invested much time at the very beginning in making sure I was. Even today, I continue to learn on a daily basis as the travel industry is truly culturally diverse in every sense.
Once armed with knowledge and more experience, I saw an opportunity and I switched my focus from a traditional travel agent to that of a tour operator. I realised at this point there was no better way to do that than to start selling the UK as a travel destination to overseas markets. I made a strategic decision to promote the UK as a tourist destination in China. This was a great opportunity for the business and our reputation.
We had found a niche, this focus enabled us to really understand our market and deliver a great service. This is the key to upscaling, recognising your winning formula and using the knowledge and confidence you have accumulated so far to succeed further.
Delivering excellent service through employing the right experts is also key. This was also crucial while building our profile. My team travelled themselves personally to various countries and continents to find the most unique experiences and travel itineraries that can satisfy ever shifting desires and needs of a discerning traveller on any budget.
Now more than ever in our digital age adapting to the demands, needs and changes within the industry is key to credibility. Evolving and innovating is essential to compete in any market place. In the travel industry this has proved a challenge and an opportunity.
Lets Travel led me to recognise the need for ground booking services to move online. This inspired a whole new business venture. I could see and feel the pain of many of my colleagues due to the never ending processes involved in booking coaches and tour guides to various attractions around the globe. I set out to solve our problem and along the way I realised that the technology I’d invented in fact solves this issue worldwide. Whether a tour operator is looking for coaches for a simple private transfer or a multi-day, multi-country touring tailor-made itinerary with a tour guide, TripCenter.NET can offer a live and online solution for the first time. To see an idea come to life after two and half years of development and at the same time running our traditional tour operations business is quite satisfying.
Lets travel is now one of the biggest tour operators for inbound tourism in the UK, responsible for more than 10% of inbound Chinese tourists to the UK/Ireland annually. China still proves to have a fascination for the UK, as a company even now, we are still building on this market entry. Over the last year, we have also expanded into India, the country of my birth and my second home that represents tremendous growth opportunities for both of our brands – Lets Travel and TripCenter.