Andrew Chmura – President of Grand Slam Tennis Tours

I recommend sharing when you can, with friends and family, with colleagues and employees, and with customers and clients. I learned from an old manager that a spirit of generosity can be a very inspiring thing.

Andrew Chmura is the president of Grand Slam Tennis Tours, a boutique tourism company in Stowe, VT specializing in travel to major tennis events around the world, including the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Andrew grew up in Pittsfield, MA where he was a nationally-ranked junior player. He later went on to play tennis at Notre Dame and on the professional circuit before settling in Vermont where he now lives with his family.

In 2016 Andrew and GSTT partnered with Topnotch Management, one of the leading player representation agencies in the tennis industry. The partnership helps GSTT create elevated, customized tennis experiences for their guests around the world and increases GSTT’s overall capabilities at tournaments and events around the tennis industry.

Andrew also serves on the board of USTA New England.

Where did the idea for Grand Slam Tennis Tours come from?

Well, I had a good junior career, I played at Notre Dame, and I spent some time on the pro circuit, but it’s a different level taking it to the pros. After I finished my pro career, I would use some of the relationships I’d developed and take my friends and family to tournaments. We all just tried to have a good time and break even for the trip. Our needs were simple: good food, cool housing and great tickets, and somehow I was always the one responsible for everything. I saw the potential for a business. It was difficult, I was working full time as a tennis pro, starting a family, and somehow trying to start a business in my spare time. But I also felt like this was something I was already doing for family and friends, why not expand it?

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day begins in a beautiful valley in the middle of Vermont. First coffee, then email. If there’s a tour going on I’m traveling, and now that we have the player agency (GSTT merged with boutique representation agency Topnotch Management in 2016) I always check the results of our players around the world. When I get to the office, I try to feel like I’ve already cleaned my plate and am ready for another serving. I check in with my team: sales, marketing, ops, to see how they’re doing and what they need from me.

I make my day productive by stepping back and looking at the big picture. Productivity is a point of perspective. Today is not the day we’ll be crowned the greatest tennis tourism company in the world, today is one small step towards our goals. I’ve got this saying, and a lot of my team knows it, but it’s a mantra that helps keep my day in perspective and my goals grounded: We like to have fun, play tennis and make money.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Action. I believe there are opportunities to be seized and you either make the moment yours or someone else does. Deciding to act is the easy part, in order for an idea to come to life I rely on everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve worked with: my team, my relationships and business partners and my experience. I find it incredibly rewarding to realize how the hard work I’ve put in over my life connects with the present and to recognize that the community I’ve created is the key to my success.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

As a traveler who works in the travel business I love seeing increased mobility, whether it’s better bike lanes and local rideshare programs or charter flight apps and discount international carriers – I love the way mobility brings us closer together, and closer to tennis events.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One habit I’m glad to have retained from the early days of Grand Slam Tennis Tours is a sincere appreciation for every single sale and a willingness to earn it. Customers are a privilege, not a right, and by approaching them as such, you do yourself a lot of favors.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I had grown a foot taller I think my pro career would have gone a bit further, but besides that I wouldn’t change much. We all have paths and if you’re happy where you are, I feel like you have to appreciate how you arrived there. Avoiding hardship and failures is not the answer to success.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I recommend sharing when you can, with friends and family, with colleagues and employees, and with customers and clients. I learned from an old manager that a spirit of generosity can be a very inspiring thing.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’ve seen the statistics about start-ups and I know plenty of businesses that have failed. My strategy for growth has been total commitment to customer service and a respect for volume over margin. If I sell a Wimbledon ticket to a stranger for a $5 profit, I just paid $5 to acquire a customer to next year’s Australian Open. By trusting in my service and prioritizing acquisition over today’s profits, I’ve been able to grow my business.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep it up and trust your path. You’re doing great.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It takes a lot to be an entrepreneur. It is physically demanding and emotionally draining; there are periods of doubt and worry that are buoyed by moments of incredible, adrenaline-pumping highs. My failure is when I let those periods of doubt creep in. There are too many beautiful people and experiences in this world to get brought down by negativity.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A large part of my business is sports ticketing and I think there’s room for an innovative pricing structure that is based on the quality of the event you saw, rather than the promise of what you might see. The business idea, then, is to create a ticketing system that rates the excitement and quality of a tennis match and charges spectators in relation to the actual entertainment value rather than the potential value.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The other day we had a nasty ice storm and all of my employees battled through it (against my advice!) to make it to work. I was the last one in, but I came in with bowls of hot soup for everyone and we sat together as we ate. Bowls of soup are expensive these days.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use Slack for internal comms and What’s App as we travel around the world. Quip is a great tool to streamline a lot of the work and communication of my office. We’ve got employees and clients all over the world and I love being able to connect with all of them via my phone.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Pick up a biography of someone you’ve heard of but aren’t too familiar with and read it. I guarantee it will floor you. I do this a few times a year and it’s humbling to recognize the feats of achievement people can achieve through diligence and creativity. There are some very impressive people who have shaped our world.

Tell us about one friend or acquaintance of yours who we should interview on IdeaMensch? Who are they, how do we get a hold of them and what are they doing?

You should interview one of the best tennis agents in the world and a great entrepreneur, Sam Duvall. He’s one of the few agents in the world who operates independently, which is a statement of his character as much as his entrepreneurial spirit. He’s got a gift for cultivating talent and helping athletes reach their potential. You can find him courtside at any of the Grand Slams in his Topnotch Management polo, or connect with him here.

Grand Slam Tennis Tours on Twitter: @mytennisticket
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