The sooner you’ll start to build a great, diversified network of interesting and powerful people, the better it will be for your business. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to help. But of course, it’s important to remember that it goes in both ways.
Right after graduating in Business Engineering in Belgium, Bernard Sury jumped on the next flight to Spain to co-found GuruWalk.
In just 18 months, this growing startup is gathering more than 1200 guided tours only based on tips in more than 60 countries. Anyone is welcome to register as a guide to share his or her passion and to earn an additional income. Travelers can book tours for free and give what they want at the end of the tour, according to their budget and the experience they had. This way, Bernard and his team are working for a more empathetic world, offering eye-opening experiences made by locals.
Avid traveler, Bernard also lived in Spain, Peru, and Colombia during his studies. These open-minded experiences put the seeds of his dream of a more understanding world where travel would have a key role to play. While studying, he decided to help on different projects in a social entrepreneurs’ hub and also started to work as an amateur tour guide, sharing his passion for Brussels to travelers. When not working on his project, this expat entrepreneur is an insatiable learner seeking for experiences, from cooking to sailing, and of course anything related to travel and history. Eager to help others, he also started giving tours for refugees in his hometown.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Our team is made of young people who like to travel to get to know other cultures and be more open-minded about different ways of living. This way, we were looking to start a company that would go in the same direction.
On one side, we noticed that tours based on tips were increasingly popular and getting global. We did lots of ‘pay-what-you-want’ tours while traveling as it’s a fun and local way to see the city and it’s also accessible to everyone. Many people can’t afford expensive paid tours and many were also disappointed by the boredom of some tours, telling you facts without any passion.
On the other side, we met lots of people eager to share their knowledge with travelers and earn an extra income. However, most of them didn’t have the time, the money nor the skills to build their own website to connect with travelers. GuruWalk made it way easier for everyone.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have the chance not to be alone on this adventure! In our team, each one has a precise role to play. Mine is all about communication. We have a great website, it’s working well, so we just need more people to get to know it.
My typical day is a balance between defined processes to get over daily tasks and undefined processes for the creativity needed in communication. This last one brings more value and thus requires deep concentration. That’s why I use to do my emails etc first and then plan a fixed time without any distraction.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Firstly, it’s important not to stop the flow of ideas, at any step of the process. You need ideas constantly, even during the implementation part. So when I see an opportunity or a problem to solve, I open the mental idea valve, without discretion.
I refine ideas by talking to other people, not only from my company, and taking into account their inputs. I also study similar projects already made, their viability and the impact they generated. If the idea is chosen, I rationally prepare an execution plan and launch it at the right moment.
What’s one trend that excites you?
How the Internet is transforming traditional sectors. Even if the Internet is not a new thing, there are more and more online startups refreshing and challenging well-established companies. It often goes with a sectorial clash, like Uber with taxis or Airbnb with hotels. At GuruWalk, we hope to be the next change in the tour and activities sector.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being organized and relevant on my schedule. It might seem obvious, but lots of people are quickly overwhelmed with their work, prioritizing badly and not knowing how to say no. I try to set daily goals and respect it by finding the right balance between tasks that require a lot of concentration and others less. Moreover, when focus is needed, I distance myself from all possible distractions, be it emails, social networks or even an interaction with a colleague.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Start networking as soon as you can. Thanks to your contacts, all your actions can be taken to another level. Have the right contacts in your sector and you’ll receive valuable insights from them. Renown contacts will also inspire trust about you and your company and can open lots of doors, introducing yourself to other contacts from theirs.
So, the sooner you’ll start to build a great, diversified network of interesting and powerful people, the better it will be for your business. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to help. But of course, it’s important to remember that it goes in both ways.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Bad news can also be good news. In most companies, when something bad happens, we try to smother it as soon as possible. This may be the case for a large company, but not for a startup looking to make itself known.
Last summer, a user of our platform was denounced as an illegal tour guide in her hometown. She had to stop her activity or she could be fined up to 600,000 euros. One would think of smothering the affair quickly. But we did the opposite, sharing the news and we were surprised by the positive media impacts on our startup, being mentioned in more than 100 press posts. We registered a significant increase in new users and registered guides on our platform.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m convinced everyone should seek continuous improvement. No matter if things went wrong, you can always learn from these mistakes and avoid them in the future. Moreover, even if things are going well, there are for sure many ways you can improve your work, your way of working or strategies. That’s why I recommend taking a time once a week for yourself, to have this ‘helicopter view’ of your job, understanding how it can be improved and drawing conclusions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
SEO is key for our startup. All the traffic coming to our platform is purely organic, without paying anything in ads or marketing.
In SEO, our main focus is Link Building, as it’s still one of the most relevant factors in Google Algorithm. We are looking for important websites to link us, in a natural way, without paying for it. That’s why creative communication is crucial for us.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not hiring the right person. At GuruWalk, we are indeed looking for people to work with us on the mid-long term as we will be investing lots of time and money in them. That’s why we’re not looking for interns for instance.
To avoid any bad hiring to happen again, we have defined clearly the company values and culture. We also take the hiring process very seriously, making sure everyone in the team has their say.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Sure! It’s easy to get an idea, but the execution is essential too. Just think about a problem to solve, and the more people it helps, the better. I believe entrepreneurship can be used for the ‘good’. For instance, you could find a business opportunity that uses industries’ trash into new products.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was for a plane ticket. It’s important to work with a lot of focus but unplugging is essential too, for everyone. While traveling, you immerse yourself into new lifestyles, meet people and cut the routine. This last aspect is essential for your work and bring you new opportunities you may not have seen as you were too busy and focused.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
FindThatLead is a really useful software. It allows to find emails of nearly anyone and also checks if an email address is correct or not.
The process is very easy and it saves me a lot of time. You just have to enter the website and name of the person you would like to reach and in most cases, it gives you the email of that person. But it can also give you generic emails, which is perfect for communication actions. Furthermore, there is a very useful option that gives you emails just by analyzing Social Media profiles.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Deep Work by Cal Newport. I don’t believe in the traditional 9-5 hours schedule which tends to lengthen our daily tasks. On the contrary, I believe it’s possible to work better and with more intensity, by applying deep work sessions. This book really helped me be more productive and to reorganize my work.
It not only explains why deep work is important but also different ways to make it a reality for your professional (and private) life.
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is from Heraclitus: “The only thing that is constant is that things will change”.
I apply this expression in my everyday life. If something good is going on, it is never acquired and I have to work constantly to keep it going. Likewise, I also use it to reconsider something bad that is happening to me, telling me that a positive outcome is always possible.
- Don’t work hard, work smart doing relevant deep work sessions and with the right team.
- Nothing can ever be taken for granted and nothing is ever lost. Improve yourself continuously and learn about what is happening to you and your startup.
- Having a great product or service is not enough. Build your network and work on effective communication strategies.
- Bad events can be turned into gold with a creative look.
- Find a purpose to work on creating a better world.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.