Christopher J. Falvey is the co-owner of Unique NOLA Tours. Having a passion for everything New Orleans in the many decades before he moved to the city in 2006, he saw a need for more intimate experiences for the millions of tourists that come to the city. He soon found that to be more rewarding than the software development company he had founded in 2001. Christopher has two decades of experience building companies from the ground up in myriad sectors such as tourism, accounting, and the record industry.
Where did the idea for Unique NOLA Tours come from?
Here in New Orleans, tours are allowed with 28 people. We saw a need for more intimate tours, so we built a system where we can take out 15 or fewer people per guide and still be profitable. Secondly, we saw a need for tours that were more historically accurate, even if they tended toward the kitschy. We pored over New Orleans history books and articles to attach the real stories to the outrageous.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m sorry to say I don’t have much of a work-life balance. I absolutely believe in working smarter not harder, but with all of the hats one must wear to keep the ship trending in the right direction, one must use time savings from one area to ply themselves quickly in another area.
My typical day is getting to my home office at 6 am, and immediately doing the items on my list that will take less than 15-30 minutes. Then I move on to anything that has to be done but is not core to growing the business or righting the ship. After that, every day I usually have a larger project that will take hours, and I jump into that after the shorter projects.
I work from about 6 am to 6 pm on weekdays, a little less on weekends. The day ends with a few hours of YouTube educational videos then into bed early. I always get enough sleep!
If I had free time, I’d just find other areas of the business to make more streamlined and efficient.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research. With deep historical research, you find wonderful stories that are buried deeper than the colloquial tales everyone already knows.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The move to make tours less rote “tours” and more of an “experience.” This involves rethinking our entire process. Luckily for us, we already deal with smaller groups per guide and have a lot more historical research to fall back on.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My habit, and it is truly a habit at this point, of immediately categorizing work as “needing to be done quickly” vs. “needing more thought put in.” You can’t always just focus on the speed at which projects are completed. As well, you have to know when a project requires hacking (in the sense of the word of focusing on speed over quality.) There are definitely times speed matters over quality. One must know when to go that route.
Then, do obsess over every eventuality. “Every eventuality thinking” as I call it, has allowed me to continually go back and refine anything and everything.
What advice would you give your younger self?
All things organize and pass, don’t obsess. Do what you can in the moment, and don’t let anxiety ever stop you from doing what you think is right to progress. You may be wrong, but best to be wrong and done with it than still be thinking about it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Work-life balance will not bring you success. One can be overworked (though I feel that almost always is a situation where someone is in a toxic work environment, and not truly overworked. That is no good! But, really, even as a grocery store clerk and a chip soldering guy, I always went well above and beyond on offering my time so that I was in a position where I could be comfortable later and not worry about ever being fired.
The one thing anyone can do to beat you is outworking you. Don’t let that happen. Never lift your foot from the gas pedal, and never take your eyes off the road.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Build to-do lists and project boards, even if just for yourself. I cannot keep ideas in my head, they need to be applied to the right list. I have lists for immediate work, long-term projects, and everything in between. Write it down!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I started a business with my partner in a crowded, competitive, and mature space. Not the type of startup that gets headlines for pushing the boundaries! Without giving up the recipe to our secret sauce, I’ll just say that one can find where an entire industry is inefficient and exploit that, even in mature spaces. If you can’t do that, work harder than everyone else.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I held on to an accounting software business way past its prime. It was “my baby” and I couldn’t let it go. I overcame it by eventually figuring out what I did right for 10-15 years with that business and applied it to a new industry.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m way too secretive for this one! I’m always looking for new ideas to jump into (again, no work-life balance). Ok, how about this one… a bot or app that figures out where people are far overcharging people on Amazon? As a consumer, I’d love to just always assume anything on Amazon is the best price. I don’t want to have to think about shopping. Yet, I do, you can easily get caught paying 2x the reasonable price because Amazon doesn’t monitor this. That’s not something I am going to build, so there’s an idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Well, it was about $40 or so, but buying a Raspberry Pi. It has nothing to do with my tour company, but it’s opened up a ton of other fun ideas! I now have 10-15 (bought before they became hard to find.) So much fun. My background is in technology.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Oh this one is difficult because as a developer, and an older-school developer at that, I write bespoke software to run our business. I can say with certainty that because I have software customized just to our company, I am much, much more efficient than if I were using something off the shelf.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Check out David Plummer’s “Secrets of the Autistic Millionaire.” I really enjoy his tech content on YouTube and I’m enjoying this book. It’s an easy read, and very personal.
What is your favorite quote?
The entirety of Glengarry Glen Ross. Or…
“Someday this war’s gonna end.” – Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.
- Never lift your foot from the gas pedal, never take your eyes off the road.
- Spend time researching
- Write it down.
- Work harder than everyone else.
- Consider bespoke software.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.