Stay 1000% focused on your goal and let nothing and no one sidetrack you.
Over two decades, between 1980 and 2000, brother and sister team Emmett and Deirdre Brady modernized their family business, Rochford Brady, and built it into Ireland’s largest legal services firm. They disrupted that industry through the adoption of new technologies and were the first to recognize the power of the Internet, creating a highly successful online portal, LawSearch.ie. But their story just begins when they sell LawSearch.ie in 2000, and move to Amsterdam, where they establish the very first apartment rental site there, AmsterdamEscape. AmsterdamEscape was radically different from the usual unfriendly Dutch attitude in that it offered a high level of customer care and innovative touches like free minibars, DVD libraries, and video game consoles. They soon gained a loyal following and AmsterdamEscape became an overnight success. In 2003, they launched RomeEscape, DelhiEscape in 2005, and NewYorkStay in 2007. In 2014, they merged their existing sites, added more properties and locations in over 50 cities, to launch WorldEscape.
Where did the idea for WorldEscape come from?
Back in 1994 we were in the law business in Ireland and owned Irelands largest law agency company, Rochford Brady. Our brother, who is a techie geek, and was always on about this thing that was coming called the Internet and what it would mean for the world; we’d be making free video calls and suchlike. We were one of the first companies in Ireland to have an email address and website though it was several years before we actually received an email! . As the century was coming to and my sister and I decided we needed a total life change so we sold the law company, emigrated to Amsterdam in April 2000 and went straight into the online business with AmsterdamEscape.com. We quickly realised that the vacation rental business was going to be huge so we dove right in! Within 2 years, we were operating 17 apartments in 4 buildings on Nieuwmartk Square. AmsterdamEscape became famous as a quirky, fun place to stay and we operated at a 95-100% occupancy 12 months a year. Our secret was to be outstanding both in style and in service. Each apartment had its own name, theme, was decorated in vibrant colours and came with complimentary mini bar, PlayStation and a PC which had a direct dial concierge link to our office which we operated 24 hours, even if it was from our beds! .
In 2002, Giuseppe Urso joined us. He wanted to take the business in a different direction by offering a platform for other apartment owners to advertise their properties through our sites. We launched AmsterdamStay and within weeks had owners queuing up to list with us. Planning on replicating this success in other cities, we began acquiring domains. The success of our Amsterdam rentals also prompted us to try the same in Rome, so in 2004 we rented four apartments and got a friend of ours who was living in Rome to run them. In 2006, we decided to go worldwide and launched WorldEscape.com offering owners everywhere the chance to add properties. The WorldEscape group now controls over 1200 domains and operate two brands “Escape” www.amsterdamescape.com, romeescape.com and over 250 other “cities and “Stay” with over 900 city domain. We are currently in the process of launching and relaunching over 200 Escape city sites.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Being as productive as I need to be in 8 hours is a little tricky, and I’m a bit of a late bird, so my days tend to start around 10 am and stretch off into the early hours.
I’m often shutting the computer down as the sun rises. I start the day by drinking a litre of water followed a bowl of porridge and, have a mug of organic coffee as I check my mailbox, the contents of which can sometimes determine the shape of the day ahead. Most days will involve some time online with Chandra Gupta, who runs customer service with my sister Dee as well as acting as my good right hand. I also have a daily meeting with our website developers, who are working on a number of exciting projects, as well as frequent contact with the other three partners, located in Italy, New York and Dublin, to share ideas and canvas opinion.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Communication, strategy, experimentation and feedback…….and speaking of bringing ideas to life; WorldEscape will be launching an industry changing idea soon which we expect will shake up the ENTIRE vacation rental market. Watch This Space!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
It has to be social media. The idea that a business can simply pop up from nowhere, open in days and be packed with customers all through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and with no other advertising required is just thrilling.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My whole life is one long habit. I am a creature of habit. I do the exactly the same things every day and find routine conducive to productivity.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was lucky really I guess, I had two crazy parents who told us we were just accidents and carried on living the way they had been. I left school at 13, and my mother forced me to get a job. ” Before starting your own business,” she said, “go to work for someone else and see it all from the other side”. She answered job applications for me, brought me to the interviews and even answered the interviewer’s questions. I ended up as an apprentice screen printer earning 32 Punts (Irish pounds) a week with the stultifyingly tedious task of cleaning the huge blades from the printing machines. I stuck it out for about six weeks and, lesson learned quickly started my own business.
Within a short while I was turning over 1000 punts a week but back in thoses days you had to be 18 to have a current account in a bank, so all my money had to be deposited into my fathers bank account and with him being a professional acholic it wasent easy to keep the bucks I was making.7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would need pages to do this answer justice! I would do it all differently, every last minute of it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay 1000% focused on your goal and let nothing and no one sidetrack you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It’s simple, the customer is KING. Make your service extraordinary, make it superior. Stand out. Bend over backwards to make your customers happy and they will not only use your service again and again, but they’ll also send their friends and family to you as well. As the saying goes; The customer may not always be right, but they are always the customer. WorldEscape’s entire success is rooted in this strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have had many failures mainly as a result of getting involved with the wrong business partners. I have managed to turn failure to success with imagination, determination and a lot of hard work.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe that the future is ‘free’. Take an industry and change it, taking on all the established brands by offering the service for free, which is easier than ever to do with social media. “Free” is sort of like a non-profit, and we all know there is nothing more profitable than a non-profit!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Best $100 was last Saturday on a vegan meal in a POP UP restaurant (August only) called Sova Food Vegan Butcher. I arrived expecting to be the only one there to find the place packed. That’s the power of social media for you!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I try to avoid software as much as I possibly can. I use programmes for SEO like MOZ and SEOProfiler. In my off time, I love QuizUp and Lumosity.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?.
An excellent read is Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of R.JNabisco. It teaches a lot of business strategy in a way that is entertaining and easy to digest including how to reach your business goals using your personal skills.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Hector Gray (a famous Dublin businessman) had a big influence on me as a child, selling tat imported from Hong Kong to an appreciative crowd each Sunday outside the Woolen Mills in Dublin. His oft used phrase ‘no home’s complete without one’ was one I appropriated when attempting to sell prayer mats as tea-towels door to door in one of my first entrepreneurial efforts at the age of 10.
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.