[quote style=”boxed”]The most important lesson I learned was that you need to start somewhere, no matter what you want to do with your life. Rather than thinking a job opportunity is beneath you, take an opportunity to get yourself in the door. Show what you can do.[/quote]
Jürgen Himmelmann is the director and co-founder of The Global Work & Travel Co., a one-stop shop for travelers seeking fulfilling and meaningful long-term experiences abroad. When he was 19, Jürgen co-founded the company with his parents after starting and experimenting with numerous small businesses from the age of 15. The Global Work & Travel Co. is one of the world’s fastest-growing youth travel brands and has offices in Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia, Vancouver, and London. The company sells to Australian, New Zealand, European, Canadian, and U.S. markets and employs more than 80 people globally.
Where did the idea for The Global Work & Travel Co. come from?
The fundamental idea of overseas job placements for travelers originated with my father and a previous business he was involved in. This business was tailored toward low-volume, high-quality candidates for prestigious hospitality employers.
When I was finishing university and started working for my father, I realized the potential of a mass-scale, high-volume model for entry-level “working holiday-maker” positions that would suit young travelers who were hoping to take a “gap year” or extended holiday and be able to work a basic job as a means of funding their travels and experiences.
Eventually, it was only natural that we offer similar overseas work experiences. We branched into volunteer work, paid teaching placements, au pair and nanny positions, and student internships in over 100 countries.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day starts with reading emails on my phone for the first hour. I catch up on what’s happened overnight in our overseas offices and assess what I need to prioritize when I arrive in the office. By the time I get to the office, I know most of my responsibilities for the day based on the emails I received and the events or meetings scheduled.
Upon my arrival, I usually check in on the 45 employees we have at our head office in Surfers Paradise. I then attend to emails. I also spend considerable time with our marketing and web teams to further our online marketing efforts and brand imaging.
I motivate and mentor our sales managers as the “go-to” man for questions they might have. I also spend a good part of my morning talking with our Canadian office before its day ends.
I also find time to work on my own goals to build divisions of the company further, grow our overseas operations, investigate new marketing avenues, and fine-tune our customer service and administrative departments. My “lunch break” is usually from 6 to 8 p.m. I go to the gym and have dinner. Then, my “U.K. Day” starts; I work with the U.K. team until about 11 p.m.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I get an idea, I note it in my smartphone. When I have a spare moment in the office, I’ll further think about it. If it passes my “mental examination,” I’ll discuss it with other directors or my top-level management team to get their feedback. We’ll generally brainstorm some tweaks to the original idea.
Once it gets a few thumbs-up, I’ll work on it with the suitable team, and we’ll grow it from there. With a bit of trial and error, we’ll get the idea live and improve it until it works well.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The growing use of online research and information attainment really excites me. Gone are the days when you need to take out a full-page advertisement in a newspaper or magazine to get your brand image and message across. As the Internet and social media continue to rise, an unimaginable amount of opportunities to reach specific target markets through a variety of engaging delivery platforms will continue to grow.
We can reach our targeted global customers for a fraction of the price of a traditional print advertisement, and we can make it engaging and fun for consumers to discover our brand.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I barely go 30 minutes without checking my iPhone for new emails when I’m not at my computer or asleep. My father complains about it, but I find it boosts my productivity so much.
Rather than coming back to the office with 100 emails to read, I can see what’s going on while I’m away from my desk and give quick answers to urgent questions. By the time I get back to the office, I’ve already handled those emails and can focus on the bigger picture of building the brand and moving the company and team forward.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I washed dishes at a local café in high school. Spending eight hours leaning over a sink and cleaning dirty plates is definitely not my definition of fun or fulfillment.
The most important lesson I learned was that you need to start somewhere, no matter what you want to do with your life. Rather than thinking a job opportunity is beneath you, take an opportunity to get yourself in the door. Show what you can do.
Before long, your superior will realize your time and efforts can be used for something more exciting and substantial. After washing dishes for two months, I was running the café floor, manning the till, and directing other employees — and I was only 16 years old.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start my business again, I would reconsider the location where I started this business. If you have the ambition to grow a small business into a larger corporation, you need a decent talent pool in your area to join your team to help reach your goals. As our company’s headquarters grows, one of our greatest challenges is finding top-end staff with the experience, attitude, and drive needed.
The second thing I would do differently would be to seek specific business law advice before growing big. We had to make some changes to our business operations as we grew because what we thought was okay actually wasn’t. It takes time and money to make adjustments to your business for everything to fit within the local legal framework. The bigger you are when you need to make these changes, the more it costs and the longer it takes.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep a constant watch over your income and expenses. I religiously review our advertising and wage costs against our sales and income. I can then recognize areas of poor financial performance and change or adjust poor-performing areas immediately, rather than waiting until our income-producing avenues start to suffer because they’re carrying the burden of the loss- making departments. Even when everything is going well, it’s crucial to constantly check this so you know that everything is stacking up correctly.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Reinvest a good share of your profits back into your business, particularly the advertising and sales departments when you’re a young company. Many companies get to a profitable stage and just sit idle or focus solely on ways to convert potential customers into actual customers without putting some of the profits into increased advertising, marketing, or sales.
Once you become profitable, you need to keep multiplying this system to continuously grow your business turnover and size. Once you have this in place, don’t cut your investment into additional employees short. Ensure your customer service level hasn’t dropped because your current staff is overloaded with additional clients.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of our biggest failures was launching our outbound Canadian sales team. We tried three times to grow our sales front in Canada before we got it right — now it’s booming. We failed previously because we didn’t research the cultural differences between Australia and Canada or the subsequent buying patterns and thought processes Canadians go through compared to Australians.
After a few failed attempts, we learned how things were done in Canada and built our sales business from the ground up instead of cloning Australia’s system. We hired an experienced Canadian sales manager with market experience and overcame a huge financial black hole. Our company is now an industry leader in Canada.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone needs to open a chain of healthy fast-food restaurants exactly like McDonald’s but made from organic produce and free-range meats. It should be affordable, conveniently located, and quick to make. I don’t believe people want to eat unhealthy fast food. It could start with just one store running on the exact same principles as McDonald’s.
Take that one profitable store and proven business model to venture capitalists to gain momentum. Starting in the right location, such as Los Angeles, Vancouver, or London, would be paramount to reach customers who enjoy high-quality food but have little time to dine.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I don’t think I can do that — otherwise, anyone who reads this online will know, and it’ll no longer be something that I can answer when I get this question again!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use Facebook, Google AdWords, and YouTube. While these are all online media platforms, the beauty is what you can do with them and what they can do for you.
Facebook allows you to gain a following of real people interested in your brand who can engage with your message or conversation. Google AdWords allows you to advertise to the exact people you want in the exact areas looking for your product. You aren’t wasting advertising dollars showing your message to the 90 percent of viewers who aren’t in your target market. YouTube allows you to provide strong visual messages and content that enable you to show the world something in a way that can totally change people’s views on the subject.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend anything by Richard Branson or Donald Trump. These two leaders have the experience, achievements, and credentials to give real advice that works.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My father knows how I think and act. He can give me tailored advice that I understand and appreciate. I learned a lot from Richard Branson’s books and online blog. Donald Trump’s books have also influenced me.
Jurgen Himmelmann on LinkedIn:
The Global Work & Travel Co. on Twitter: @TheGWATCo
The Global Work & Travel Co.on Facebook:
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.