[quote style=”boxed”]First, get buy-in from the team; then, keep them focused to get it done. Don’t allow them to get caught chasing rabbit trails.[/quote]
Matt Cook is the co-founder and operations manager of Vacations Made Easy. After 20 years of experience, Matt lives and breathes Internet marketing and is passionate about building systems that are easy to use and save time. Vacations Made Easy differentiates itself from the competition by being the first to sell activities as the focus, rather than airfare and lodging. VME strives to treat customers like family, and its team members’ goal is to do what they say they will do.
Where did the idea for Vacations Made Easy come from?
We wanted to build a national site after we had success with a regional site, BransonShows.com. Our goal from the beginning was to make it as easy as possible to book a vacation that includes things to do at the customer’s destination. We thought the term “made easy” made sense and would work well to describe what we do. We were the first “Made Easy” I knew of; since then, several have been introduced in every industry.
What is your business model?
We sell complete vacations; we book activities and hotels for customers. We have direct contracts with thousands of vendors that our customers choose among to build a custom package.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day, I get to drop my kids off at school and then come to work. I spend most of my time keeping our staff working on the future, not getting caught up in greasing the squeaky wheel. I keep a list of things to be done, either by me or our staff. I spend a lot of time with each department every day, keeping things going and following up on projects.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, get buy-in from the team; then, keep them focused to get it done. Don’t allow them to get caught chasing rabbit trails.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Cloud computing is exciting. I just attended Amazon AWS re:Invent, and I think it’s going to continue to make it easier for us to make the ideas we have come alive.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I recycled boxes in a box factory during high school. The boss didn’t keep her word, and it made me hate the job. We were told if we got ‘X’ done, we could go home. I would have ‘X’ done in an hour or two, and she would find more to do. I learned to always keep your promises; if you promise something and don’t see what could happen, it’s important to keep your promise even after the unexpected happens.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
When we started, domains were still easy to come by; I would have purchased more back then. I also would have spent more time planning. Early on, we would just go, which I think is fine if you don’t want to get stuck planning, but some planning would have helped at times. I think we’ve found a good balance now.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay on task. Keep doing your thing, no matter what others do. If you do what you do correctly, customers will buy it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Systems and processes really helped grow the business. If you spend time making what you do easy for your customers and employees, you have more control over the outcome.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
With the success of Airbnb and others like it, it would be a great idea to have a concierge service for people who want to rent out their condos and homes. The company would handle the listing, the cleaning, the maintenance, etc. Make it easy for the owner so he or she doesn’t have to mess with those things.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would make adoption easier and less costly. My wife and I couldn’t have children, so we adopted three children and are a few weeks away from completing a fourth adoption. However, it is a very complicated and expensive process. If the world were enabled to take better care of its orphans, it would be a much better place.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
I enjoy time alone, just driving a car, thinking about things, and enjoying what I see.
What are your three favorite online tools, software, or resources and what do you love about them?
TechCrunch is one of my favorite sites because I love to keep up with tech news.
SEMrush is a great tool for tracking websites.
Google Drive is terrific because I love being able to edit or work on things from anywhere.
What is the one book you recommend our community should read and why?
“Who Moved My Cheese” is a classic business book, but I read it and have our employees read it. It helps you stay focused, and it’s short so you can easily — and regularly — read it.
List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur and why?
Matt Cutts: I always read his stuff, and I go listen to him at any conference I attend. He gives good insight on where Google is going.
Malcolm Gladwell: His books lend great general insight into business, and they really make you see things in a new way.
Jack Welch: I have read all his books and really like how he ran GE. I think he has some great ideas to use from people you don’t usually think about, and I’ve used them to great success many times.