Nena Chaletzos is the founder and CEO of Luxtripper, a luxury travel company that specializes in experiential, multi-destination, and adventure travel in more than 90 destinations across the world. The company was set up in 2015 after Nena saw the opportunity to bring innovative technology to the luxury travel market to build bespoke holidays faster, and in doing so create more time for customer service.
Luxtripper’s technology, built in-house, matches customers to destinations across the world in seconds, and can build complex, multi-destination itineraries in a fraction of the time, allowing its team of travel experts to spend more time with customers, finding out what special means to them and turning their holiday into a trip of a lifetime.
Since 2015, the business has grown to become one of the UK’s fastest-growing travel companies, with more than 80 employees based in the UK and India. Following investment earlier this year, the business plans to double its destination offering and workforce over the next three years, as well as invest further in its proprietary technology to put the customer more in control.
Where did the idea for Luxtripper come from?
I’ve always loved to travel. When I was younger, I used to spend all my spare time investigating new destinations and creating amazing itineraries for myself to explore the world in new exciting ways. My dad worked in a high street travel agent for many years and so I understood how important it was to have that personal touch from someone knowledgeable to help you dream up new experiences, but also how manual and time-consuming planning a trip could be.
As I became more interested in the power of technology, I was surprised to see no one had tried to automate travel planning. It was there that the idea for Luxtripper was born, harnessing the power of technology to match customers to their perfect luxury destinations and create incredible itineraries for them that tied in all their requirements, but in a fraction of the time.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend a lot of my day talking to colleagues around the business and working with the team on new products and developments. We completed our latest fundraise earlier this year, which will be used to double our destination offering over the next three years, as well as invest in our technology and take on awesome new people, so I’m very much focused on that at the moment.
Because I spend a lot of my time in meetings, when it comes to the work itself, I need to be able to work smarter, not just harder. I am therefore most productive when I adopt a lean methodology, using information I already have to solve smaller issues quickly and make fast decisions. I’ve found that when you try and tackle a whole issue, you can get lost in the process and waste time and resources. With a lean methodology on the other hand, you can find accurate and real time feedback on what you are doing, therefore helping to solve the bigger issues along the way.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With the help of my incredible team. Each member of the Luxtripper family has fantastic insight, ideas and experiences that they know our clients will love, and it’s these that helps us turn concepts into reality that put the customer first and keep us competitive. Particularly as a disruptor brand, thinking outside the box keeps us moving forward and it’s so important that our ideas come from across the business and from many different people – diversity of voice, perspective and experience mirrors a more diverse customer base.
We hold regular sessions with the team on new products and welcome views from everyone as we shape them. We listen intently to everything from a variety of channels, because we trust the different voices in our organisation implicitly and it’s important to our future as a business that they are heard.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Meaningful travel. As we emerge from many months of lockdowns and barriers to travel, we’ve seen a real surge in customers looking for experiences that bring them closer to people, wildlife and cultures all over the world. As a result, we’re creating experience-rich, multi-destination travel that delivers that for our customers, it’s a trend that encompasses what we’re about as a business and are truly excited about.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being outcome focused. It’s very easy to get bogged down with big questions and big tasks. Instead, think about whether it supports your three year goal, or whether it’s just nice to have. If it’s the latter, let it go.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t stop learning. Starting a business is incredibly hard and growing it is all-encompassing and can be really stressful at times. Committing part of that time to learning is so important and something you should never stop doing.
Whether it’s learning from your professional network, your customers, your friends and family, or even learning from yourself and the mistakes you make, savour each lesson and use them to grow. Continuous learning was so important when we started Luxtripper that it became one of our core values – a commitment to always moving forward and a promise to everyone that joins the business that we are focused on development, theirs and ours.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The best leaders are vulnerable. Being your true, authentic self and asking for support in handling situations will be the difference between success and failure. While someone has to head up the business, they shouldn’t be alone there. Leaders also need to model behaviour that they’d like to see from the rest of the business – when people join our Luxtripper family, they join a compassionate and caring environment where we celebrate our successes and work through our failures together, and I’m a part of that.
I’ve seen vulnerability sniffed at during my career, but I know that when I’m vulnerable and human with my colleagues, when I share my experiences and connect with people in different ways, I feel closer to everyone in the organisation, our culture is stronger, and I’m a better CEO for it.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take the time to nurture your culture. My background is in HR, which means I’m naturally people-focused. I know that when you take time to cultivate a culture that proves how much you are invested in your people and their future, you create powerful advocates for your business with people that are ready to join you on your journey. All of our staff are considered to be part of the Luxtripper family, and by having our people champion on our leadership team and carving out time every day for us all to connect, they know how important that family is.
For those that think culture is purely about keeping employees happy, they’ve only scratched the surface. If you have a strong culture, the personality of your business will filter through your people and into everything they do, including the way they interact with customers and the passion they put in to their work. It’s the people that build great businesses, and if you have a strong culture, the company will run itself.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Remaining agile. Agility is a vital element of a start-up mindset, but one that becomes increasingly difficult to maintain when you take on more people, more clients and become longer-term focused. When we started Luxtripper in 2015, agility helped us cater to growing markets, attract new customers, create a diverse range of products, and offer services that made us stand out from the crowd.
We’ve since been careful not to lose our agile mindset as we’ve scaled, and it has been invaluable as we’ve navigated change and dealt with uncertainty. For example, we spend a huge amount of time listening to what our clients want from luxury travel through channels like our social media or over the phone. When we hear suggestions that we like, we can turn them into offers and products, sometimes overnight – while that has taken more focus as we’ve scaled, the agility is what keeps us engaging with customers and competitive.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started the business, I couldn’t afford to hire people, and I understood that to mean that it was down to me to go at it alone. That assumption meant that I missed out on that key support and help that is so crucial for an entrepreneur, to help them stay future-focused and give them the encouragement they need to succeed.
Once I realised my mistake, I quickly surrounded myself with as many people as I could find. Mentors, advisers, friends and family formed my early ‘team’ and they acted as a sounding board for my ideas, cheerleaders and support network so that I never felt alone.
From day one, it’s important to look inward, find the gaps in your knowledge and capabilities, and then find great people to fill those gaps, who can take you and the business to the next level. Even if you can’t afford employees yet, tap into networks, find mentors, and share your successes alongside your failures.
And remember: failure is a part of the job and essential to your development as a business. No one is more optimistic than us entrepreneurs, but sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s the way you get back up again and what you do with the lessons you learn that will help you reach your next success. It’s important to celebrate all of your milestones, good and bad, because each one will shape you as a business and a leader.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have developed a love of plants over the last 12 months, especially while I’ve been working at home, but still consider myself a real novice when it comes to growing and nurturing them. I’d love someone to create a service that could act as a starter kit for growing flowers, plants, herbs and vegetables at home, sending seeds and giving advice on things like pot placement, to help make what is a fantastic hobby a success for more people.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m always curious to discover new things that can give me perspective on life and the work that I do, and I’ve been spending my spare time recently researching the power of crystals. I’m particularly fascinated by the science behind why they are so popular with everyone from engineers to wellness gurus. The energy contained within them even at a molecular level is incredible and it’s no wonder that they’re famed for their healing powers and strength. I’ve bought some of my own and I’m definitely planning to invest in some more!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Blinkist is my favourite service at the moment, which condenses nonfiction books down into 15 minutes of either audio or text. I’m a sponge for knowledge but I don’t have a lot of time, so this is perfect for me to get that insight in record time and start feeding it through to my team and my work.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Art of War by Sun Tzu is a fantastic book about ancient military tactics and strategies – through incredible quotes and ways of thinking it brings amazing lessons for present day business leaders about how to create great teams, take on the competition and succeed.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you’re not measuring it, your not managing it”. When you’re leading a business it’s crucial to have that awareness of what’s happening across the company – if you don’t have that, you don’t know what’s broken or what’s not working.
It’s important to use a wide variety of measurements so that you’re not missing out, and we don’t use measurement for the sake of it. But when we have that insight into how we are functioning, it means we can be proactive and reactive to the market, our customers, and our staff, to ensure we’re able to keep moving forward as a business.
- A lean methodology and an agile mindset will help you navigate change and uncertainty
- If you have a strong culture, the company will run itself and your customers will feel the difference
- Being vulnerable and asking for support will make you a better leader
- Diversity of voice, perspective and ideas will mirror a more diverse customer base and make you more competitive
- Continuous learning and natural curiosity will see you embrace failure alongside success
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.