Couples in Business, an ongoing series looking at how life is for couples who work and live together
VillasDirect.com was launched in January 2012 by husband and wife team Nico and Elkie Nicholas,VillasDirect.com began trading during July 2014. Nico and Elkie have produced a slick business model centred around the rental of high -end villas and offer the largest collection of immediately bookable rental properties available anywhere online.
VillasDirect.com has quickly gained traction and believe implentations such as the introduction of instant bookings on a live system set them apart from competitors.
Nico took some time out to reveal what it is like to combine business with marriage.
1. What did you both do prior to setting up your business?
Having met over 30 years ago at the tender age of 17, we like to think that we have as successful a marriage as we do an entrepreneurial partnership!
I started my business career by turning my mother’s bridal boutique into a design and manufacturing business, serving over 500 retailers. My next move was into the retail software sector as CEO of Pres.net plc, developing ecommerce software for department stores such as House of Fraser and as far afield as Tangs in Singapore. From there I founded a number of online B2C ventures and began advising other companies on how to develop their ecommerce ventures.
My wife Elkie has a background in fashion and design and has worked with many leading global brands throughout her career. It was her creative skills that were so important when designing the new site.
2. What was the key motivation for going into business together?
We have always loved the South of France and were lucky enough to purchase our own holiday property there 15 years ago. We wanted to rent it out and our mediocre experience of the rentals process over the years, prompted us to create a solution to the gaps in the market.
It seemed like a no-brainer that we would team up on a project that we were both so passionate about. Our separate business experience is one of the things that makes us a perfect professional match.
3. Do you have clearly defined roles in the business? If so, what are they?
With my business background and experience with software development, I tend to handle more of the business development side, but also get involved with the programmers. VillasDirect.com the only site to integrate flight comparisons; working with Skyscanner.com and car hire quotes; from Carrentals.co.uk so there is plenty to manage on the tech side.
Elkie’s role deals more with overseeing the build and design of the site and liaising with the property managers. There is a lot to do, especially in this exciting post-launch phase, so I am always grateful to have her at my side!
4. How do you separate your working life from your personal life?
It can be hard, especially when the project is so important to you both. However, business has always been a key part of our lives so we are used to keeping our work and personal lives separate. After a long day at the office, it is really important to be able to switch off and to forget that you work together, although that is difficult to do when the pressure is on.
5. How do you manage any conflict?
The benefit of having being married for 23 years is that we know where our individual strengths and weaknesses lie and, therefore, how to make sure we are a strong unit in the business world. Luckily, we rarely disagree!
6. How has your business relationship impacted on your relationship?
I would say it has made us a stronger team in and out of the business. We really appreciate what the other brings to the table in a professional setting and it adds a whole new level of respect. Also, it is nice to share the successes of the company as a win for Team Nicholas!
7. Are you stronger working as a team as opposed to separately?
Definitely the former. Having raised two boys and nurtured several businesses over the years, we know the value of having a partner by your side to encourage and support you. That goes for life outside VillasDirect.com as well.
8. What are the pros and cons of working with your spouse?
I have to say that there are mainly pros involved with working with Elkie – I really appreciate the value of working so closely with someone who makes me laugh. Of course, it is harder when we are both stressed about the same thing at the end of the day, but I see it more as a burden shared.
9. Do you agree when it comes to household chores and business decisions?
Yes, normally we are very much on the same page about decisions. When you have been a double act for as long as we have, you rarely let something divide you.
10. What advice would you give to couples thinking of going into business together?
Our experience has been great, but it does test a relationship so be sure of the foundations of your partnership before committing in the business arena as well. Honest communication and mutual respect is key – always bear that in mind. Compromise is also a major factor in any relationship, whether or not you work together – you have to let the other win sometimes, and you have to accept that you may be wrong sometimes – it makes for an easier road ahead – life is difficult enough, so sticking to your guns for something unimportant is often a waste of energy and emotion.
For further information please visit: www.villasdirect.com