We spoke with Gavin Lapidus of luxury travel agent eShores about what he’s learned in a decade of running an independent business.
What are the key things you have learned over the last ten years of eShores?
Staff are key to the success of the business and looking after them is vital – thanks to my team, we’ve prospered over the last decade, with comfortable growth each year.
Any problem can be overcome; it just needs to be looked at in a calm and collected way. The travel industry isn’t without its problems and we’ve had to think strategically along the way to navigate some unexpected challenges.
How did you start your business?
I had a passion for travel – and I’ve always wanted to own my own business – so it happened naturally.
I founded eShores with my associate Nadine Brown ten years ago this May. In the early days, we worked out of a back bedroom, but within three months, we were ready to make our first hire. Since then we’ve moved three more times and now have 15 employees, so things have definitely changed from when we first set up.
In your experience, how has the luxury travel industry changed over the last decade?
The industry has placed more and more importance on the digital side of the business over the past 10 years, which has made things more competitive.
Personalisation is another substantial shift in the travel sector. The public are looking to book each element of their trip separately, rather than the package deals of old. This need for unique experiences has helped us grow – one of our key offerings is tailor-made holidays that are created according to the requirements and specifications of the customer.
There’s also been a clear increase in the number of holidaymakers opting to stay in apartments, like Airbnb for example, rather than hotels, but there’s still a significant number of people looking for the luxury only a hotel can provide.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to start and grow an online business?
Your website is the shop window of your business – it’s the first impression your customers will get – so it has to be right. This isn’t to say it needs to be the most expensive website in the world, but you need to ensure it’s professional, functional, and properly conveys your brand message and ethos.
Investment is also required to make sure your website is visible online. SEO can be a long process that you’ll likely need assistance with via an agency – especially for the technical stuff. Pay Per Click advertising is a sensible option to begin with, as you can scale the cost as your business grows.
What does eShores do to retain the best staff?
Our staff work hard and are the reason for our success, so we reward them financially with a generous salary package. We also take them out for various days/nights out through the year, giving them the chance to spend time as a team away from the office.
Team unity is vital, especially for small businesses, so we put in the effort to make sure the team are bonding in and outside of work. This builds a team who support each other and can take the business forward.
How do you attract the best candidates – are there any recruitment or interview techniques you would recommend?
Being a small team appeals to a lot of the candidates we speak to. They prefer the idea of being able to get to know their clients, rather than working in a large call centre where it’s more about getting through as many calls as possible.
Interpersonal and ‘soft skills’ are something we look out for too, as well as experience. When operating in a small team, candidate’s ability to gel with the rest of the group is vital and helps everyone pull in the same direction.
What challenges have you faced and what did you do to overcome them?
One of the biggest events in the last decade for us was the collapse of XL Leisure Group in 2008.
We were using the airline for a vast number of pre-booked and ongoing holiday at the time, so we had to work quickly to handle the crisis of them going under.
This meant finding replacement planes for many of our future trips, as well as finding alternative travel home for holidaymakers who were already away. When the news came through, the rest of the airlines boosted their prices to exploit the situation, and as we were covering the new flights ourselves rather than the customer, it was a costly period for us.
Another massive event was the volcano in Iceland back in 2010 which grounded all UK flights for the first time ever. To cope with this unprecedented event, we paid for hotels for stranded customers and rearranged flights and hotels for people who were set to travel that summer.
What is your biggest success to date?
Getting to where we are today, employing 15 people who love their jobs and are all successful at what they do. Also, having a loyal client base who appreciate what we do as a business.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own business?
If you want to run your own business, you have an idea that you believe in, and you are dedicated to seeing it through, then go for it. There will always be issues, challenges, and events you can’t prepare for, but if you’re determined enough you’ll come through them stronger than before.
Want to find out more about the tailor-made holidays eShores offer? Please visit: www.eshores.co.uk