Q: Why did you set up YGT?
My Co-Founder Andrew Harding came to me with the idea of setting up a high end golf travel business. We both loved golf and travelling and believed we could do it bigger and better than anyone else who was around at the time! With 11 years of hard work and real focus, thankfully we were right! Spabreaks.com, Racingbreaks.com, Love Velo, OutOfOffice.com and Albatross Club all just seemed to happen as part of the journey.
Q: Do you and your Co-Founder still get on?
Very much so. Andrew and I are still great friends but at work we do not always agree.
I see this a strength though as we both bring different perspectives to situations which you need in a successful partnership. In high growth dynamic businesses such as ours you have to remain agile.
We tend not to do action or pursue something unless we both agree and we discuss many matters daily in private. Outside of work we still play and watch a lot of sport together and don’t really talk about the businesses at all. I was very proud to have him as a best man at my wedding last year.
Q: What were your earlier jobs like?
I had loads of jobs growing up. From doing a paper round as a young teenager, to working in a local sports shop to starting an online betting site at university through to my last corporate job at investment bank ING Barings. They were all entirely different but ultimately, they all taught me a lot about working with different types of people and varying management styles.
Q: What does your working week look like?
My days start early and end late. I’m at my most productive first thing in the morning. I start my week with an early meeting with my assistant Alicia where we go through various tasks, agree my calendar and priorities and plan for the week ahead. She has me in breakfast meetings three to four times a week from 8am. I also have weekly meetings with senior managers across the business to give my input into key commercial projects and plan and hear what challenges they are facing in their departments. I’m often in the office until quite late much to my wife’s displeasure - or that’s what she tells me anyway! Thankfully our facilities manager kicks me out before the lights go out.
Q: What's the best thing about your job?
I’d have to pick two things. Hearing positive feedback from our customers about amazing experiences they have had on their holidays and the great people that I work with, I'm very lucky that I get to pick who they are. Thankfully most of the time we get it right. Over the last 18 months we have worked hard to build our senior management team and take the business into the next phase of growth. I feel that we are getting ever closer to our long-term vision becoming a reality.
Q: Why are your businesses a great place to work? What makes them unique?
We are not a start-up anymore, yet even with near 300 people (and growing) in our Farringdon HQ, we are not a mature business either. So we are enjoying the best of both worlds. It’s entrepreneurial, it’s dynamic, it’s fun. People tend to think ‘golf’ when they see me, but we do so much more than that now. We have thriving travel companies across Spa and Wellness (Spabreaks.com), cycling adventures (Love Velo), horse racing trips (Racingbreaks.com) and of course our thriving LGBT tailor-made holidays business (OutOfOffice.com). We are a diverse bunch that is for sure!
We value our staff and promote a work hard/play hard life balance. We have recently increased holiday allocation to a minimum of 25 days a year and reduced our core working hours to a 9am-5:30pm working day. We have an employee travel discount scheme called ‘Wish you were here’ which is expanding in what we can offer staff all the time. On a practical level, we provide fresh fruit bi-weekly, breakfast bars and Nespresso coffee. More importantly we provide full training and clear objectives and progression paths for all our employees. It’s taken us a while but we are now in a place where everyone in the building knows what their individual objectives are and how they link back to the wider business goals. They also have the support they need in order to achieve their own goals through specific mentoring. And once those goals are achieved there are rewards- because we all need them! London and the South East are very competitive and it's increasingly tough to be a success here.
Q: What qualities do you look for when hiring new staff?
For us attitude, energy and a passion for pleasing the customer are essential. If you love golf, wellness, cycling or racing (depending on your chosen company) then you are flying! I feel those attributes are much more important than years of experience. You can’t teach attitude. I am desperate to work with people who have a real passion for sport, wellness and travel and are ambitious about their future. It is my job to harness that potential and help make their dreams a reality. It's our personal responsibility to provide a stable pathway to a better quality of life for our employees.
Q: How do you recruit?
We have some outstanding Resourcing Managers who manage the process internally end to end in tandem with our hiring managers. For Sales and CS roles it’s normally a telephone interview followed by an assessment day which can take a few hours where the candidates will get to find out more about us, their earning potential and also what area of sales they would like to go into i.e UK & Ireland, Europe, RoW or specialist event sales. After that an offer is normally forthcoming within a matter of two working days, pending references which we take very seriously. It’s a pretty quick process. New starters also get sent out an induction pack with information and points of interest that they are tested on when they join! For specific or senior hires we often work with the best headhunters.
Q: What do you want new staff to get out of their role/the company?
We want our staff to see progression and success within their role and the business. To see how their contribution affects the bottom line and importantly to be well rewarded for their efforts so they can enjoy their family life as ultimately that’s what life's all about. If our staff don't like coming to work, then we need to do a better job or they are simply not right for our culture.
We all spend so much time at work so none of us can afford to compromise on our enjoyment and progression in the workplace. We continue to invest further in learning and development from telephone skills, compliance and financials to customer service, be it on the job, e-learning, Personal Development Plans to a new “Fast Track” management plan.
Q: How do you relax and where do you love to play golf and travel on holiday?
I still play sport, mainly golf and cricket and travel extensively to unwind and broaden my perspectives in a globalised world. I enjoy spending time with my brothers, family and friends and try not to be stuck indoors too much throughout the year. Good food, BBQ's and good gin and wine is never too far away from me outside the office. I am also Chairman of horse racing and lifestyle syndicate the Albatross Club and a founding trustee of our charity Sporting Ambition.
My favourite golf course in England has to be my home course of St. George's Hill. Top of my list to play though is Pine Valley course in New Jersey - our brand ambassador golfer Darren Clarke still owes me a round there! Nudge nudge Slim..
I have learnt over time how important it is to take some time out and re-charge so for me a warm climate with a beach and some good golf courses and spas near by are paramount.
Although my wife is a fanatical skier, I prefer to stay closer to home and Island hop around Europe. I will be in Majorca, Ibiza, Milan and the Algarve Portugal over the next 2 months. I can’t wait.
Saying that I recently travelled to Dubai with my wife to see the Dubai World Cup and I have to say their offering is outstanding for ticking all the boxes- even if the wine is a bit pricey! Outstanding hotels and levels of service. Ritz Carlton on the Palm is a new favourite there.
Q: What advice do you have for people wanting a career in sports, leisure and travel?
Never underestimate how far passion and determination can take you in life. Pick up the phone and make it happen. Life is way too short to sit on the bench.
Q: What fun stuff do you do with your staff?
There is always something fun going on. Last year we had Twickenham all to ourselves for a day, we played a touch rugby tournament with a BBQ and drinks. It was a great day. There is a company Cricket & Football team- for both the ladies and gents. We have quarterly socials hosted by a different department each time. A summer party and a big Christmas bash. This year we have an open roofed party in Hoxton and we have a phrase ‘if you can remember the Christmas party, it was a bad one…’ We also do company ski trips and regular familiarisation trips domestically and overseas most months.
Q: What was the funniest thing that happened on a FAM trip in 2017?
A senior sales manager Ian - who was suffering from sleep deprivation following the birth of his first daughter - used the WC cubicle in Hotel Baia in Cascais for a 2.5 hr 'kip'..... whilst being hosted for lunch by the said hotel!!!! Ooops Ian….guess you didn’t know I heard about that!
Q: Who was your favourite employee last year?
My assistant has told me this is inappropriate as I can’t be seen to have favourites! Thankfully I tend to ignore her - It was a gentlemen called Neil who was outstanding and our employee of the year...
Q: Are you currently recruiting from new roles and what’s the best method of finding them?
Yes we are recruiting for over 50 new roles….we offer £500 travel vouchers for external referrals, which unsurprisingly has been quite popular with friends and family!
For more information on the roles and how to apply please see our careers page on this site or email firstname.lastname@example.org.