After starting and experimenting with numerous small businesses while still in high school, Jürgen Himmelmann co-founded The Global Work & Travel Co. at the age of 19. It is now one of the world’s fastest growing youth travel brands with offices located in Surfer’s Paradise (Australia), Vancouver (Canada), and London (UK). They sell to the Australian, New Zealand, UK, European, Canadian, and USA markets and employ more than 80 people globally. Follow him @TheGWATCo.
Who is your hero?
That’s a very good question. I would define a hero as a leader or mentor; as someone who I would look up to for advice and guidance. In business, my heroes would be Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Jordan Belfort. They all are successful in different aspects. One is a great marketer, the other is a great deal-maker and the third is a leading sales figure. Following in their footsteps can only lead to success in my own business life. On a personal level, my father is my hero. His guidance and mentorship plays a large role in my actions and decisions every day.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
My single best piece of business advice is to make your own decisions and see them through. A lot of people listen too much to their friends, colleagues and family about what to do in their business life. I’ve always made my own decisions and have seen them through. Many people have told me that I’m too young to take on certain responsibilities, but as the saying goes, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” As long as you’ve taken their feedback into account and assessed and compared it to your own thought-making process, you can move forward. If you believe your decision is right, it usually is. That will motivate you to prove everyone else wrong and turn an idea into a reality that you can claim as your own.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
I learned the hard way, but quickly, that when there’s money involved in something, trust can only go so far and it definitely needs to be earned first. While you may hire a friend or acquaintance, or become close with an employee, that trust can be broken quite quickly. It can cause severe problems, challenges or setbacks. In my opinion, while you still need to trust people to a certain extent, you can’t put 100 percent of your trust into someone and just wait until they break it. That day could cost you severely.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My first hour in the office consists of reading and flagging for follow-up the emails I received overnight from my other offices. I can get over 100 emails a night. Getting these read allows me to fully grasp what’s happening globally in my business. Once this is done, I can then lay my day out and spend time with the team, knowing what I need to finish before the day’s over.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
My best advice for startups financially is to minimize staff expenses. Staff should wear a few different hats. When we first started ends didn’t meet, but we also couldn’t run the business without a few employees, so some people had to be in charge of sales/administration/complaints/booking agents all at once. Consider increasing your staff’s hours and pay to cover the extra workload. It gives them time to get the job done so you don’t need to hire someone new to fill the role. As your business grows, you can afford to start splitting duties and departments and go from there.
I would also advise you to only take a wage for yourself that you need to cover your personal expenses with. Don’t take a large wage just because you’re the owner/CEO. There were numerous times when a lot of my staff would take home more than I did. As your income and gross profit grows, you can take the share you know you deserve.
Lastly, advertising is crucial. A lot of people I know are afraid of increasing advertising because they’re not profitable enough yet. But advertising (proven advertising) is where your profitability will come from. If what you’re doing now brings in sales but you’re not making enough to break even, consider taking the leap and increasing it. More advertising equals more inquiries, which equals more sales and more turnover. The cycle repeats. Before long, you’ve exceeded the point where your income covers your expenses, and your profit-creating business can really start to grow.
What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Employ dedicated and trained sales people. Many new businesses rely solely on online transactions and sales, but having someone speak to your potential customers, follow up with them and provide a high customer service experience before they decide to part with their money can make a world of difference. Your customers will be even more excited to have purchased something from you.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
My definition of success is freedom. When you’re able to do what you want when you want, you’re experiencing freedom. No one else is controlling the outcome of your life. Unfortunately, a lot of freedoms in the 21st century stem from making money. Once you make money, you can pay someone to do what you don’t want to do. You can get on a plane and visit a place you’ve always dreamed of going. The more you can do this (not that you actually have to do it), the more successful you become.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.