Interview with Ian Ford, President of UndercoverTourist.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
UndercoverTourist was founded in 2000, and is an online retailer of discount attraction tickets to Disney World, Universal Orlando and other Orlando-area attractions.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I worked for a receptive tour operator in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Orlando, Florida.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I understood that the Internet offered efficiency gains and that receptive tour operators and travel agents did not. This provided a great opportunity.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
It was critical. When things start to go wrong, it enabled me to remain focused on my reasoning during calmer times and to stick with it.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
We had a lawyer and accountants. I would absolutely suggest that. As with any relationship you should have an exit clause, whether it be a divorce, selling of the company, death, etc. You must understand expectations to avoid potential conflicts down the road.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
I selected my partners from people I already knew who had passion, intelligence and acceptable knowledge in the areas required. Intelligence, passion and hard work will lead to improved knowledge depth and width.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I listen to our customers. Our customer service representatives constantly communicate customer comments. I scan every customer email that comes into our office, in batch, on a Friday afternoon. I hang-out in the places my customers do, online communities/message boards and blogs.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Acquire good financing and find talented, young, but hungry, people who are willing to take a pay cut and work passionately to deliver on your idea.
Thank you so much for your time, Ian.