Embrace Your Uniqueness and Customers Will Follow, Says This Luxury Travel Entrepreneur
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Ruben Martinez, co-founder of Glamping Hub, the world's leading platform for unique outdoor accommodations across the globe. [Glamping is camping with a splash of glamour: resort-style amenities, fine cuisine, etc.] We offer glamping experiences in safari tents, shepherd huts, wagons, bell tents, and activities like hiking, kayaking, river rafting, horseback riding, rock climbing and so on.
What inspired you to launch it?
In 2014, the trends in travel were changing. People were still going to hotels and theme parks, but an important group with purchasing power -- millennials and baby boomers -- were looking for something adventurous and unique. And we saw a gap in the people searching the word glamping and there being a place to see multiple options. There was no single platform where hosts could list their glamping site and guests could book.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in marketing it?
In the beginning, there was a hesitancy to be too unique. We didn't want to be too out there because then it would be harder for the consumer to adapt to a new product offering. But the lesson we learned was to embrace the uniqueness, and it wasn't long before the consumer in the U.S. market embraced it as well. So instead of running away from the idea of being unique, we ran towards it.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
For me, it means that you have the ability and opportunity to be in charge of your own destiny. There are no more excuses. You can't point a finger and say, “I would have been successful, but I work for this company” or “I would have been successful, but my boss never gave me an opportunity.” My business partner and I from the get-go were extremely comfortable and happy with the idea of us being able to succeed or fail and that it would be our own fault one way or the other. The joy of being an entrepreneur really teaches you that you are in control of your future and there is no issue or problem that you cannot solve.
What was your toughest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I think the toughest ongoing challenge is always leadership and management. At the end of the day, although we are a tech company, we are also a human company, and human companies have human people that work for them. Each individual who works with you is different: personalities, motivations, skill sets and reasons to be working. It’s a mistake to treat everyone the same. As a company grows, the instinct is to have shortcuts when dealing with employees, but when it comes to leadership and staff retention and things of that nature, there really are no shortcuts. One-on-one attention is vital.
How has your leadership style evolved?
In the beginning, I wanted to make decisions very quickly because we didn't have a lot of time, and it feels good to make decisions and get answers. But that’s evolved, because you make some mistakes along the way. And I felt the need to micromanage. You feel like you're the best person to make each and every decision, but over time you learn that that is not sustainable. I’ve learned that you have to hire the right people and give them the right type of training, the right motivation, and point them in the right direction, light the fire, and then kind of get out of their way to let them do what they do best.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
"I didn't come this far just to come this far." What I like about that is there is always the next step. It re-energizes me to think that there is still a big piece of this journey we have not gone on yet.