A decade of hard work pays off for working travel entrepreneur
Written on the 15 January 2019 by David Simmons
If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. It's an adage as old as sliced bread, but every entrepreneur knows it takes a lot of work to get to that point.
However, when it comes to Jürgen Himmelmann, those hours of grinding do pay off, especially when they involve some serious travelling.
Over the last 10 years Himmelmann has built a thriving business on the Gold Coast called The Global Work & Travel Co.
His company is one of Australia's leading gap-year travel companies that offers meaningful travel experiences to 18-35-year olds who want to be more than just tourists.
Their core product, working holidays, allows customers to go overseas for up to 24 months and work a job they organise in advance to fund their stay and future travels.
Himmelmann and his team, which he says is at its biggest and best right now, send thousands of people overseas to the UK, Canada, and into Australia every year.
With more than 100 staff across Australia, Canada and the UK, and almost 10,000 people per year travelling through the Global Work & Travel Co, Himmelmann has established himself as one of the go-to guys in the industry. In 2018, Himmelmann even picked up the Gold Coast Professional Services Young Entrepreneur Award.
However, despite its glamourous appearance, it hasn't always been beaches and cocktails for Himmelmann, Business News Australia's number 14 Young Entrepreneur in Australia.
"Obviously the industry itself is fun, its hands down probably the most fun product to sell," says Himmelmann.
"It's the hardest to make a profitable business in as it's very competitive; the internet has taken away a lot of need for human based customer service, so it is tough."
"But when you can get it right it is probably the most fun because you are selling travel and you get to travel regularly to first hand inspect the trips you sell or meet partners overseas who run projects that you partner with, so you get to do a lot of travelling yourself."
Since establishing the company in 2008 from his garage with just a couple of staff, Himmelmann has opened offices in Vancouver (in 2009) and London (in 2013), and moved into a Surfers Paradise office in 2014.
"We simply offer a product and concept that no one else is doing to our scale," says Himmelmann.
"What has previously always been a very niche, small business-operator market we've managed to mainstream and build a corporate business from."
Doing things differently is at the core Himmelmann's approach, right down to the nuts and bolts of his business. That's most apparent with his investment in tech.
Realising that the solutions on the market were not appropriate, Himmelmann's tech team sat down and crafted a platform to consolidate the business and optimise the customer experience.
"We develop our own tech in house, we've got a very good tech team," says Himmelmann.
"We have been building and launching a really cool customizer where customers get to manage their trip and interact with our team in our office through a really smart platform."
"We have also been building and releasing updates to our own internal customer management system that we built from the ground up to allow us to most efficiently manage our customer's trips and for our staff to be able to communicate with our customers best because there was no platform or software on the open market that sort of fit the nicheness of our business."
Whilst Himmelmann says he is very proud of what he's built, especially considering he launched the company when he was 19 years old without any formal qualifications in business, there are some aspects he would have done differently.
"Bringing external advice on board sooner is one thing I wish I did differently, particular for young entrepreneurs," says Himmelmann.
"Seeking mentorship or opinion from either other entrepreneurial groups or finding a third-party mentor would definitely be a smart move. I spent the past few years building the company but now if I knew what I knew now and started the company tomorrow I reckon I could rebuild this company in three years."
"And I probably would've also sought out some sort of seed funding when I first started it's taken 10 years of bootstrapping the company and using realised cash flow to grow whereas if I had a bank loan or an angel investor and had that capital to begin with I would've got moving a lot faster."
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons