Opinion.

Entrepreneur Bruce Poon Tip on the art of ‘letting go’

Toronto-based Bruce Poon Tip is the Founder of G Adventures, a company he set up at the tender age of 22 from his apartment following a backpacking trip to Asia. He shares his tips on being a good leader and all the potential pitfalls that come with it

by Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures

Topic: Leadership

Click. Takeaway

  • One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs is the art of letting go, and learning not to control everything
  • Know your audience and don’t try to be everything to everyone – you’ll end up pleasing no one
  • A good leader, be it a company or an individual, takes responsibility and leads by example
  • In the last ten years, all-inclusive holidays have become more popular, rising from 25% to 75% of all holidays booked. But wealth is only spread when consumers book individual hotels, local restaurants and tour guides

A good leader needs to know their own weakness

Entrepreneurs are naturally eccentric and control freaks. When I first started running G Adventures in 1990, I found it difficult to let go because I didn’t like the feeling of losing control that came with it. But running a successful business means you have to let go. One of the biggest struggles for me has been the constant self evaluation. A good leader needs to know their own weakness. I’m not a control freak anymore, but it’s been a long road to get me to where I am today. My biggest challenge is me.

Leadership evolves over time

I’ve had to learn leadership over the years since starting out as a small company 28 years ago. We’ve got to a point now where we have thousands of employees. I don’t have access to them all on a daily basis, but I still try to inspire them to reach their potential and love the brand through my leadership. That type of inspired leadership doesn’t come naturally, and I’ve had to grow as a leader as the business grows. At certain periods of time in the business, if my leadership development stalled, the company stalled.

Get to know your customer

The biggest single piece of advice I would give to someone wanting to grow their own business is: know your audience. I’m always shocked by the amount of people that actually don’t know who their customer is. Don’t try to be something for everyone – or you will appeal to no one. You have to draw a line in the sand at some point, or you’ll end up being too vanilla. This is especially important if you’re looking to grow your company on a global scale. It’s hard when you’re an entrepreneur – you just want your business to start – but if you try to be something for everyone you end up being nothing for no one. You need to stand for something.

A leading company should not take responsibility lightly

What makes a good leader in any space is that you take responsibility seriously and stay pure to your original message. We are a global leader in the adventure travel sector, despite smaller companies coming through since we started. It’s very important to us to stay true to our pure intention and lead by example.

The changing face of travel

We started out in 1990 – and the travel landscape was very different to what it is now. The internet was in its infancy and people booked travel in different ways. We were able to show people a different side of travel – there were no other players in the adventure travel industry back then. Nowadays, adventure travel is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the travel industry. We live in such a widely connected world now that people want access to more remote places, and to be disconnected from their daily lives. That’s why destinations such as Mongolia, the Galapagos Islands and Tibet are so popular at the moment. Colombia is also emerging as a very popular country to visit. “The Stans” of central Asia are also more attractive to travellers now after recently relaxing visa restrictions. Gone are the days when simply wandering the markets of Marrakech are enough of an adventure for travellers.

Tourism can have a positive impact

If done right, travel can be a form of wealth distribution. When you travel, you are spreading your money around local hotels, taxis, tour guides, shops and restaurants. The conundrum we face is that most people are going to all-inclusive resorts or cruises, where your money goes to one company. Statistics show that in the last 10 years, the number of holidaymakers booking all-inclusive trips has risen from 25% to 75%. The destination is no longer relevant with all-inclusive holidays.

Booking individual hotels, tours and restaurants is a far more enriching guest experience than going all-inclusive because travellers are actually seeing the destination. That’s the essence of travel.

You might also want to read Simon Casson from Four Season’s golden rules for success

Bruce Poon Tip is a Canadian entrepreneur and Founder of G Adventures

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