... was leaving the comparative security of the City in 2002 to pursue the 'big short break idea' that is Original Travel. I ended up squeezed in my spare room with my two fellow-founders. Going from the glamour of the City to that was quite a move, particularly as Sars and 9/11 had just happened.
We started trading in 2003, so the war in Iraq was going on and the global financial markets were taking a turn for the worse. We pumped all our start-up capital, which was just personal savings, into creating the brand. We thought, if we're going to do this, we should find out as soon as possible whether it will work.
Having a consistent brand from the beginning meant that we came runner-up in Marketing's 2003 Best Brand in Travel award, pushing Opodo into third place. We now turn over £3m a year. That never would have happened if we hadn't created a strong brand from the start. If we were going to leave the City and work in this environment, there was no point in creating a brand that wasn't going to punch above its weight.
... was not to take the same attitude for our back-end systems as for our branding. We looked at two options: one was to build our own bespoke reservation system; the other was to buy something off-the-shelf.
Everything up to that point was done by hand - and to some extent still is - because of the relatively small number of clients we have. You can't operate in a bespoke industry, be it tailored suits or tailored travel, without being able to look at things very closely. We looked at the cost of getting a bespoke reservation system that would help us manage the business better, but the scale of difference in price compared with the off-the-shelf system was massive - one was 20% of the cost of the other. We made a decision based on price, and soldiered on with it for about a year and a half.
It continued to be a bad decision. The system wasn't capable of managing our type of product. It's only relatively recently that we admitted we should have built a system right from scratch - and we are doing this now.