Decisions: Nick Ross, Art History Abroad

Managing director of the gap-year tour company.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013


... was choosing to specialise in Italy. Most people grow their business geographically, but I thought I'd stay with Italy because I know all about it. So I'm expanding the business by age-range instead - if I've sold a gap-year course to a teenager, I can then sell it to their parents.

That's really at the core of the business. A lot of adults come to us wanting to do some serious study but don't want to go back to university - we've just launched our 'gap year for mums' programme.

It's a best decision because I can concentrate on the product. If I wanted to take on Turkey, that's a huge body of knowledge that I'd need to learn, on top of what I do already, such as the marketing, accounts, the hiring of tutors and the website.

I still teach for a quarter of the year and it's good because I haven't lost control of the product. Our identity is entirely to do with our quality of teaching. Without that, we're nothing. I'm pleased that I've kept the recruitment of tutors close to me - one is responsible for one's own decisions then.


For a while, we moved the office to London. We were there from 2000 to 2006. It was a period of growth for the business and I was spending all my time running it and trying to grow it, but it meant that I stopped dreaming. If you're running your own business, you want to roll your imagination over it and work out what you are doing with it, and I didn't have time for that. Since we moved to the countryside in 2007, we've broken into America and we're making plans to run cultural courses in India.

Another bad decision was not taking any outside investment. I've been terrified of it. If it's all going to go wrong then I know that, with investment, I'd feel personally responsible for it. Some injections of investment would really have helped, and it's going to have to change in the future, because we are burgeoning with ideas.

One of the advantages of a recession is that you have time to do research so that you're ready when things pick up again. Still, our integrity is intact, and if there has been a failing, it was forgetting to dream.

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