My Week: Tristram Mayhew of Go Ape

The high wire adventure entrepreneur doesn't let a hospital visit curtail his business activities...

Last Updated: 28 May 2013

On Sunday I packed my bike onto a train to London, to spend a couple of days at the National Hospital for Neurology. I have a weak arm, and they’re giving me anti-inflammatory treatment to strengthen it. It’s actually really good – with no access to email I’ve got time to catch up with things that I wouldn’t normally get done, like reading business books and listening to podcasts to get tips and economic news.

The only downside is that you have to wander out to the stairwell by the lift to use your mobile. I’ll be there attached to my drip, and someone else will come out doing the same, dragging what looks like a coat-stand behind him.

On Monday I was unplugged at 8.15pm and enjoyed cycling six miles back to Shepherds Bush. I was straight back Tuesday morning at 7am to be plugged back in. I was supposed to have a Skype chat with our joint-venture partners in Australia, but I had to use my mobile. We’re trying to set up 12 Go Ape courses in Australia by 2012, so we have a catch-up every two weeks to see how it’s all going. At three I did the same with our partners in America. Then I met with our FD in the hospital coffee shop, dragging my drip down there.

On Wednesday I went with my wife, Becks, to a talk at the Royal Geographic Society. We were invited by one of the speakers, Andrew Mitchell, from the Global Canopy Program, a rainforest research charity. At the dinner afterwards, I was sat between the explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell and Stephen Sacker, a former BBC correspondent who covered 9/11 in Washington. It was a fascinating evening.

On Thursday I looked at a stately home in Oxford that had 1,700 acres of forest. Our company has a lot of landowners contacting us about working with them. They benefit from car parking fees, catering and drawing customers to their other attractions. We’re planning 40 new locations in the UK by 2012. We’ve got 22 now. Most people travelling for work only see the inside of hotels and watch presentations in offices on computer screens. I’m out at stately homes or National Trust properties, riding a mountain bike or a quad through beautiful woods and meeting foresters, dukes and earls.

Our office bought a barbeque recently, and Friday mornings have become bacon butty sessions. Then I did my rounds, and caught up with the business development team. We discussed our work with the Prince’s Trust’s Million Makers challenge, where they give teams £2k and get them to make as much money from it as possible. They want to work with Go Ape, using our sites round the country as regional launches, getting groups swinging through the trees as a publicity and team-building exercise. It’s good for our CSR strategy.

At lunch I went for a run and a swim, as we have a 20m pool attached to the office. Then I went to Cranfield School of Management, to give a talk on marketing to students on the Business Growth Program. It’s a course for owner-managers, running companies with a turnover from £1m to £20m. We did the course in 2006 and it was hugely useful. It’s hard to ignore advice from people running equivalent-sized businesses, and they urged us to keep growing. We were on £100k a year profit when we joined; at the end of 2008 we were on £1.3m. And that’s down to the ambition Cranfield instilled in us.

Saturday is our 11th wedding anniversary, and Becks and I are going to a nice hotel in Norfolk. She joined the business about three months after we set it up – she heads up the marketing team and looks after corporate development. Working together has been really good – it’s not for everyone, but the job is so all-consuming that if only one of us was doing it, the other could easily feel left out.

Tristram Mayhew is the co-founder of Go Ape High Wire Forest Adventure, the UK’s award-winning high ropes adventure business. Go Ape currently has 22 courses across the UK, and plans to increase this to 40 by 2012. It welcomed its one millionth customer last June.

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