From Business Plan to Business
Posted on May 29, 2015 by Admin
Vivienne Hudson-Findlay made the decision to make her mark on the leisure and travel business in 1999. With over 20 years’ experience in the hotel industry and armed with an inspired business plan, Viv embarked on building a company that 15 years later, is an award-winning and thriving business, employing over 50 people and delighting people across the country.
What inspired you to set up hotelshopUK?
I had been working in the hotel industry for most of my career and after being made redundant for the second time in ten years, I knew it was time to do something for myself. I had written a business plan some years before but I wasn’t ready to give up the high-flying corporate life until I had that push.
I found a gap in the market and I wanted to help smaller groups and individual hotels to reach the market, as well as help the individual traveller stay in some lovely places around the country. Why should the smaller chains not be able to compete with larger groups without massive budgets? This, along with offering fantastic, money-saving deals to the public was my original aim. That’s where hotelshopUK began.
How did you choose your team to facilitate and grow the brand?
Many of the senior management team at hotelshopUK have been with me for years and joined for specific jobs. These key players were keen to learn and develop, so we invested in them. Our people have developed as the company has grown and I am very proud of all my staff. We strive to choose people who deliver our ‘DELIGHT’ principle and will go the extra mile. I’m a great believer in team work and developing people; our success depends on our team.
How have you grown and expanded the business?
This history of the company is quite interesting. We started as a leisure brand as the gap I had identified in the market was for UK short breaks but after a few years of business, a few of my old clients started to ask me to look after their corporate bookings, so this division began to grow as well.
We brought on many hotel groups on the leisure side of things and but when we found that one particular group was struggling to deliver a Central Reservation facility. We stepped in to help them promote their product and developed our now thriving call centre, and we are still looking after that client so many years later.
In 2007 Droitwich was hit by terrible flooding and we suffered a major catastrophe. Our offices were on the high-street and were under 10 feet of water. We lost years of hard work but we gained so much support from the business community in Worcestershire and before long, we were back up and running, trying to re-build what we had lost. The floods forced us to re-visit our strategy and start to develop more of an online presence, and in 2010 we appointed a non-executive board to help us grow and develop our plans.
In 2012 we started to work closely with insurance companies to accommodate their clients who had also been hit by floods and other tragedies, helping them find alternative accommodation. This division is now very well established and is a fast-growing part of the business.
What inspired the launch of the Great Little Breaks brand?
The name hotelshopUK did not make it clear to our clients and customers that we were about short breaks. I believe that to succeed, you need to deliver ‘what is says on the tin’. Great Little Breaks is a fabulous name and is easy to understand. The brand is about inspiring people to enjoy a UK short break, be it a weekend or a mid-week stay, and giving people a fantastic deal with added extras that they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
Both brands have grown to become very successful- is this what you imagined?
My vision was always to be a larger player in the market place, offering the best deals to our clients and customers as well as excellent service to hotels themselves. We have made a substantial investment in the company at all levels and are ready for more expansion as we continue to grow. I am extremely proud of how far the company has come and am just as passionate about it today as I was when everything first started.
What is the future for hotelshopUK and Great Little Breaks?
Over the next few years, hotelshopUK will become more of a ‘parent company’ with the website reflecting our corporate image, explaining the various divisions of the company and showcasing the services we offer. The plan for Great Little Breaks is that the brand will continue to be our short breaks site aimed at the UK market before developing into European breaks. There are plans for a lot of development in other divisions of the business, in particular Escape on Holiday and additional services for corporate travel.
In five years I want all four sections of the business trading extremely successfully their markets, but who knows where we’ll be- more offices in the UK, may even Europe of America! However we progress, I know that we’ll be offering more people the same great value.