Looptail and changing the world through fully engaged employees and customers – Interview with Bruce Poon Tip

Today’s interview is with Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures and the Planeterra foundation. Bruce recently had a book published called Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business, which recounts the story of the founding and development of G Adventures from a garage office start-up into the largest small group adventure travel company in the world and Bruce’s quest to develop a business model that balances karma, community and culture to produce outstanding results.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Improve employee engagement and customer service through the use of humour – Interview with Dave Keeling – and is number eighty seven in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here are the highlights of my interview with Bruce:

Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business

  • Bruce has recently published: Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business – which both tells:
  • One, Bruce’s story of how he started and developed G Adventures into the largest small group adventure travel company in the world, one that is based on socially and environmentally sensitive travel; and
  • Two, his management and leadership secrets that keep both his employees and his customers fully engaged and extremely happy.
  • The book is part business book, part motivational, part manual, part memoir and part manifesto.
  • Looptail refers to the loop under the letter ‘g’. But, in G Adventures’ logo the tail wraps around the ‘G’ to make an ‘O’……making ‘G’ and ‘O’. This is a ‘hat-tip’ to Great Ocean, which is the translation of Dalai Lama into English (Dalai Lama: Great Ocean of Wisdom).
  • However, Looptail also refers to G Adventures’ business philosophy and business model where karma, community and culture matter in business.
  • Our purpose within life is to achieve happiness and this needs to be built into business models.
  • Traditional business focuses on profitability and growth first and then work backwards from there. In the Looptail philosophy you focus on your people and your culture first and the rest falls into place.
  • Therefore, all of the things that you will learn in business school will fall into place when you get your people and your culture right.
  • Doing things this way does not necessarily take away from the aggressiveness and competitiveness that is needed to be an entrepreneur or to succeed in many modern markets.

G Adventures

  • Looptail addresses the social revolution that his happening around us in business and brings it into a business model that allows your customers and your employees to become your biggest brand advocates. This happens once they engage with your company and understand that your business stands for something more than just it’s product.
  • The HR function has been eliminated from G Adventures as Bruce believes it is there to control and manage the bottom performing 10% of your people as the company grows. However, it also stifles performance. Therefore, it was eliminated.
  • Bruce has dropped the title of CEO (Chief Executive Officer) as he wanted to make sure that the traditional CEO position was not the most important position in the company.
  • The most important position in the company is the customer facing employee. Therefore, each customer facing employee in G Adventures has the title: Chief Experience Officer (CEO)……… and there are hundreds of them.
  • This has helped them make a mental shift to become more customer and externally focused.
  • It has also helped bring then together, particularly as a team that is spread out over 100 different countries.
  • G Adventures have recorded double digit growth year on year for the last twenty years as they have taken a leadership position in their space.
  • With over 2,000 employees worldwide, the book is also meant to act as an internal document as well as be a book for public consumption.
  • The life of an entrepreneur has many highs and lows but if you are not passionate about what you do and if it doesn’t have purpose then you are unlikely to get through the lows.
  • Business and work, we learn, is something that we do in isolation. However, to be successful and for business and work to have meaning it has to fit into your life and to give your life meaning.
  • Bruce was used to making decisions based on data and information but it is the emotional intelligence (EQ) that he has learned over the last 23 years that has been the biggest influence on him, his life and his business.
  • Bruce gets the most pleasure from helping others find happiness and purpose in their own lives, particularly that of his employees. However, it is the stories that come from the partners and children of some of his employees that particularly resonate with him, where they tell him how the work that they do has had such a positive and lasting impact on their personal and family lives. That does not mean that they are doing different jobs it’s that there are now working for a company that they believe in and that stands for something a bit more.
  • The book has been endorsed by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, who has never endorsed a business book before.
  • Mark Zuckerburg from Facebook says ‘if there are two companies of equal standing and equal product, then the one that is more social will always win’.
  • Travel has the ability to change the world. At the present time, only $5 of every $100 spent on tourism stays in country and benefits local communities, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • If done differently and right, where tourists got off the cruise ships, package holidays and all-inclusives and bought locally, then local communities would really benefit from tourism and travel could be the greatest form of wealth distribution the world has ever seen.
  • Imagine if your ‘giving’ for the year could be done through your holidays.
  • Oh, and check out Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business

About Bruce (adapted from his G Adventures bio)

Bruce Poon TipAfter returning from a backpacking tour of Asia, in 1990 Bruce was driven to share his passion and vision about experiencing adventures in an authentic and sustainable manner with others. With nothing more than his own personal credit cards, G Adventures was born. What started off as a one-man show has grown to become the world’s largest adventure travel company with over 1350 employees.

Today, G Adventures offers more than 1,000 small group experiences, safaris and expeditions on all seven continents, to more than 100,000 travellers a year. The choices are vast – from safaris and cultural treks to family vacations and exotic expeditions to places you have never even imagined, there is an adventure for everyone. If you share a lust of life and have an insatiable curiosity about truly experiencing the world we live in, then join us and embark on a quest for the extraordinary.

G Adventures and Bruce Poon Tip have been consistently recognized by many organizations for leadership and outstanding business practices. G Adventures has been named by National Geographic Adventures as the best ‘Do It All Outfitter’ on Earth, and is among the Top 100 Employers and 50 Best Managed Companies. Besides receiving an award as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, Bruce has won Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year and has been honoured as Canada’s 100 Leaders of Tomorrow. In Profit magazine, Bruce was featured as one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs in Canada.

G Adventures works hard to promote sustainable tourism, an initiative that has attracted many eco-savvy travellers. In recognition of G Adventures’ dedication to ethical business practices’ and responsible travel, Bruce received the Ethics In Action Award. He has also received the Global Traders award for his groundbreaking ideas in exporting services. Bruce has spoken at the United Nations launch of the Year Of Eco Tourism in New York. He has also been invited by the World Bank and UNESCO to represent a team visiting the People’s Republic of China to lecture on Sustainable Development. In 2006 Bruce spoke about our commitment to responsible tourism at the World Trade Organization’s Ethics in Tourism Conference and at the World Tourism Conference. Bruce has also been an advisor to the popular television show Survivor.

Grab a copy of Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business, find Bruce on Twitter @brucepoontip and don’t forget to go and find a G Adventures trip for you from and change the way that you travel.

Photo Credit: net_efekt via Compfight cc

Comments

  1. Adrian, it is fascinating that they have no HR function as Bruce believes that they stifle performance.

    I can see all the members of the CIPD up in arms about that one.

    But I think it is a very valid point. How much of what HR departments do is just about control?

    James

  2. adrianswinscoe says:

    James,
    They haven’t completely ditched what would have been, traditionally, in HR’s portfolio. What they focus on is Talent and Culture and that is woven into how they do and manage their business. Their primary aim, it seems to me, is to enable performance. Therefore, what they have done is get rid of the control, admin and much of the bureaucracy that typically surrounds HR. How much that takes up of a traditional HR department, I guess, would depend on the firm and it’s philosophy surrounding it’s people and business.

    Adrian

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