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How this entrepreneur took £5k and turned it in to a £multi-million travel business – TruTravels in-depth

This is an massively in-depth interview I did with Joe Fallon, Co-Founder of TruTravels – a travel company specialising in tours and backpacker trips in Asia and Latin America.

In it, we go in-depth about how he and his business partner took a small investment and, over a 5 year period, turned it in to a company with a multi-million pound turnover.

We go over everything from how he got started, what made him choose to start a travel company, what the early business decisions and moves were that ensured their success, the mindset needed to start and grow the company, and much more.

I first met Joe when I went on one of his (very early!) tours in Thailand. This is very much an interview between friends, so – fair warning – it is relatively raw.

Be sure to give it a good read, as it is full of great pieces of information on starting and running a business, as well as covering the all-important aspect of the mindset needed to be successful.

Enjoy!

For reference, this interview was originally conducted in 2017.

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Guy: 

How did you start this whole thing? Why did you start this whole thing? 

Joe: 

Why did we start it? Well, it was a very long process really. Originally when I was growing up, I knew that I wanted to work for myself. I knew that I didn’t want to work for somebody else. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. All I basically saw was that my parents used to work very, very long hours when I was a kid and they weren’t particularly well off.  They were okay until they got to probably mid-forties. Then they started earning decent enough money to have a nice detached house and two cars and nice holidays and stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong, I never went without anything when I was a kid, I just used to see how hard my parents worked and I thought, “Fuck that shit. I’m not working my nuts off in a job, working 12 hours a day in an office until I’m 50 – 60 years old, and then I’m going to enjoy my life.” So, that’s the only thing I knew. Luckily for them, my parents enjoyed their work mostly and did something they believed in. Luckily for me, they were/are extremely supportive and caring people who value education and tried to give me the best start in life.  When I got to the stage where I was going to go to university, I sort of went for the same reason most people go, because it’s expected of you. 

Guy: 

Yeah.

Joe: 

I guess you sort of do what’s expected of you until a certain age. 

Guy: 

You did business, yeah? How did you pick that? 

Joe: 

Just to keep my options open. Purely to keep my options open because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Like I told you, I had all sorts of ideas growing up.  I wanted to be a lawyer for a while but think I decided that was too many years to spend studying in the end.  

Guy: 

Yeah.

Joe: 

So, I toyed with the idea of going into law. A few other things. By the time I got to 18 and then went to university, I had no clue of what I wanted to do.  So, I decided to do a business degree to keep my options open. Plus I was a bit interested in business by then. 

Guy: 

And in retrospect, do you think a business degree has helped you at all with your business? 

Joe: 

Yeah.  Yes, to some extent. I mean sure, there’s probably not a lot I couldn’t have learned outside of university if I really wanted to. But some of the courses and some of the modules that we did at Uni, they gave you a good framework. Like it taught me how to write a business plan and certain statistical analytical techniques that were taught, like the business statistics. I mean that is exactly why I did the course, because it wasn’t a narrow thing. It was everything from accounting to marketing to entrepreneurship to business strategy to statistics.

And one of the modules, for strategy I think it was, was literally just, get a product from the design students who used to work in a big building opposite and draw up a business plan to market and sell this product and turn it into a business. And so, you get practice doing certain things like that. So, when it came to writing a business plan for TruTravels, I knew what I wanted to do. I mean I’ve written business plans; I’ve had a go at starting other businesses and stuff before, little ones. And so, I’ve written probably five or six business plans by the time I got to TruTravels. So, I knew how to structure, how to lay it out and stuff like that. And I guess that, yeah, that’s the sort of thing that uni would help with. 

Guy: 

So, when you came out of uni, what did you do? 

Joe: 

Well, when I was at university, I sort of decided I wanted to get into finance. It sort of started when I was talking to a guy who used to sublet a room from one of my other housemates, he was always talking about how much money some of his investments were making and stuff and I was talking to this guy and he  said something which stuck with me, which was, “if you want to learn about any particular subject, be it finance, making money, starting businesses, you got to read about it.  You got to exercise your brain in the same way that you would exercise your muscles by going to the gym.

Guy: 

Yeah.

Joe: 

I said, “All right, cool. You got any advice as to what to read first?” He says “Yes, there’s a book by Robert Kiyosaki called ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’. He said start there. So, I did. I read that and then that led to the next one to the next one, to the next one, to certain tapes and audiobooks and stuff. And then I was like, right, that’s it. This is definitely for me. This is what I want to do. I’m just going to follow the steps laid out in those books. Learn how to become an investor. Save 10% of my income every month. Stick it into wise investments. Let that grow, let the passive income grow, dah, dah, dah. And I started educating myself about that. The particular course that I did was called a “sandwich course”. So, you do two years of university and then you do one-year working in industry, as it were. Didn’t quite work out as simple as that, mainly because I didn’t have any money to invest but the idea seemed simple enough and the more I read about it the more I was convinced I wouldn’t have to work for someone else forever. 

Guy: 

Yeah.

Joe: 

Anyway, the course I was doing was a ‘sandwich’ course which meant you took a placement ‘in industry’ in the third year, and then you go back and you do your third year of Uni, in your fourth year. And I was going for – I can’t remember the name of the company now – but I was going for a placement with a really prestigious accounting firm. And I was probably a bit cocky, like I thought I was going to get it. I got down to the last two applicants out of thousands of kids who were going for this placement and they gave it to the other guy. I was really pissed, and I was really upset and a bit bitter about it at the time because I was like fuck that was the job that I was supposed to get. 

I thought that if I’d gotten that I would have been set.. Because if you do a good job in your placement year, you usually get offered a job there when you’re finished at university, at whatever firm it is you are working for. Anyway, I didn’t get it and I almost did what a lot of my friends did and just moved straight into the final year.  (A lot of my friends at university ended up ballsing up first year or second year and having to redo it. So, by the time it came to the third-year placement, a lot of them said “I’m not going to bother with that. I’m just going to go straight into my third year.”) And so, I almost sacked off the placement year and just thought, “Right, I’ll just finish my third year and get on with it and then get out and get a job.

But one placement on the board stuck out and it was a placement with Virgin Atlantic. Which, of course, was not really anything to do with finance. It was sort of like a business analyst / statistical analyst role. And at the time I had just started reading Richard Branson’s autobiography.  Which was obviously what this guy advised me to do – read the autobiographies of rich people, of successful entrepreneurs, of investors and learn from them. What they’ve done.  So that’s what I was doing. I was reading Richard Branson’s autobiography when the job at Virgin Atlantic came up and I went, “You know what? I’ll go for it.  If I don’t get the job, I don’t give a shit. I’ll go straight into my third year.” And I very much approached the job interview where I did not care whether I got the job or not. And of course, whenever you approach anything with that attitude, you get it.

Guy: 

Obviously.

Joe: 

Obviously, because you don’t give a shit. So, I got offered the job at Virgin Atlantic. Did that for 10 months, in between my third and fourth years of university. And then as I was finishing it, I must’ve done an all right job because they turned around and said to me, well thanks for that. Here’s two tickets to wherever you want to go on our network.

I said “lovely jubbly. Australia please.” And I had about five weeks before I was due to start my final year and I took my best mate at the time, Ben. I took him to Australia for four weeks.

So, neither I nor Ben knew what to expect at all.  We’d never been to Australia before. We’d never really done any backpacking, so to speak. We’d obviously been on holidays to European destinations and I’d taken my girlfriend to Cuba and stuff like that. But I’d never done any backpacking, so I had no idea what to expect. But we were like, “Fuck it, let’s just do the East Coast of Australia for four weeks and then I’ll go back to Uni.” And it was honestly the best time I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was just like a sense of freedom that I’d never felt before. Meeting people in every location. It was like you were best mates with them after three days. And for me and Ben, it was harsh because we were only there for four weeks whereas most of the people were there for like six months and stuff. So, they got to spend a long time in each place.

We felt like we were leaving behind our best mates every time we moved on. And so, from very much having the mindset where – get me out of Uni, get me into a job in the city. I wanted to be earning five figures within five years and then I wanted to retire within 15 years – It was more like, “Hold on, let me take a break and do this traveling thing while I can while I’m still young.” And it really changed my mindset. It really made me think about what was important and what I should be doing with my life at this young age. And so, I almost didn’t go back for my final year of Uni. I almost went, “Sod this, I’m staying in Australia, this is too good for me to not do.” But I thought, well, I’ve done three years now. I might as well go back and finish it and then I can just travel to Australia again after. That was it. 

As soon as I got back, I finished my third year of university. And then as soon as I finished that, I went straight out and got the highest paying job I could using the experience I had with Virgin Atlantic. I saved money for six months and then buggered off traveling. But of course, it was at the height of the financial crisis when I finished university. So, all the recruitment agents were telling me, “Oh no, you’ve got no experience, all you’ve got is this degree. You’ve just got to go and get a job in a pub or in Toys R Us.” And I was going “Fuck you! I’ve just done four years and I’ve got a placement year under my belt where I was working and doing some pretty high-level projects with Virgin Atlantic. There is no way in hell I’m going to go and get minimum wage and work in a pub.”

And all the recruitment agents were going “well, I can’t really help you then.” And I kept seeing this job advertised over and over and over again. My dad, while I was at university, had moved out of North London and moved to Lewis, because he was semi-retired by then. And I kept seeing this job. I was living in Brighton, which is not far from Lewis. And there was a job in Lewis working for East Sussex Council as a Statistical Analyst for Children’s Services. And both my parents had always worked social services – children’s services. So, it was a bit weird. And the agent – I think it was Reid, the recruitment agent – I kept phoning him up going, “I am perfect for this job. You need to give me this job.” And it was a temporary contract as well, which was lasting six to eight months. 

Really, really good hourly rate. And I kept phoning up Reid and the girl at Reid was just going, “Sorry, you haven’t gotten the qualifications. They’re looking for someone with a couple of years’ experience.” And I was going, “This is what I did for Virgin Atlantic. I was analyzing statistics. Get me an interview and I’ll do your fucking job for you and I’ll get the job.” And she goes, “No, maybe you’ve got to come in and do an Excel test.” So, I went into the Reid office. I did an Excel test. I told her what I did for Virgin Atlantic, said this is it, just get me in front of those people. She somehow got me an interview. And within 10 minutes of me leaving the building after the interview, they phoned me up and offered the maximum contract rate that they were offering. I was like “Sweet!” And it was a piece of piss job anyway.

It was one of those jobs where you could tell they were trying to run out their budget. Obviously in the government, in the public sector. If you don’t spend your budget you get given less the next year. So, it was one of those. They were obviously just trying to spend their budget and that’s what it was. Anyway, I wasn’t saying no. I earned enough money from that. Did that for six months in Lewis. Saved a load of cash. Didn’t really go out drinking or partying too much. Went to the gym every day, got myself in good shape. Earned a load of money and then booked a ticket to Thailand and that was it. 

I planned to do 12 months. Got my working holiday visa for Australia so I could do 12 months there. Loved Southeast Asia even more than I had loved Australia. The following year I went solo. I was going to with my mate Ben, but obviously, one thing led to another. He met a girl and was doing this plumbing apprenticeship back in North London, so he never ended up coming with me. I went on my own. Loved Southeast Asia more than I’d loved Australia the previous year. So, I ended up staying there for about six months. Then I thought, “well, I better go and use this working holiday visa” and I was running low on funds. So, I went to Australia. Did the East Coast of Australia again. I met this Brummy guy, James. So, I ended up traveling with him. 

We bought a car up in Cairns. Drove all the way back down to Sydney. Got odd jobs along the way. We were working on building sites, sales jobs, nightclubs, all sorts, just to earn a couple of extra quid. And then when I got back to Sydney, I fell in with a group of mates, who I got introduced to through some guy who was a good friend of mine in Thailand, who was actually working as a tour guide there. And he introduced me to his group of mates in Sydney and they used to work for a travel company in Australia running backpacker tours.

So they’d meet people in their first week on tour in Aus, show them around. They’d help them sort out their bank accounts, mobile phones, SIM cards, all of that sort of stuff as well. And so I ended up getting a job with them for a couple of months, after I’d done all the shittiest jobs in Sydney, basically like telesales, I was working on building sites on the roof. All sorts. Got a job with this company, thought, “This is cool, this is really fun. I’m getting paid basically to take young people out and show them a good time.” And then eventually they offered me a job in Thailand doing the same thing. Running boat tours for them in Thailand. So I went back and did that. After about 10 months doing that, I’d met a girl, Annie.

Guy: 

So, when you went over there, you didn’t necessarily have a plan to work in travel. You just wanted to travel. It just came along and that’s something you started doing and liked doing it?

Joe: 

Yeah, exactly. I mean in my head I still wanted to do finance stuff.

When I did go traveling, eventually I put a certain, I can’t remember how much, but I put a portion of the money that I saved to go traveling into an options account. And I started trading options – they’re like a financial derivative of stocks and shares. Because I still had that idea in my head,. ”  I naively thought I’ll just be able to sit on a beach with my laptop for a couple of hours a day. Earn a bit of dough, and carry on traveling and partying.

Obviously that didn’t work out. I was winning, I was losing, I was winning, I was losing. Eventually, I just lost interest in it and just did the traveling thing and worked in loads of different jobs like everyone else when I was low on cash.. But yeah, doing this tour guide thing, I couldn’t do that forever. I did it for about 10 months in Thailand. Met a girl who I was really, really in love with. She was from the UK as well. We decided to move back to the UK. But I wanted to stay working for that company. I sent them an email with a proposal as to how I could help them grow that company and help them grow their root network. They basically said, “Thanks, but no thanks. We can’t, we’re not interested. We’re doing all right as it is.” I said, “All right, cool. Well, I’m going to hand in my notice and I’m going to move back to London. I’m going to get a job.” 

Guy: 

So essentially it sounds like you were heavily motivated by the fact you didn’t want to do the norm of what is expected and work your whole life to then retire, effectively. Like a deferred life plan and live your life once you’re older. 

Joe: Exactly. Precisely. And I mean when it really hit home was after I’d moved back to London. And then I got a job doing recruitment, of all things, because there just were not any jobs going when I came back. The only jobs on the pages and the agents trying to push was recruitment. I thought that was strange, but anyway.

Guy: 

That’s absolutely ironic. 

Joe: 

Yeah. It’s a real irony. And then, obviously, that made the recruitment sector even more competitive and cut-throat because there wasn’t many jobs going around. And everyone was trying to push everyone into jobs. I ended up getting a job with a very good recruitment agency called Aston Carter who specialize in IT in investment banks. And they’re the preferred suppliers for all of the big investment banks. So they work for the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Deutsche bank, like all of the big investment banks, they work for. 

And in order to get a job there, you have to know a little bit about IT and you have to know a little bit about finance. Obviously, I knew a fair amount about finance because of over the years wanting to get into it and I thought, “You never know. This could be a stepping stone. I might end up getting into finance from there.” Anyway, a lot of my friends who used to work for Aston Carter now work for stockbrokers and stuff like that because they became friend with them, switched on guys, and got jobs in the finance industry. It’s almost like they used their recruitment roles to get themselves jobs in a better thing. But I did that for the best part of two years and I was sort of happy enough for the first year. I was living with the girl that I met in Thailand and we were good. 

We got a flat and Barnet, which I did up with my mate Ben, and lived there for very cheap rent for like a year and a half. But then after about year and a half, it started getting dull and I was getting off the tube in the morning going, “Fuck me. I’m conforming here. I used to have a really, really, really fun life and what’s happened? This is not the way I’m supposed to be living my life.” I think, not just me personally, but I’d get off the tube and you’d see everyone walking along in their suits with their heads down every day doing the same march. Blackberry in their hands, iPhones in their hands, whatever. And you’d think, this is not what people have been put on this planet to do. I’m not adding any value to anything here. All I’m doing is shuffling people around in this ridiculous industry where the whole aim of it is to produce money out of thin air and grow and grow and grow and grow regardless of the environmental costs, regardless of the people cost. 

And I’d be walking down – I was very left wing compared to most of the people who worked in my office – and we were walking down the street and I’d stop and give to one of the countless homeless people – I worked between Old Street and Moorgate Street station, so the number of homeless people you’d see just from getting off the train at Old Street to get into the office was high – and I’d stop and drop one of them a quid or an apple or something that I bought from Sainsbury’s – and the amount of times I’d get comments from my coworkers going, “Oh, what you are doing? They’re only going to go spend it on drugs.” I’m like, “What do you do with your wages on a Friday night mate? I’ve seen you put half of your salary up your nose. What makes you better than them?” And it was that attitude and that whole self-centered way of living. Like if you didn’t make at least 20 – 30 grand for the boss in a week of doing this recruiting role then they’d want to know why. We’re making that sort of money for someone else, but you can’t give a homeless guy a quid without getting ridiculed. 

It was just, “I don’t want to do this anymore. This is bollocks.” And I met my current business partner, Mark, in a pub. He used to work in Australia with me and he was actually another tour guide. And we got to chatting and we were like, “Our lives used to be awesome. We used to have such a good time. What the fuck happened?” He got into estate agency. He was always an estate agent before he went traveling, so he went back into real estate, hated it. 

Over a beer in a pub in London we thought “so what can we do then? Let’s do something else.” Me and him had dabbled in a little six-a-side football company in Australia before. . Six-a-side tournaments for backpackers in Sydney.  But obviously, we both had to leave Australia. When I got offered the job in Thailand, he ran out of visa and stuff. So we left that business in Australia. 

When we were talking, it transpired that he had actually booked a holiday to Thailand at the same time as me. Me and my girlfriend were going back to Thailand because we wanted to go back and see our old mates and things like that. He was like, “No way. I’ve got a holiday booked to Thailand at that time with my friends.”

Guy:

What are the chances?!

Joe: 

So we said, “Right, that’s got to be a sign. That’s something we could do. We’re both good at running tours and we both love Southeast Asia. Let’s use this holiday as a little recce.

We can go and speak to our old contacts, see if our links are still there. Put a rough idea together of how we’d do things.” And so that’s what we did. We went over there and we obviously had a nice time on holiday, but the girl I was with, her best friend and her boyfriend were with us as well, and obviously talking during the week, Mark and I are talking a lot about what we wanted to do, and Essa, who was my girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend – whose family happen to be quite well-off – turned round and said, “Wow, you guys have shown me an amazing time in Thailand. And that sounds like a good idea. If you need any investment for this business, tap me up.” And I was like, “Wow, okay.” So, since we decided that we didn’t want to carry on doing what we were doing, we decided what we wanted to do, and things sort of started to fall into place in a weird way. 

Guy: 

So that conversation you had in the pub really sounds like a turning point. Obviously, you guys were chatting and you both didn’t like your lives – how did you go from realizing you both didn’t like your lives to effectively starting that business in that pub, just in that conversation? Did you have complete and utter faith in that idea or was it like, “Oh, let’s just see what happens,” was it, “no, actually let’s really do this” and you started thinking about it?

Joe: 

Oh, no way. No, no, no way. I mean, it was a lot slower than that. I made it sound like we fully committed from that conversation – no. We realized it was an option at that point and of course, we wanted to do it, but it was a much slower process than that. I mean, how many times do people sit with their mate and say, “Oh, that’s a good idea!” They get really keyed into it for like 10 minutes and then they give up. We certainly weren’t 100% sure from the start.

Guy: 

Well, that’s it. So how did that not fall apart? Because that, more often than not would. 90% of the time you say, “I want to go do this with someone,” and you never hear from them again. It’s almost like they’ve gone off the face of the planet. Where you might be thinking, “Oh, I really would have done that.” So what was different, do you think? And how did you guys know you could work with each other? You kind of had to, in a way. 

Joe: 

Yeah. We didn’t know we could work with each other. We still don’t sometimes. It was (A) a conviction of I don’t want to… I knew that what I was currently doing was not what I was supposed to be doing. I really strongly felt that I was not put on this planet to sit in an office and make some geezer richer and to hell with everything else; to hell with my life. So it was a very strong conviction. Plus, as I said, all the time, growing up, I was like, I need to do my own thing. I’m not going to be working for someone else until I’m too old to enjoy my life. And then it was speaking to people. Obviously, I spoke to a lot of people about it and said, “Look, this is what I want to do. What do you think?” And a lot of my mates, a lot of my family and stuff said “Oh no, that’s a silly idea. You’ve got a good job there. Carry on doing what you’re doing and that’s what you’re supposed to do.” But a lot of people that I spoke to, a few good friends, my stepbrother, he’d just set up his own building firm and he was very supportive. He said, “Look, mate, do it, go for it. It’s like you’re risking more by not doing it than you are by doing it.” 

Guy: 

Well, what is the real risk? Is the real risk that it might not work out? Or is the real risk that you might get to the end of your life and then realize you didn’t have a life? 

Joe: 

Well, precisely. So that’s it. That’s exactly it. Exactly it. To me, it’s a much bigger risk to carry on doing what I was doing and then think what if, and regret never giving it a go, than if I’d given it a go, failed after a year, had a fucking good time and then gone back and got another job anyway. So to me, that was a bigger risk. To most people, they think starting a business is a risk. They say, “Oh yeah, only one in 10 businesses succeeds.”  Well, you better start 10 businesses then you have a 100% chance of winning. I mean, obviously, it’s not as simple as that. But this is now the conversation I have with a lot of my friends who are stuck in a rut back home doing the sort of nine to five, rat race stuff. And I’m trying to convince them to come and do something out in Thailand. Or invest in something that they want to do back home or whatever. And they’re going, “Oh it’s a bit risky.” And I’m like, “Is it? Is it really risky? Or is it more risky to carry on doing what you know makes you unhappy?”

Guy: 

Do you think that that understanding of risk that you have – which is obviously different from most people – do you think that is a personality trait or is that something that people could learn – to look at risk differently? Do you feel like you actually always had that?

Joe: 

No. No, I definitely didn’t always. I think it’s more learnable. I always had the idea that I didn’t want to work for someone else, and I wanted to do my own thing, which again, I think that’s learned. I don’t think that’s a personality trait. My parents are both pretty risk averse.. That idea about what is the greater risk – conforming and doing that for your whole life and regretting it, or taking the leap of faith and doing something that is against the grain, so to speak, that’s definitely something that was taught/learned. I didn’t have that idea all along. When I realized that it was like a light bulb going off. I was like, “Holy fuck, you’re right. That is a much less of a risk.” And I still firmly believe that.

Guy: 

Was that in Rich Dad Poor Dad or Napoleon Hill or…

Joe: 

It may well have been, yeah. Definitely would have been in one of them for sure. 

Guy: 

You were studying it and it just kind of clicked, somewhere? I have a distinct memory of when I was younger – not that we’re not young, by the way –

Joe: 

Younger, it’s all relative!

Guy: 

I was on a train to London and it was at rush hour and I think I was going to an acting audition or something.  And I went on the train, and I looked around, and all I saw was people in black or dark blue suits with a tie and a shirt, and looking down at their – at the time – Blackberries – before they, effectively, became obscure – and I was just like, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t know what, necessarily, but I don’t want to do that.” 

Joe: 

No. 

Guy: 

I guess that got ingrained in my head. Because it was so visceral in that moment. I knew it wasn’t for me. Those people might love that, which is great, but I knew I didn’t want to do that.

Joe: 

Yeah. And then generally, I mean don’t get me wrong, some people probably like doing their jobs in the city and…

Guy: 

Yeah.

Joe: 

That’s one thing my dad always said. Although he spent most of his life in an office, working for Children’s Services, he was like, “I’m fortunate because I’m probably one of the 5% of people who genuinely enjoyed the job and enjoyed what I do.” So he didn’t waste his time, which is great. But I still reckon 95% of people who conform do. 

Guy: 

And this is where other things come along when you realize you’re not happy. You start having problems in other areas of your life. Say drug or alcohol addiction…

Joe: 

Cheating on your wife.

Guy:

Yeah. Satiate yourself by going out every night or whatever. Yeah. Okay. So thinking to yourself, what is the greater risk? At what point did you quit your job then?  So you went over to Thailand. You started reccying. You met the guy who said “I’ll give you an investment if you want it.” What happened then?

Joe: 

There was another guy that we actually met on the same trip who was already a successful entrepreneur. And he had a, I think it was a travel insurance business, that he used to run from Brighton. But he’d also just set up a new one selling hydroponics. So he was basically just a wheeler-dealer. But he had a couple of really smart IT guys who worked for him who could set up a website and drive traffic to it. And that’s basically all he needed for his companies selling travel insurance, selling hydroponics gear, all he needed – well obviously he needed a warehouse to store his hydroponics gear and he needed an underwriter to underwrite his insurance policies – but once he had the products to sell, all he needed was really smart web guys who he used to pay very, very well to do that for him. So talking to him about it, he started thinking, “Oh I could probably apply that model to your business as well if you’re going to create the product to run the tours and stuff. I could put the website and drive the traffic towards it.” And needless to say, we never ended up going into partnership with that guy in the end. But he was probably the thing that actually made us do it, that gave us the confidence to do it.

Guy: 

Because you realised he had businesses and he thought yours was a good idea then you must have something. 

Joe: 

Well, and because we thought we were going into partnership with him and we thought “Okay. He can take care of a lot of the stuff that we don’t understand. That we can’t do. We definitely know we can put together an amazing tour and show people a great time and do the logistics and the stuff behind it.” But we weren’t and didn’t know the first thing about building a website or optimizing it for search engines or doing Google pay per click ads and stuff like that. We didn’t have a clue. So that potential deal with him gave us the confidence to do it. And when we got back to the UK, Mark actually handed his notice in first.  It was a few weeks, obviously a few weeks or months later, doing a lot of research into the industry, and a lot of planning. And one of the things Mark said to me at the time, which he remembers and always reminds me of, he says, “But mate, it’s been done.” And I was like, “So, we’ve got to do it better!”

It doesn’t matter. James Dyson wasn’t the first person to make a Hoover, was he? A vacuum cleaner, sorry. Hoover could have been  the first person to make a vacuum cleaner. But James Dyson wasn’t the first person to do that. He had just fucking done it better and revolutionized the industry. Steve Jobs wasn’t the first guy to make a phone or mp3 player or a computer. And he was like, “Oh, okay, maybe. Yeah, maybe.” And then that’s pretty much what we did. But the guy that we met on the beach in Thailand probably was the one, not the investor so much, but the guy who gave us the confidence to actually do it, it was him. And then ironically we ended up not doing it with him anyway. So, we were, of course, shitting ourselves when we realized that we’d handed our notice into our jobs and this guy was out. 

Guy: 

How did he go out? 

Joe: 

I can’t remember really. It just sort of fizzled out. Like it just seemed like he wasn’t interested, after a while. Like he was very on it. We’d have meetings every week. We would do planning and then, I think because he was launching a couple of other businesses at the same time, it just took a backburner for him. And me and Mark eventually we would just say, “Well, we can’t say around twiddling our thumbs and waiting for this guy all our life.” So we just went, “Right. Let’s crack on with it without him.”

Guy: 

Isn’t it funny though, you said when you went over there you kind of put it out there that this is what we wanted to do, then things started coming to you, like serendipity in a way. I mean, I’m a believer that we don’t really know how the universe works. Like scientists think they do, but really do we actually know anything? I don’t know. But this Law of Attraction… I don’t really know how much I buy into that idea that what you put out there, things actually start coming to you purely because you’ve done it – maybe they do, maybe they don’t….

Joe: 

Maybe your eyes are a little bit more open to… 

Guy: 

Maybe your eyes more open. You start seeing things. 

Joe: 

Who knows?

Guy: 

But isn’t it funny that when you put it out there…

Joe: 

Definitely seems to be the case. Doesn’t it? It’s like “Yes Man”, isn’t it? In “Yes Man”, when he starts saying “yes” to everything, going out and doing things, suddenly options open.

Guy:

There is a lot to be said for that. Whether it’s some greater purpose that we don’t understand. But when you start doing stuff, things come to you and you get momentum from it. 

Joe: 

Yeah. I truly believe in that. Whatever you want to call it – the Law of Attraction, or whatever – I think it’s a thing. And yeah, you’re right. We don’t understand how the universe works. In fact, funnily, I’m not going to go into this because this is mad deep, and I don’t fully understand it, but I’ve just started reading a book on Quantum Physics. And it’s not like a textbook on Quantum Physics. It’s actually about the arguments that were had between people like Planck and Einstein and all the visionaries of their time when they first discovered the Quantum… when they first discovered that things behave very differently when you go into the subatomic world. Like you’ve got all your standard protons, neutrons, electrons, and they behave according to all the physics principles…

Guy: 

What book is this? Do you know? 

Joe: 

It’s called “Quantum”. And yeah, once you go below the atomic, the world that we understand, things behave in a very fucking different way. Like it’s not predictable, like almost to the point where you know, you’ve got quarks and quasars and stuff are very, very small. It’s almost to the point where they can be in two places at the same time. And they only decide where they are once you observe them. Just like the act of observing something actually changes the outcome. Now that was always the realm of the philosophers back in the day. And the scientist always said, “No we can predict everything because we understand the Laws of Physics.” As soon as they discovered the Quantum world, they realized that they knew practically nothing about science.

One of the quotes in the front of the book by Planck – who was one of the guys who actually had a real fundamental role in discovering the Quantum – he says anyone who is not astounded by Quantum Theory has not truly understood it.  So what he’s basically saying is if you’re not completely fucking baffled by it, then you don’t get it. You don’t understand what it means. And what I was thinking when I was reading it is that now science is starting to be linked to mumbo jumbo stuff. That stuff that scientists would say, “Oh, the Law of Attraction, bollocks, that’s coincidence.” Science is almost linking to that now. I think the world of Quantum Physics is more like the world of thought. It’s like, okay, so in Quantum Physics, these particles can be everywhere at the same time until you observe them. In which case, at which point they have to be in one place because you’re observing them. Isn’t that the same as saying, well, you can create any reality you want? 

It becomes real when you start observing it. When you start finding proof that that is your reality. That’s why everybody lives in their own different reality. Everyone’s world is different. My mom’s husband is a real staunch right-wing Tory supporter. In his world that probably makes sense. In his world, Theresa May probably knows what she’s talking about. In mine, no idea. I’ll watch interviews and think this woman clearly has no idea, but he clearly thinks she does. So everyone lives in a different reality. When you start to find proof of that reality being real, you cement those views. I don’t know, I’ve gone way off the topic. But that was just one of the things that I was thinking about.

Guy: 

But is it really going off-topic? Because we don’t know how things work. Maybe sometimes you just need to start doing something or start looking for something and you realize that you can make connections that you didn’t know you could make before.

Joe: 

Yeah, maybe. They did that experiment recently. Didn’t they?  Where they – I think it was CERN or something in Switzerland – when they took two parts of the same atom, separated them by like 12 miles, and when they did tests on part A and spun it in one direction with a magnet or whatever, part B 12 miles away would also spin in the same direction. But they obviously weren’t still physically connected. But anyway, I guess what I’m saying is there’s loads of shit we don’t yet understand so who knows what affect your thoughts and stuff have on reality. At the very least we know that you have to think something before you can do something about it and intentionally turn whatever the thought is into a goal and then into reality.  

Guy: 

Like the whole psychic connection between twins, that kind of thing. I mean who knows? But yeah, I mean, I guess it obviously worked for you because you had that serendipitous moment and then you quit your job and then you’re like, “We’ve got to go do this!” 

Joe: 

Yeah.

Guy: 

So what happened after that point? How did you start actually turning this into a viable business?

Joe: 

Well, we started with all the business plans and research and designing itineraries, brochures, website, and all the first steps and basic stuff,. 

Guy: 

Did you do that while you’re working at your other job? 

Joe: 

I did a lot of it while I was still working. I mean, fortunately, I was given four weeks Gardening Leave when I finished. I was still getting paid and didn’t have to go into the office, which was nice. And I was writing the business plan and I was doing all the bits and bobs. Then we started building the website, which me and Mark built ourselves on a program called Wix, which, if you said that to a web developer, they’d laugh. So we did that.

And then my stepbrother – who was one of the guys who gave me solid advice and said “Go for it.” – with his building firm he’d said, “If you need a couple of days a week of work, come and work for me and that would give you time to do your stuff.” So I did that. Worked on the building site with him for two-three days a week, dedicated the rest of my time to doing the business plan and building a website, designing the flyers, designing the brochures, putting some form of plan into place to turn what we wanted to do into reality. And going back to the Strangest Secret, the Earl Nightingale audiobook, he lays it out almost as well as I’ve ever heard it laid out. 

He said he’s looked for the secrets to success his whole life. He’s studied, he’s spoken to different people who’ve been successful and not successful. He says you take a hundred men of at the age of 21, and all of them will tell you that they want to be successful. He said if you go and speak to the same one hundred men at the age of 65 he says 1% of them would be rich. Another, say, 4% will be financially independent. So they’ll be doing all right. They’ll be free. They won’t rely on the state, they won’t be relying on handouts from family, friends, anybody else. He says basically the other 95% will need to be still working, dead broke or dead. And if you ask 20 guys at the age of 25 when they’re in an office doing their job, why they’re doing it, most of them won’t be able to tell you why. 

They’ll just say, “Well, just because I have to. Because that’s what’s expected of me or because I need to earn a living. I need to put food on the table, et cetera, et cetera.” They won’t have a real purpose. He says the things that differentiates the 5% at the top from the other 95% is simply goals. That’s all it is. Deciding what you want and having a clear goal. And then once you’ve decided on a clear goal, write it down on a piece of paper and start thinking about how you’re going to get to it. That’s the plan. So I feel like everything that’s ever been created in this world – and, again, this sort of goes back to the Quantum Physics discussion and about being able to create your own reality – everything that’s ever been created in this world by humans,, has first been a thought in someone’s head. This table was first a thought in someone’s head. This pub was first a thought in somebody’s head.  The boats on the river out there. They couldn’t have been created without first being a thought in someone’s head. 

Guy:

When people say, “Oh yeah, I can’t go and do that thing”, or, “no one’s done it before”, or, “it’s really difficult to do.”  But someone has done it, which is great because it means that you can do it. And if no one’s done it before, why can’t you be the first? I don’t know the actual statistics, but it’s like when Roger Bannister ran the four-minute mile. No one had done that before and then the year after he did it, something like 75 people ran it that year. 

Joe: 

So it’s having the belief in your head, the thought in your head.

Guy: 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But if he went into it and said, “I can’t do it because no one has done it before,” we’d all be stuck at five minutes, or whatever it was. 

Joe: 

Yeah, exactly.

So, we began writing the goals. We said, “Where do we want to be in five years’ time as a company, as individuals, where do we want to be?” Wrote down those goals and then started forming what was to become our business plan. Which was a plan as to how we were going to get from here to there. That’s exactly what Earl Nightingale says.

Guy: 

Sometimes people write goals and there’s nothing behind them. It’s like “Oh, yeah. I want to make X amount of money. I want to be rich.” But what is the difference, do you think, between just arbitrarily making a goal that people have – and it could be genuine, it could be like, “Oh, yeah, I want to have a good amount of money, I want to do this and I want to have this car”, or whatever – and it’s just something that they then kind of put to the back of their mind on the backburner, versus someone who writes a goal and then suddenly it consumes them?

Joe 

What is the difference? Well, you just said it. The person who doesn’t get it is the one who puts it to the back of their mind.

Guy 

So, how did it become all-consuming for you? Where did that need come from? Because it must have been a need for you.

Joe 

I didn’t want to have to go back into the world of working with somebody else and go back with my tail between my legs to London and do job interviews. That was a need; there is no fucking way in hell I’m going back to that.

Guy 

So, it was painful for you to go back and do that!

Joe 

It would be. This has to work, now. This is it. 

Guy 

So, do you feel like the pain of seeing where your life could be if you don’t do it was just really, really real to you? Just seeing that it could just be this hum-drum work in an office and that just made you feel physically sick?

Joe 

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, there was no way I was doing that, like I would have done something else other than that. Now, even if the worse was to happen and TruTravels was to fail tomorrow, I’d have to think of something else. There is no way I could go back and sit in an office job and just work for the sake of work just to earn money. Like, I couldn’t do it. I would rather live in a cave with no money and fucking become hunter-gatherer. But there’s just no way in hell.

Guy 

Well, you could die tomorrow. People say it, but it’s very true.

Joe 

It’s very true! I was in Vegas last week and two days ago 500 people got shot from the hotel window that was next door to the hotel we were in. So, yeah. Exactly. Life’s too short to be doing stuff you hate. And there’s a proven success formula. Everyone’s like, “Wow, this is so crazy. You just went and that and that!” And it’s like, “No, I decided what I wanted to do. I wrote down my goals. I put a plan into place and I made it at the forefront of my mind all the time.” I often visualize what it’s going to be like when I’m sitting on the yacht when I’m finally getting to the stage where we’ve recognized our second set of goals.

Even people like Conor McGregor. Conor McGregor, he says when he wins his second UFC title, he said, “Is this a surprise? How does it feel?” He said, “This isn’t a surprise at all! This is exactly how I visualized it. I visualized it time and time and time again, coming up here and collecting these two belts. In my mind, there was no way that it could not happen.” That was his reality. He created his own reality by doing that by training harder than anyone else. Every day. Seeing it every day. Training hard every day. There’s a video of him when he was about 16 or 18, whatever. It was just when he had become a professional UFC fighter. And they say to him, “What do you want to be?” And he goes “My name is Conor McGregor, and one day I will be the UFC champion.” There’s no doubt in his mind, it’s already happened in his mind and that was the same way that I’m seeing this. We will be an extremely successful tour company and I will have the lifestyle that I want. And then along the way, we’re going to try and help as many people as we can and share the love.

Guy 

So how long was it from when you started doing that business plan – during your four weeks paid Gardening Leave – to actually giving your first tour?

Joe 

About eight months, I think.

Guy 

So, effectively, you had that four weeks and then you had enough money to sustain yourself?

Joe 

No, I was still doing two or three days a week on the building site. I had a bit of savings. We did the business plan and then around about September time… So what we did, obviously when we were first building the website, we had to have a date in our mind for when we wanted our first tour to be. So, we set the first tour date for the 15th of January 2013. That was going to be our first tour. So, we knew what we had to work towards. I believe we quit our jobs in about April or May, maybe so about seven-ish months before the start. And then we registered the company in June 2012. So that’s pretty much bang on six months before we run our first tour, we actually registered the company. That was when I was working for Danny over that summer on the building site.

Then in September, my mom and her partner had just bought a house in the south of France that was a bit dilapidated, they needed it painting, they needed certain work doing to it. And me and Mark thought, “Should we just do that? Go live in their place in the south of France, and paint it?” It was a huge job, it took us six weeks,  every day to paint this place because it’s a big place with really thick pebbledash walls, which are a bastard to paint. So, we lived there and we would paint early in the morning, the hottest part of the day we’d go down to the village, sit in the internet cafe, continue building the website, planning, etc then go back and paint again in the evening. And then, occasionally, some weekends we would drive to Barcelona and have a blowout  

Guy 

You were immersed in it, basically.

Joe 

We probably went there mid-August, came back end of September, beginning of October, to the UK, having launched our website.

Guy 

Do you think if you’d been working your job that you quit, if you’d been working there at the same time as you were trying to put your company together, it would have even come to fruition? Because you wouldn’t have been able to spend that time on it?

Joe 

Possibly. I mean, obviously, when I was still there before I left, before I handed in my notice, I was still putting in… At that point, I was getting home from work at 8 pm and sitting on my laptop until 1 or 2am, then getting up at 6 am and going back into work. I was still doing the business planning there. But yeah, maybe. Maybe if I carried on doing the job and not taking that leap, maybe it would have fizzled out. Maybe I would have gone “Oh, this looks too hard” and not done it.

Guy 

So, was that like every night when you were at your previous job, you were just up every night working on your new business?

Joe 

Yep. I remember having a real health kick when I got back from Thailand for two reasons. First reason was because I saw pictures of myself, compared them to when I was out there two years ago, and I was tan and ripped and young and 21 or 22 or whatever. And then I was like 24 – 25, and I was seeing the effects of working in an office for the last two years. I was not ripped. I was not tanned. I was not particularly athletic looking. So, when I got back, I was like, “Right, I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to smoke and I’m going to exercise every day. Can’t be going out getting on it, because it’s too important now that I’d planned this business and it’s going to affect the rest of my life.” So, I had a real health kick there and had a lot of time.

Whether or not I would have had time to do it if I was still working in my old job – I probably could have found the time – but I think it would be much more likely that the idea would have fizzled out and I would have just carried on doing the job that I was doing, had I not handed in my notice and taken that leap. Once you hand in the notice… well then you’ve got to. Once you decide upon it and you’ve told all your mates and you’ve told everyone that that’s what you’re doing…

Guy 

There’s almost a power in making that public. Because oftentimes if you just say “Oh yeah, I’m going to do this,” but you don’t actually tell anyone else, there’s no holding yourself accountable and there’s no fear of embarrassment.

Joe 

Yeah, yeah, that’s true. That’s true. It puts more pressure on you, doesn’t it?

So, we launched the website around about the end of September when we were coming back from France to the UK. And I think we got our first booking in, like, October – November. I actually remember being at home back in the flat in Barnet, and getting a phone call – we didn’t have an office or anything we just diverted the number on our website to one of our mobile phones – and I answered and it was a girl called Eleanor, who ended up being on our first tour.

Guy

Thanks, Eleanor!

Joe

Yeah, thanks Eleanor! She called and said “Oh, hi. Is that TruTravels?” I said, “Yeah?!” It shocked me that we were even getting calls because we hadn’t even started driving traffic towards our site yet. We’d taken a few ads and we’d done a little bit of like trying to place the website into different travel-related forums and directories and stuff, but we hadn’t done a huge amount, and she said “I’m just looking at your tour on the 15th of January. How many other people are on it?” I said, “There’s about six at the moment but we’re expecting more.” And she said “Okay, great. I’d like to book.” I hadn’t even thought about how to take a telephone booking. So I said “Cool. Are you on the website now?” And she said “yes.” “Well then just click on the ‘book now button’ and you’re golden.” So she said, “Well I’d like to book on the phone.” “Well, alright”. So I got the website up and just went through the booking thing, I honestly didn’t know what the hell to do. But then once she’d booked, that was on now.

Guy 

That was, like, tangible.

Joe 

Yeah. And she’d booked onto the first tour on the 15th of January. She hadn’t done us a favor and booked on a tour in mid-August or something, she booked on the very first tour in mid-January.

Guy 

How separated were your tours at that point?

Joe 

We put like two a month up. And then we ended up running probably one a month for the first six months until it started getting a bit busy. Then we ended up running two a month. So, if there was no-one booked on it with a couple of months ago, or a month to go, we’d just shut it. So, we couldn’t find ourselves in the position where we had one person booked on it and then we had to explain to them why they’re the only person booked on it.

So, for that tour, I think I recruited the girl that I was seeing at the time. So this was not the girl that I’d split up with to go out there, but the girl that I was seeing, I said “come out in January and just pretend to be a customer.” And she was like “Yeah, alright. Cool.” And then Esa, who was the investor, we were like “yes you can come out and pretend to be a customer as well.” So, we had three, plus me and Mark, that was five, and then at the very last minute, me and Mark flew to Thailand in December to start getting things ready for January. In December, we had two last-minute bookings from actual real-life customers.

So we ended up having three customers on our first tour, plus the girl that I was seeing, plus the investor, plus me and Mark, which made seven. We’re like “Sweet, we can run the tour now, there’s seven of us. This is great.” And we ran it and it went fantastically. Obviously, we explained to Eleanor, “Look, I’m sorry that we had to fib to you about having six people but I hope you’ve had a good time. She said, “Yeah, amazing, I can’t believe it. I like it even more now because it’s a great story and I’m part of it!”

Guy

When did you tell her?

Joe

Just doing this during the week. But it was sort of embarrassing because on the first night, she didn’t know that I was with Lauren, and she went up to Lauren and goes like, “oh, those guys are quite hot. You go for Mark and I’ll go for Joe.” And Lauren’s sitting there like, “mmm hmm”.

So, yes, that was how the first tour went down. And then February there was a tour with three people on it or something. So again, I ran the tour with three people on it, and then March I think we ran two tours. And slowly over the course of two-three years, we just started getting the numbers up a little bit.

Guy 

How much money did you need to make when you moved over to sustain yourself in Thailand?

Joe 

Well, at first, we set ourselves a goal of getting 10 a month. So, if we could run one group of 10 people a month, I think we probably calculated that profit margins were about 250 pounds per head. So that would have been 2500 profit per month – we could have lived off that and paid our overheads at the time which were very small. I mean, as it happens, I didn’t end up taking a salary for the first 18 months. I didn’t take anything because I was living off my savings, and neither did Mark. We lived off zero. In fact, even more so, Mark had to come back to the UK because he had debts that I didn’t.  So fortunately for me, I was clean. I didn’t have any debts and I had a bit of money saved up from jobs. But Mark had to get a second job in the end cos had car loan or something  that he had to pay off.

So, the plan was for us both to go out there for a year. Smash it, get to the stage where we could take a couple of grand salary each per month, and then he would move back to the UK so he could start paying off his car debts which he deferred for a year. By the time we got to that year, we still weren’t taking a salary. He then had to pay these loans back. So, he ended up having to move back to the UK. I mean, he moved back to the UK earlier than that, because we very quickly realized that we couldn’t run a business with both of us being on the ground in Thailand. So, because he had these debts, and because he had to get a part-time job to pay for these debts, he was like, “Right, I’ll go back to the UK and run that side of things.

Guy 

Which makes sense because you need someone there.

Joe 

You have to. We were naive thinking we could both live in Thailand. It was stupid. There was no way that would have worked.

Guy

You need English office hours for people to be able to call up and book or ask questions.

Joe

You just need someone to be able to pick up the phone and call the internet company if your emails go down.

Guy 

And as a paying client, it makes it feel more legitimate.

Joe 

Absolutely. So, he moved back to the UK and ended up getting a job with his best mate who had set up a business – a carpet cleaning business. His mate got a contract with Holiday Inn or something. You can imagine some of the scenes that they had to go and clean up. Mark literally had some of the worst jobs in the world, just to be able to pay his debt so that he could carry on working for TruTravels for four days a week.

Guy

Did he literally have to clean up after a murder?

Joe

I thinks so, or suicide or something. I can’t remember which one it was. But he definitely, definitely was cleaning some horrible stuff in order for TruTravels to be able to carry on existing. And I feel a little bit bad about that because I was still in Thailand at the time. And don’t get me wrong, I was working hard and I was working every hour of every day but he was doing that and working for Tru and tensions ran high and we did used to fall out about things sometimes back in the day.  

Guy 

I feel like a lot of people who had gone into business together and faced that might have fallen apart and called it quits at that point.

Joe

Probably.

Guy

Why didn’t you, do you think?

Joe 

I don’t know. We very, very nearly did. We very, very nearly went our separate ways at certain points, until I think there was a bit of a turning point where we agreed to just concentrate on certain roles and things started happening.  

He concentrated on getting us the customers through agencies, I dealt with the operations and the finances and all that sort of stuff. By that time we had got in with STA and he  got very good at it and he also learned the ropes. He learned the ropes of the travel industry and how to do it. At first, we didn’t even really understand how important travel agents were in the game. We thought we could get most of our bookings online. We’ve realized now that even the likes of Contiki and G Adventures, who are the giants of our industry, still get 80% of their business from travel agents. We did not realize that. We didn’t even factor in the commission into the module.

Guy

I seem to remember, when I was looking at tours, I ended up on various websites, and I seem to remember that I twigged at some point that these guys are just selling this person’s tour, because it was exactly the same description, exactly the same picture, but they’re charging it through their websites. I mean it’s obvious now that it goes through other companies…

Joe 

Yes, exactly. It’s a big thing in the industry.

Guy 

I guess those agencies have trust already in place. And so, as a new company, you maybe benefit from that.

Joe 

Yes, they have a network. I mean, a massive thing for us was getting in with STA Travel. They’ve got, like, I don’t know how many hundreds of storefronts in the UK.

Guy

One or two.

Joe

Thousands worldwide! They print over a million copies of their brochure and distribute it to God knows how many countries, so just getting one deal with them and having them say “Yes, we’ll sell your tour,” is more valuable than us pumping a million pounds a year into pay per click, because you’re up against all these people. So the power that the agents have in the industry is massive and we didn’t realize that.

Guy 

Do they take you on a commission basis?

Joe

Yes. I mean, and again, we didn’t realize how much commission, like you have to give at least 20% of the sales value of your tours to an agent.

Guy 

Which is a lot when you’re just starting out.

Joe 

Oh, it is when you plan a tour and say it costs us 250 quid a head, we’ll charge £375 per head as our selling price. And you’re thinking okay, you’ve got a bit of a margin in there, 125 quid or whatever. And then you realize you’ve got pay the agent 80 quid, and all of a sudden you’ve got no margin.

Guy 

You’ve also got to pay for the time that you’re not working.

Joe

Of course. You’ve got to pay for everything.

Guy 

You’ve got to pay for the advertising, for the website, and now the office…

Joe 

And now the office, the wages of everyone who works with us, like all of that stuff has got to come out from that margin. So, we underestimated how much we needed to make at first, mainly because we didn’t account for the massive commission that we were going to have to give to agents. I guess once we started to make some inroads with some agents it became a bit easier.

Guy 

Did you have to pitch to them, as well?

Joe 

Oh, absolutely. We had to pitch to them. Most of the time we were knocking on doors. There’s still one agent now, we’ve been knocking on their door for five years, and they still haven’t even sat down with us. They still go “No, we’ve got products in Southeast Asia.”. There are some agents that are literally selling – well one agent in particular – selling like millions of dollars’ worth of our tour every year. And this one agent is still going “No, no, you’re too small-time, we’re not even entertaining sitting with you and having this conversation.”

So, it’s very difficult. But some agents trusted in us. Like STA Travel, we keep going back to because they are our biggest agent at the moment. But the way that we ended up getting in with them was because a girl that I used to work within Thailand, ended up getting a job when she came back for STA and worked underneath the contracts manager for Asia, and he’s the guy who decides what gets sold in Asia. So, all the hotels, all the tours, everything that gets sold in Asia, he’s the one who signs off on it. And she put me in touch with him. And I dropped him an email and said, “Any chance you could sell our tour? It’s going to be amazing. We really believe that it’s going to be better than any of the other tours on the market. We know this because we’ve been in the market as employees and as customers. We’ve been on other tours, we’ve seen the other tours running. We’ve met with lots of people that have been on these tours, and we really truly believe that ours would be better. So, can we have a meeting? Can you sell it?” And he basically, in a polite way, said no thanks, mate. “We don’t work with people who have only been on the scene for six months. Come back in six months’ time and if you still exist then maybe we can have a conversation.”

And so, fair to him, I thought I just got completely sacked off then. Six months later, he dropped me an email and said “I’m in Bangkok, do you want to meet up?” I said, “Yes, hell yes, I want to meet up”. So, I sat with him, gave the pitch of my life. I told him exactly what we wanted to do, why we were going to be better at it than their competitors, why we think that our customer experience would be second to none. And for some reason, he turned around and said “You know what, I would never usually do this with such a young company that’s only got one product. But I believe what you say and I believe you’re passionate about it, I’ll contract you.” And so, he contracted us and we thought, “Yes, we’ve made it now, we’re in STA Travel!”

Not quite as simple as that. Mark then had to spend the next year and a half driving around the country going to the different stores, seeing them, making friends with the agents, selling them the benefits of selling the tours to their customers. We started getting a few sales – we did maybe 5 – 10 thousand dollars’ worth of sales within the first year. And we’re in the brochure. Then one of our major competitors,, ended up getting into the brochure. And they were very bitter about us by then because they felt that we had just come out and copied everything they did. Ironically we now feel that they pretty much copy everything we do but there you go. 

Guy 

How many years had they been going for?

Joe 

They had been going for at least eight years before we had started. So, they ended up getting a deal to get them into STA.

And basically, I mean, we thought that STA wouldn’t sell their trip because it was quite similar to ours and we already had ours in there, but they’d done a deal with someone in Australia who is quite powerful in the travel industry. And they’ve tried to get us kicked out of the agency. And the guy, actually the contracts manager, met up with me a year later and said “You’ve done all right, you’ve got a few sales in, but we can’t put you in the brochure next year because of politics and stuff.” So I said, “Oh, that’s a bit shit.” And he says “Yes, to be honest, it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I don’t like the way that the owner of that company does business and he clearly had a target on your guys’ back. The whole reason he did the deal the way he did was to try and screw you guys over.” And I was like, ”Oh, well, great. Are you going to let him?” And he was like “No, I’m not going to let him, but I can’t do anything about the brochure. You can’t be in the brochure. But I’m not going to strike your tour off the list. It’s still going to be sellable. You’ve just now got to work harder than ever to get it sold because it’s not going to be visible.”

Guy

So someone above him made that decision, basically.

Joe 

Yeah. So then Mark had to work his bollocks off even more by going around to all the stores in the UK. We were contacting agents trying to give them incentives trying to make competitions and incentivizing them to sell our tours. And then we met in the following year and they said, “Wow, somehow you doubled your sales and you weren’t in the brochure. That shows me that I want to carry on working with you guys and that you guys will put in the effort to make yourselves succeed.” And so, by then, we had a couple more products. And he said “I’ll tell you what, I’ll put your 18-day product in the brochure,” which must have really, really pissed off our competition, who had worked so hard to try and squash us, that we got the 18 day and there and then doubled it. So, from 5k to 10k probably did somewhere between 10k and 20k US dollars’ worth of sales within that year. And since we started getting agents on tour and making more friends within the stores its grown ridiculously. Mark eventually ended up hiring an ex STA agent to take over his job on that side so he could focus on more stuff to do with the rest of the business and we just got bigger and bigger in the agencies from there. We’ve literally just come back from a conference in Montreal, where we met his boss who’s the Global Head of contracts.

He sat down and looked at the figures and he just was like, “Wow, this is unprecedented. I’ve never seen year on year growth as you guys have done this year. Considering you did the same, if not more the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, this is completely unprecedented.” So, whatever Mark was doing going around the stores in the UK, he was doing a good job.

Guy

While I was in your office, and I saw the board, and I was quite struck by the 400% increase year on year, basically every month, from last year to this year. That’s kind of ridiculous.

Joe 

Yes, it is, and I keep thinking it’s going to level out. Every year I’m going “We can’t grow 200% again next year.” And we have. And I’m thinking, we’ve got to plateau somewhere. And I do genuinely think next year will start leveling off a bit…

Guy

That’s what you said last year.

Joe

Yes! But I honestly feel like there’s no way we are going to sustain that level. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I mean, some months we’ve grown 5 – 600% on the same month last year. However, I am starting to see it get a little bit less because it was the end of last year that we were seeing massive, massive growth. And now these last months of the year are creeping up, I think we’re going to be lucky if we’ve got 50% growth in terms of month-on-month.

Guy 

That’s still a lot.

Joe

Still not bad. I’ll be happy if we do 50% again next year. I’d take that.

Guy 

I mean, that probably comes from more tours coming into new countries, new territories.

Joe 

Yes. We’ve added more tours to the network. And we’ve still got a lot of new territories we can get into in terms of sales. And that’s one thing. I mean, we sell a lot through STA and stuff in the UK. But we haven’t really tapped into Australia yet. That’s a massive market. We haven’t really tapped into Germany and the rest of Europe yet, which is massive. So, they’re obviously going to be areas that we’re going to be aiming at. And we’ve got a guy on the ground in Australia now who we hired at the beginning of this year. He’s starting to make roads into the industry there. We’ve got an exclusive deal with STA South Africa where we’re selling our Bali product package with flights. So, hopefully, we’ll be able to get into the South African market via that deal. So, if we can tap into a few of these markets and start increasing the sales then we can hopefully continue to increase the number of tours on our network. At the moment, what I don’t want to continue to increase the number of tours and spread our customers too thin or we’ll be back to the stage where we’re struggling to fill groups up. I want to fill the groups that we’ve got, and then start adding new regions and new tours.

Guy 

So, when you were at the stage where Mark had to move back here and you only had effectively a handful of people on each tour, and that went on for 18 months when you did not take a salary – that’s a long time – what kept you going at that point – not necessarily financially, but mentally?

Joe 

For me, it was a few things. Obviously the lifestyle. Even though I was making no money I had a nice life, it had a lot of pressure in some areas but it was where I wanted to be. Also it was the vision and also the feeling of showing people the time of their lives and building relationships with people from around the world. It was like, if we can carry on doing this, if we can carry on giving people an amazing time. And genuinely, I mean, you’re sitting here now because we became friends when we were doing the trip. When I was running a tourI was solely focused on giving the people who traveled with us the most amazing time possible, and because of that, a lot of them now are good friends of mine. A lot of the people that were in our groups in the first year or two when I was running them are still good friends of mine. when we were running groups of three and four – we were probably losing money off of most of them – but I was thinking if I can show these three people, these four people, the most amazing time possible, they’re going to go home and they’re going to tell their three or four friends, and their three or four friends are then going to hopefully book a trip, and then tell their three or four friends, or five or six friends, or ten or twenty friends or whatever it is.

And you could see it, you could slowly see it. Like we had a couple of girls from Miami. And they had an amazing trip. They went back and then suddenly we started seeing a couple of bookings coming in from Miami. Not a lot, the floodgates certainly didn’t open f, but I could see the progress and that is also very motivational. It didn’t matter to me whether I was earning bugger all money in into my actual bank account. I was having a great time, I was making awesome friends. I was actually making a difference. Like people were saying like, “Wow, this has been one of the best weeks of my life”. That’s making a difference in someone’s life. Not sitting in an office recruiting people for a fucking investment bank; they aren’t making a difference to anyone.

So that was what kept me going. I didn’t really care that I wasn’t earning no money. I mean, I’m still not taking a big salary now. Everything that we’re earning is going back into the company to try and keep maintaining our growth rates. Because I’m not interested in taking a couple of grand a month, and doing that. I’m happy with what I’ve got. I can fit all of my belongings in Thailand. I can fit them in my little sidecar of my motorbike. And I live in a little bungalow on the beach. I’ve got my dog and my girlfriend. And I’ve got really good friends. And we’ve got a stake in a really cool hostel where we go and sit and drink. I can go partying where I want to. I do not need any more money at this time. So, I’m not interested in taking out five grand or ten grand. I want to keep growing at this rate until we can turn around and go “Right, there’s a million quid and now you can actually do something serious.” Then we can go out and make a difference. Then we can go and talk about getting the boats and really changing the world.

What’s written into our business plan is that we want to benefit everybody that we work with, not just ourselves, not just our customers, but our staff, all of the partners that we work with, the suppliers that we work with, the communities that we work within. So, I’m very, very passionate about, using business as a force for good and when we have more of a  platform we’ll be able to do more good… I mean, we’ve always done little charity projects on the side. We work with Eco-Soap Bank and a water charity in Cambodia that we donate a bit of money to occasionally. We’ve worked with the Ballboys charity and a few others that we think are good and we know have an impact..  

So, we’ve worked with a lot of different charities over the course of the years and given them little bits of money, but nothing that’s made a serious significant difference in the world. But when we get to that stage, I would love to set up… like the name we thought of is The True Equality Foundation, where we go into communities and we could work with the people who have the least and slowly close the gap in equality, the gap between the haves and the have nots, which I believe is the cause of most of the problems in the world.

Guy 

Where does that desire to contribute come from, do you think?

Joe 

I don’t know really.

Guy 

Did it come about while you’re doing this or has it been from the beginning?

Joe 

No, I think I’ve always had quite strong sense of justice and fairness. And I don’t think it’s fair – like when I was working in London – I didn’t think it was fair that we should have to make 20 – 30 grand a week for this geezer, who is already a millionaire, and yet there are people sitting on the streets that can’t afford to eat. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that a society that has that much inequality is right,. If there’s that much inequality in society it’s not functioning correctly. And I want to be able to do something about that. I want to be able to team up with the likes of Richard Branson and Bill Gates and these people and go “Right, let’s come together. Let’s focus our resources and let’s fucking get rid of this massive gap.” There are people in the world today spending £20,000 pounds on a handbag, and yet 50% of the world’s population can’t eat or feed their children. That’s fucked up.

I believe that, in 100 or 200 years’ time, as long as we’re not living in some post-apocalyptic Mad Max world because of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, and all these crazy cartoon characters who are running our world at the moment,, as long as we’re not going the Mad Max way, as long as we do actually continue to evolve and people continue to become more aware of the issues, and more aware that we are one species n  – we all came from the same place and when everybody realizes that, then all of a sudden these kids that are getting blown up in Iraq because of the scumbags like Tony Blair and George Bush, there’s not going to be that disconnect. They’re not going to go “Oh well, it’s in Iraq, they’re all terrorists anyway.”  -all of this bullshit talk that gets drilled into us by the fucking tabloid rags – they’re going to go “They’re little kids. They’re people. We need to do something about that.” And they’re going to stand up.

And I really think that travel is one way that we can get that mentality to people. I think that travel is not only a great way of redistributing wealth… Don’t get me wrong, we can afford to travel, right? We come from rich countries. So why not put that money into a pot which gets redistributed to poor people, which is what we try and do at TruTravels. We try to make sure that as much of the money as possible that we get from our travelers goes to the parts of the community that need it the most. So, we’re not going to hire a big boat company that’s owned by a big western company  to run our boat trips in Asia, we’re going to hire the local guy who is feeding his family, and he can now maybe afford to send his son to university. And that’s going to have a massive knock-on effect on his community and mean that his community’s going to start closing the gap a little bit. We’re not going to work with a massive hotel chain, where all the money ends up back in the pockets of someone sitting in New York, unless the big hotel chain does seriously good work in the community, looks after it’s staff well, employs lots of locals etc… .

Guy 

Isn’t it ridiculous – I’m just having this thought right now – isn’t it ridiculous when you think of businesses, it’s ridiculous that I should even be asking you the question of why you are motivated to help other people.

Joe

Yeah! Because they’re people!

Guy

Isn’t that ridiculous? Because usually a company would look at you and say “Why are you giving away your profits to random people? Is it for the PR?” Well, no, it’s just because they want to do a good thing.

Joe

Because they’re actual people.

Guy 

Why do you have to justify wanting to do something good?

Joe 

I don’t know, it’s crazy. And get this, not just the people side of things, but also the planet side of things. People say, “Why would you care about the environment? Why would you care about being sustainable?” Well, guess what? Without a planet, you aren’t going to be able to run a business either and neither am I!

I was a very big fan of Russell Brand’s series, The Trews, they did on YouTube. And one of his episodes – and this was long before anyone even thought that Donald Trump could end up in the White House, which still makes me laugh. It’s ridiculous – but Donald Trump owns golf courses in Scotland, right? And he was on the news, the Scottish news, protesting against wind farms that have been put up near his golf course. He was saying, “These ugly things. People pay a lot of money to play golf at my courses. My courses are the best, you know?” As he does. “And people don’t want to be looking at these horrific monstrosities that are littering the environment around my golf courses.” And Russell Brand in his commentary turns around and says, “Do you know, Donald…” he goes “you aren’t going to have much of a golf course when this area of Scotland is underwater due to global warming. So, think about that first.” And he just did not get it. The news presenter is going, “But don’t you think that it might be beneficial in the long run?” And he is going, “No”. He’s like, “What do the people of Scotland think of you coming here and protesting against wind farms that are ultimately doing good for the environment?” He’s like, “The people of Scotland love Trump. I employ at least 5000 people on the Golf Course.” And to think that thing became the President of the United States four years later, or however long it is. It’s ridiculous. But it shows the type of mentality that people have and people like him are promoting it. The media that we have nowadays promote selfish interests. Instagram – this whole celebrity culture it promotes. “Look after yourself! Get yourself that Gucci handbag and you’ll be all right. Don’t worry about John and his kids starving on the street corner.”

Guy

And it’s all faked to give you these moments of injection to make yourself feel good.

Joe

Oh yes, these kids, eighteen, nineteen twenty-year-old kids now who are like Instagram stars, who are like really, really good looking young girls who post pictures of themselves in bikinis doing yoga, and all this shit, might have a million Instagram followers. They’re probably the least happy people. Out of everyone. They convey this lifestyle. That’s what it’s all about, like everyone. Every man and his dog has got to convey this lifestyle on Instagram of, “Oh yes, I go out for champagne brunches every day.”

Guy

“This is real! This is my real life!”

Joe 

“This is really what I do!” And they really do work hard on conveying that but they’re probably the most unhappy people there are because they’ve realized they’re not really like that, and they really, really want to be like that. Whereas when you can be happy with what you’ve got, you can actually be happy. And then you can have whatever. You can strive to earn a million quid, you can strive to help a million people, whatever, but you can be happy with what you got. And you realize that people are more important than profits, and the planet is more important than profits, and then the world will become a better place.

And I think that travel is a very, very good medium to make that happen. Travel, like I said, redistributes wealth very well. As long as it’s done in the right way. It opens people’s minds. I know people that have come on tours, and they’re like the type of kids I grew up with, a lot of them have this small-town mentality. They’ve grown up in this one place. They’re scared of anyone who isn’t them. So, if a couple more brown people moved to the area, they get suspicious of them and they think that they’re going to steal their sisters or whatever in the middle of the night.

When you travel the world and you meet people from other cultures and become friends from other countries, you realize that people aren’t that different and on the whole people aren’t that bad. And that changes your mindset. I think a lot of people who have grown up in small towns, certainly like around the outskirts of London – or cities like that, I’ve seen and grown up with a lot of people from – could benefit from going and doing a year traveling around the world. They would be very different people; very much more open-minded and they would care less about conveying a certain sense of image than actually doing things.

Like, for example, before I went away traveling, I would spend 100 quid on a Ralph Lauren T-shirt, I’d spend 150 quid on a fucking jumper. Because that was it. I wanted to have that little horse on it, and have that label or whatever was cool back then. I would spend that and I was very much a victim of the – you have to do that to meet the standards. But as soon as I came back from Thailand for the first time I was like, “Fuck that shit, I can get a decent T-shirt for a fiver down the Khao San Road. Why would I ever spend any more on it? I don’t look any worse than that guy there and his hundred pound T-shirt.” And my mates could not get their head around that when I first got back. They were like “What!? You genuinely don’t care about wearing a night top instead of that?” I’m like, “No mate. I genuinely don’t give a fuck.” And they could not get their heads around. It was so outside of their world it was funny.

Guy 

I wonder what changes people’s mentalities towards that. Likes you say, hopefully travel will for some people.

Joe 

Yes, and it’s not just travel. I mean, it’s some of the things that people are forced to think about when they’re traveling, some of the truths that they’re forced to realize.

Guy 

I can’t remember how I got into that kind of thing – personal development, or thinking about the opposite of what everyone tells me. I must have just watched something or…

Joe 

Maybe, it’s funny how one thing leads to another sometimes. Maybe you just read a book or listen to an audiotape or something.

Guy 

I feel like it was a free trial of Audible. And it just gave me a recommendation of listening to a book called the Education of Millionaires. I listened to that. I think that’s where it all started.

Joe 

That makes sense. Like I said, it all started with Rich Dad, Poor Dad for me. And then he recommends a book and then he recommends another book. And then he recommends an audiobook and that recommends two different books. And before you know it, you’ve got reading list longer than you could ever read.

Guy 

Yes. So you’ve been doing this for 6 years now…

Joe

Five years now.

Guy 

So in five years, you’ve gone from nothing to quite a large turnover last year with, what, shy just shy of a million pounds…

Joe

Yes. We have done alright. This year we’re hoping to do even more.

Guy

So that’s in five years. Do you ever look at that and go “that’s pretty good!”

Joe 

Yes, we do. I mean just having come back from Montreal where we were for the World Youth and Student Travel Conference. So, you got all the big dogs from the industry and I mean this year especially, we were meeting with people from G Adventures, who are the giants, like we had a meeting with them and then Mark even turns around to me – and he’s into football – and he’s like “Fuck me, that’s like Man United turning around and asking for a meeting with Brentford!” Because they approached us. They’re the ones who wanted to talk to us about it. They were saying, “You guys are making waves now, you’re making our jobs harder. Like we’re having meetings about you.” That’s like Man United having meetings about Brentford, which they wouldn’t do because they don’t give a shit, but all of a sudden the big dogs in the industry are starting to look at us and think, “Ooh, fucking hell.”

Guy 

Does that make you think differently or would you just keep doing what you’re doing?

Joe 

I think what we need to do is just keep doing what we’re doing, but, of course, it makes you think differently. First of all, you’re a bit like “Oh yeah, that’s nice!” You’re a bit proud of it.” Secondly, you’re a bit worried because you think, “hold on a second, these guys have got all the resources in the world and they’re obviously wanting to squash usA lot of them have stepped up their game. And  released tours  very similar to ours. A lot of them are starting to look a lot more like us online and on social media, but I think what we need to do is just keep focusing on what we’re good at, and doing it better than our competition.

Guy 

You obviously have a strong mindset. Do you struggle with it? Do you still have days now even though you’re… a lot of people would say that you’re incredibly successful at what you’re doing, because you are – you set out to do something and you’re doing it. You make your living from it. I mean, that’s a great level of success… Do you still struggle at all with that?

Joe

Do I still worry about stuff, you mean? Yes, for sure.

Guy

Do you get fear?

Joe 

Absolutely. I think it’s normal. I think it would probably be bad if we didn’t. Because we would’ve become too complacent and think that we are untouchable. I mean, yeah, we have done well, we’ve grown to a medium-sized company, a small to medium-sized company, but we are not beyond the point of whether we can fail or not. In fact, it’s almost like now we’ve got this level of turnover and we’ve got this level of expenditure, it’s almost like “fuck me”. If something went wrong for a month or two, we could fail quite easily and we wouldn’t be able to pull the money out of thin air to be able to cover our overheads now. When we were little and our overheads were a couple of grand a month, yeah, we could probably borrow a couple of grand off someone and carry on running for a month if shit hit the fan. Now, it’s even more pressure because I can’t borrow 200 grand off of someone to cover us for the next couple month’s wages and stuff like that if something was to go wrong. I don’t know that many people with 200 grand in their back pocket. So, the pressure is more, now. I mean, some things have become easier, some things have become harder. But yes, for sure, I still worry about things, sometimes. Especially when I see the likes of G Adventures, pulling out exactly the same tour as us or the likes of Intro starting a Bali Experience, obviously, just to try and confuse the market andtake some market share. Of course, I worry about stuff like that. But, fuck them! They’re only doing that stuff because they’re more worried about us than we are about them. So we carry on doing what we’re doing.

Guy 

Do you have a daily routine?

Joe 

A daily routine? No, I don’t. I mean, when I’m back in Thailand, I try and get up most mornings and go for a run with the dogs on the beach. So I do that most mornings. I try and do some stretches or some meditation or something if I have the time. Then I usually go and get some breakfast with my girlfriend or one of our ops managers, sit and have a chat with them. I go into the hostel for a few hours and see what’s going on in the hostel. Might pop into the office for a few hours depending on what I’ve got to do. I spend a lot of time on the phone, especially after about 4 pm in Thailand when England’s waking up, I spend a lot of time on the phone back to England. Try and do my evening Muay Thai session at the gym. I try and get to the gym between about five and six. Trying to do that to keep fit. And then in the evenings I usually either go back home and work more or I’ll go down to the hostel and have a few beers with the boys. Sometimes we’ll go out and party, sometimes we won’t. But I guess that’s as close as I can get to a daily routine.

Guy

You do meditation, though?

Joe

I do try.

Guy

There seems to be a common theme among successful people, that they meditate.

Joe 

Yes. Well, I mean, I first got into it because when I first got over there I sort of didn’t really know what to do with myself. Like I found out that my ex, who I’d left to start up the business, was seeing someone else and that obviously really upset me, even though it was me who decided that. Go figure. It’s human nature, isn’t it? So that really upset me. The pressure of running the business and not having enough customers to earn ends meet and to keep it flowing was getting to me and my head was all over the place. And so, being familiar with reading self-improvement books, or whatever, I started reading a little bit about meditation and the power of the human consciousness, the power of the mind, and how you can train your mind.

In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons why I have a fairly solid mindset now and how I can control my mind, and if I find myself getting too worried about stuff or thinking too negatively, I can sometimes replace those negative thoughts with positive thoughts if I catch myself. It takes effort, but anyone can do it. Many people are convinced that it’s impossible but it’s not. 

I used to be awful for road rage. Sometimes I still am if I’m in a bad mood. I’d be sitting in a traffic swearing at people, someone would put out in front of me, “You cunt! Get out the way!” And I go, “Hang on a sec.” I just have to check myself and say, “Stop spreading bad vibes, spread good vibes instead.” And so then the next person will try and come out and I’d let them go. And then all of a sudden people stop pulling out in front of you. People stop shouting at you. It’s very weird.

You could say it comes back again to the law of attraction and the universe. It’s very, very strange. If you take the time to stop and smile and do something nice for someone else, it’s very weird how you can change yourself from being in a negative bad mood to being in a positive good mood, and it’s all about just replacing the negative thoughts and changing the narrative. 

I sort of think thats what Karma is, not a mystical magic that punishes you for doing bad but just the natural cycle of if you change your mood and put out positive vibes and be nice to people then they are more likely to be nice to others and eventually it comes back around in one way or another. Imagine if everyone in the world just decided to be nice to everyone for a day. The lasting and profound impact that would have? That would be a load of good karma. 

Guy:

Yeah. What’s that phrase? “If you think one guy’s an asshole, maybe he is, but if everyone’s an asshole it’s probably you.”

Joe:

Yeah, exactly. There’s experiments, there’s thought experiments where you… I saw this guy once. I think he posted it on Facebook or something. He said something along the lines of, “Instead of thinking that the whole world’s against you, try living one day where you truly put into your brain that everyone is conspiring to help you, and see how that changes the way things happen.” It’s true. If you go around telling yourself that, telling yourself, “Oh, the whole world’s on my side. Everyone’s trying to get together to help me out,” then you’ll find things falling into place. And vice versa. 

Guy:

Very similarly, I heard a good Tony Robbins line the other day where he says, “You’ve got to put yourself in the mindset of ‘life happens for you, not to you’.” That’s basically what that comes down to.

Joe:

Exactly. Take control of it. Don’t just react to other people and other things happening. You make things happen. Most of the people who have a shit existence and think that their lives are shit are just sitting around moping around from day to day waiting for the world to happen to them. Like you say, they’re not creating their own realities.

Guy:

On that note, probably to finish up – if there’s one thing you’d want to say to people in general if they were thinking about this kind of thing – starting their own thing – what would you say?

Joe:

I would say that the risk of not giving it a go is far more of a risk than trying it and failing, because you can always try again, and fail again and try again, and fail again. You never give it a go, then there’s a 100% chance that you’re never going to succeed. If you play the lottery, at least you’ve got a chance of winning it. If you never ever, ever try and do anything, then there’s a 100% chance that you’re never going to do anything. So yeah, take the risk. Do it. Life is too short to sit around doing shit that you don’t want to do.

Guy:

And keep doing it.

Joe:

And keep doing it. Persistence and consistency are key. 

Guy:

Things are going to get tough.

Joe:

Things will get tough. Things will get tough. And yeah, like mindset, it’s all about having a positive mindset and having goals to focus on. Goals are super important.. If you plant negative thoughts in your mind… You don’t even have to plant them, if you allow them to be there, then that’s what’s going to take control.

Guy:

Weeds grow without being tended to.

Joe:

Exactly. I think that’s, in fact, the analogy that he gives in The Strangest Secret, isn’t it? He says, “Your brain is like a garden. If you plant deadly nightshade in it, in the form of negative thoughts, then that’s what’s going to grow. If you plant a rich crop of wheat in it and feed it with positive thoughts, then that’s what’s going to grow.” It doesn’t give a shit. Your mind doesn’t care what you put in it, it will just produce what put in it, but you are in control of what you put in it.

And so, just going back to when you asked about the meditation question, that was when I discovered that, is when I was having a really hard time getting these negative thoughts out of my mind. I started reading books about spirituality and meditation and the power of the human mind, this sort of thing, and it gives you a few exercises where you just sit down and visualize one thing. Or every time a negative thought comes into your mind, just visualize it going out, and then replace it with something positive. The more you practice doing stuff like that, the better you become at it. And it really, really, really does have an effect on the rest of your life.

Guy:

It’s actually really, really hard for the first good number of days that you’re doing it, meditating.

Joe:

Oh yeah. I still find it really hard now. I’m nowhere near as consistent as I should be. I wish I did it every day. I wish I could tell you I did it twice a day. I don’t. Sometimes I’ll go for a month where I do it every day, and then sometimes I’ll go for two months where I don’t do it at all. And then something will happen and I’ll think, “Oh, I’m in a bit of a pickle here. I better go and meditate a bit.”

I’ve still got a page in my book where I’ve got all my goals and I still update all my goals: three year goals, five years, whatever. At the moment, it’s three year goals. I’m about a year and a half in and I’ve probably accomplished about half of them. That’s what I read before I meditate. I’ll read through my goals and I’ll just sit and try and think of nothing for a bit. Sometimes before I go to bed I try and meditate on an actual subject or an actual problem, where I’m running this problem through my mind and I just try not to think about it too hard. But more often than not, I’ll read those goals and, I tell you what, I find in the periods where I am doing it regularly, things seem so much easier. Life seems so much easier. I can’t explain why, but it just does.

Guy:

Yeah. It is funny how things get a little bit easier every time. It’s very hard work – meditation’s very hard work, and thinking positive can be difficult. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Joe:

Yep.

Guy:

Do you have any particular ways – when you know you’ve got to do something like work on your goals, work on your business – when you really don’t want to do it or you’re procrastinating, do you have any techniques you use to defeat the procrastination, or does that not really affect you that much?

Joe:

I don’t know. That’s a tough one. I definitely still procrastinate. What do I do to beat it? I don’t really know, to be honest. Just try and plan your days, try and plan your weeks. That helps. If you’ve got list, do the easiest things on the list first and work your way into the more difficult stuff.

But there’s no real technique. I don’t have to have words with myself in the mirror before I go and do something difficult. More often than not it’s just like, “Stop being a bitch and go and do it. How hard can it be?”

Things always seem worse in your head than they are in reality. Everything that I’ve ever dreaded doing has been a lot easier in reality than it was in my head before. The more you build it up in your head, the less likely you are to actually do it.

Guy:

Your mind is a master of imagination, isn’t it?

Joe:

Yeah exactly. And it’s very good at assuming the worst!

Guy:

Absolutely!

Joe:

It’s very good at assuming the worst.

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How this entrepreneur took £5k and turned it in to a £multi-million travel business – TruTravels in-depth via @humangrowthlab
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