May 9, 2016

The Ultimate Underdog Story - Can Travel Startups Learn From Leicester's Success?

by Malek Murison

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Leicester city underdog winners

On the face of it, there’s no obvious link between football and the travel industry. But two seemingly disjointed topics has never stopped us from drawing parallels in the past, so here goes. Luckily we’re all about looking into things a little bit deeper.

You may or may not have heard that something magical happened in the world of football this week. More specifically, it happened in the world’s most watched sporting league, England’s Barclays Premier League. Leicester City, a relatively obscure club that started the season at 5000-1 to win the title, did exactly that. 5000-1! Not only have they broken the monopoly of the traditional powerhouses of English football, they have done so with a tiny fraction of the resources and a squad that barely avoided relegation this time last year.

Things that were more likely than Leicester winning the Premier League (5000-1)

  • Loch Ness monster to be discovered - 500/1
  • Kim Kardashian for US president - 2,000/1
  • Elvis found alive - 2,000/1

So, obviously, we are going to see what lessons travel industry startups can learn from the ultimate sporting underdog story…

Conventional Wisdom is There to be Challenged

The status quo is an interesting thing. While an established order of things can be both useful and comforting, it can also lead us to complacency, or worse, stifle creativity and imagination. At the start of the season, conventional wisdom, not to mention the bookmakers, suggested that Leicester City would do well to stay in the Premier League, let alone win it. A new manager had just joined the club, inheriting a group of players that had barely survived the year before. Things weren't looking good. But somehow, Leicester's manager, Claudio Ranieri, along with a galvanised squad, defied the doubters and exceeded everyone's wildest expectations.

So how can we apply this kind of thinking to the travel industry? Well, in many ways Leicester have been a disruptive force in this season's title race. They've refused to go along with the status quo, and that's an attitude that can be a real asset for any travel startup. Surprise people in the right way and they won't forget it in a hurry. Whether you're offering a product unlike any other or a service that's memorable for all the right reasons, doing things differently can set you apart. At the same time, the Leicester story is proof that resources aren't everything.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

This is a point that seamlessly transfers from team sports to a business environment. Leicester relied on an incredible team effort and the ability to come together to form something greater than the sum of their parts. That's true teamwork. Likewise in any travel startup, you need a dedicated team pulling in the same direction, willing to fight for one another and the group's success as a whole.

A Shared Goal

There's an old saying that "A problem shared is a problem halved", and we think that it works the same way when a team is trying to achieve a goal. A mutual goal among a strong, determined team, is going to be much easier to reach than if everyone is looking out for themselves.

In the travel business, at a time when customer loyalty has never been so low, the very least that successful companies need is internal loyalty. That is, a loyalty and commitment to give your best to ensure that the entire team reaches its mutual goal.

Why not do things differently

Everyone Loves an Underdog

If there's one thing that every football fan can agree on at the moment, it's that Leicester's story is an amazing, inspirational one. The bottom line? Everyone loves a plucky underdog. From sport to travel, and a bunch of industries in between, things can get stale and uninteresting if the same big players continue to dominate. In many ways that's why we built Travelshift. But more on that later.

This love of an underdog applies to the travel industry too. Generally, travellers don't enjoy making bookings with the big players. Everyone would rather a plucky, authentic startup, offering genuine value and local insight. The problem is that it can be quite hard to cut through the noise and find local agents with the specialised knowledge, especially when search engine results are so skewed in favour of the larger companies.

Success is Built on Strong Foundations

In any walk of life, success and great results need to be built upon on strong foundations. In Leicester's case, the strong foundations have been a sturdy defence, a sense of unity and a great team spirit. If you can foster the same attitudes in your travel startup, the only way is up!

Part of this is obviously teamwork, and the sense that everyone is pulling in the same direction. But strong foundations also include things such as efficient processes, a solid brand identity, quality products and decent customer service. These are things that will get you noticed quickly in the travel industry.

Play to Your Strengths

One of the keys to Leicester's unexpected success was that they never tried to do anything that was beyond them. Every member of the team played in such a way as to maximise their strengths. It's not only in sport that this approach can be valuable. You wouldn't put your best salesman on admin, or your best accountant in the marketing department, would you? While those are simplistic examples, building a strong team depends on using people in roles they are comfortable in, and giving them the freedom to perform. This is why ultimately, it takes great management to get the best out of what you have.

Momentum is Real

One thing became very apparent as the Premier League season rumbled on, and that was the power of momentum. After a blistering start, Leicester never looked back. Success breeds success in sport, and to an extent the same can be said in the travel industry. This is the case at both all levels of the business. Just think about the power of online reviews. A few good ones might be enough to drive more travellers in your direction, which will in turn create something of a snowball effect.

Across all teams in any travel startup, good results bring confidence, and confidence, if managed correctly, can manifest itself in even more positive outcomes. This brings us nicely to the final point that we are going to squeeze out of Leicester's stunning title win.

Every Winning Team Needs Great Leaders

As well as having a remarkable man manager at the top in Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City relied heavily on a number of leaders on the pitch. This shows the importance of taking responsibility in any walk of life, and the impact that a few inspirational leaders can have when working together toward a common goal. In the travel industry, this idea translates easily. In any startup, staff members need to be willing to take initiative and dig in when the going gets tough.

We Love an Underdog

Travelshift software was created to give smaller travel companies a fighting chance in a market dominated by big names. Check out our product for more information.

We'll leave you with wonderful scenes from Leicester, as legendary singer Andrea Bocelli sang 'Nessun Dorma' to celebrate one of the craziest moments in the world of sport.