The Entrepreneur: Ross Marshall, Your Golf Travel

The golf entrepreneur and 2013 Young Gun on the UK's lack of start-up funding, when to give up with a pipedream, and plans to reach £130m turnover...

Co-founder: Ross Marshall
Company: Palatinate Group: Your Golf Travel (YGT), Spabreaks.com
Website:  www.yourgolftravel.com
Description in one line: Your Golf Travel is a golf holiday specialist offering golf breaks and golf holidays to more than 3,000 destinations across the UK, Ireland, Europe and rest of the world.
Previous companies: Internet sports betting advisory websites then started YGT aged 24.
Turnover: £70m
12 month target for 2015: £82m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  •  One stop online shop for all things golf travel.
  •  Great prices, amazing choice, and expert advice from consumer friendly brands.
  •  Strong technology platform and talented management team.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

YGT has grown its sales and profitability every year since inception. The company has never made a loss!

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I have access to all key business KPI’s at all times. Daily review of sales, margin performance and conversion rate are important to me.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

One arm of our business, Your Golf Tours, focuses on bringing golfers from the US to the UK. Sales have increased by over 100% in two years and this is a high growth division for our business. We have an office in Atlanta, Georgia and are expanding Stateside.

Describe your growth funding path:

£20,000 cash, £30,000 on credit cards, and a loan from the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme (now the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme) of £250,000 which we secured five years after starting the business and have since repaid.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Our in-house proprietary online booking system called SPIN.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

£130m turnover by 2017 and the expansion of the Racingbreaks and cycling brands. I want us to be trading more in the US, have expanded into other areas of Europe and be more established in the UK.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

To start and survive both professionally and personally in our first four years of trading.

What was your biggest business mistake?

An expensive PR/marketing promotion that cost the business £200,000. I got that one wrong!

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

There is a lack of start-up funding from traditional methods due to the high risk profile of new businesses, yet crowd and cluster funding has helped fill a gap in the market.

Bonding legal requirements are also a huge barrier to entry into the travel market.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

When they keep investing in a pipedream without having proved that there is a market for their product to be sold in.

How will your market look in three years?

It will be enhanced due to the growth of golf in Asia and there will be more women playing golf in Europe.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Pay close attention to new hires and culture at the beginning as these people will set the future values for your business. You need people who can learn fast as they will have to do things that have never been done before and the competitive landscape for business is changing at warp speed! Experience is not quite as important as it used to be.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Breeding and racing thoroughbred horses.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

I have a Masters degree from Durham University but I had to learn on the job.

What would make you a better leader?

More time to spend with individuals within my organisation in order to assist them in understanding how to trouble shoot and remove blockages.

Business book:

An old one! What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by IMG founder Mark McCormack.

Ross Marshall is speaking at the next Fast Growth Entrepreneurs Club on Thursday 27 November 2014 at The Spirit Level Bar. For more information, visit www.fastgrowthentrepreneurs.com

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