The Full Experience Company: Benoit Linossier

Benoit Linossier hopes to succeed where Red Letter Days failed with his experiences' company.

During the fall-out of Red Letter Days Benoit Linossier was busy establishing his own ‘experiences’ company. He tells us that he hope to capitalise on a market in flux.

Name: Benoit Linossier Age: 32 Business: The Full Experience Company Type of business: Experience Providers Start date: August 2005

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? Having worked in large organisations I realised that starting my own business was something that was more suited to my personal nature. The ability to make my own decisions while placing no restrictions on my imagination is something that always appealed to me.

Tell us about your business.The Full Experience Company is an experience voucher company with an original concept. We offer themed Smart Boxes. Inside each box is a pictured guide, which is designed to help the beneficiary select the experience they would like to have. Once they have made their choice they pay using the gift voucher, which is also located inside the box. Our current range of Smart Boxes consists of Adventure, Zen & Spa and Charming Getaways and is intended for men, women and couples. We are currently in the process of developing several other themes.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?I have had a few business ideas in the past; however this was the first that I found suitable for the UK market. The idea stemmed from the success of this concept across Europe.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? My decision to start my own business has always come from my own aspirations to be successful. I have always been driven by the desire to build up a successful company from the conception phase right through to the final stages.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? The gift experience provider market is already very prevalent in the UK. The current market has been at a bit of a stand still of late and the well-documented problems of the market leader Red Letter Days has left a gap. We hope to capitalise on this with our innovative and original concept allowing us to take full advantage of a market with so much potential.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? The first time I decided to start my own business I resigned from my job in order to commit myself 100% to my business project. The first thing I did was write down a business plan and then study the opportunities in this particular market.

What research did you do?It was necessary to conduct extensive research on every aspect. This included looking at our competitors and the areas that had not yet been explored- areas that we could focus on and capitalise on. We also conducted research on our target audience’s interest in our product in order to gauge the demand for such a product. All our research enabled us to make detailed assessments on who to target, prices etc.

What other help did you get? I found great help from Think London, which provided more advice regarding how to establish the company in the UK rather than how to set it up.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I wrote the business plan with my set objectives in mind. I think it is very important for the company to have objectives and goals so there is always a direction to head in. This gives the company purpose and a target to aim for.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? A business plan is very important as it provides structure and direction. I find myself adapting it quite regularly but it is very useful to maintain the objective.

How much did it cost to start the business? The actual creation of the company wasn’t too costly. What I found costly was the actual creation/production of the products and paying the employees whilst we had no sales and no actual income from revenue.

How did you fund this? We took a loan to start up this company.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off?The loan enabled us to fund our costs until things take off. This is a key stage in any new company.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Please explain them. I created two business plans; one with anticipated normal success and one with a slower success rate. This has enabled me to understand the minimum sales required in order to ensure the company grows.

When did you stop working? I stopped working for an organisation in October 2003. To stop working in a company can be a great move for your own success but one that can be very stressful. Many people will tell you you’re crazy to embark on such a move. Having said this I have never stopped working. In fact I work harder now that I have my own business. Prior to this company, I launched another completely different idea in France that didn’t turn out to be as successful as I had hoped.

Are you working from home or from premises? We have premises in an office building in London. I feel this was the best decision for our company as we have so many objectives to achieve. For the current size of the organisation I am very pleased with our premises, however with rapid growth very imminent it is inevitable that we will move to larger premises.

How many hours are you working at the moment? At the present moment I am working 70-80 hour weeks.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?As the company is at a very important stage I am working very hard to ensure we establish ourselves in the market. I haven’t yet succeeded in not working around the clock but I try to give growing responsibilities to my team.

What about staff, is it just you? Currently there are 6 more people working to launch the company. I am very happy with my team as everybody has shown the dedication and desire to make us a real success in the UK. However it is not easy to find people who are prepared to work for a young growing company with large responsibilities and lower salaries than those available in larger companies. In the very near future I have planned for staff numbers to increase quite rapidly coinciding with the growth of the company.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? This is not much of a concern for me as I understand the importance of a good workforce for the success of any organisation. I think in order to be a successful company it is imperative to have a motivated and competent workforce as doing it by yourself is very difficult.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? We are currently in the process of selecting our avenues for marketing and advertising. In the very near future we hope to be prevalent via many avenues including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. I also anticipate our product to be sold in high street retailers by the beginning of the year.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? In 12 months I anticipate this company being established in the market as one of the leading experience providers.

What are the main obstacles to growth? My own ability to set up the most efficient team. One which shares the same desire that I have and also the same drive and direction.

How do you plan to overcome these?This is an obstacle that I must tackle in my everyday job.

Tell us about your website. Our website is very important for us. It is one of the avenues in which our product is sold. We hired an external source to create it but we were very much involved in the creation including the selection of all text, pictures, colours and layout. I am very pleased with the outcome of the website.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? My main ambition and aspiration is to be successful. Obviously any monetary success will be a result of our achievements, but I am mainly driven by my desire for self-actualisation.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? The main difficulty is to convince all kinds of people to follow you and share your same vision. I don’t think I would have done things differently.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Hard work, dedication and desire are the main strength you need in order to start a successful company. You also need imagination and set objectives so you know what it is you want and how it is you are going to achieve it.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Just try it because otherwise you’ll never know. The feeling of regret is something that you don’t want hanging over you forever. Just be prepared and willing to put in the hard work.

www.thefullexperiencecompany.com

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