Lesson 8: Minding your dad's business
Summaries for this episode
Who is Alexis Ohanian?
Alexis Ohanian is the co-founder and managing partner of Initialized Capital and a co-founder of Reddit.
Who is Chris Ohanian?
Chris Ohanian is the founder of Infinity Global Travel, a small travel agency that services corporate clients for business and leisure travel. The business has been going strong for 20 years and relies on clients who would prefer not to deal with ongoing changes in travel industry and let their bookings be taken care of by professionals. Chris is also the founder of Alexis Ohanian.
How can you get a job without any experience in the field?
Chris Ohanian did not have a clear idea of what he wanted to do, but he knew that he was incredibly bored at his job. He wrote a cover letter and sent to 50 different travel agencies, attaching a clipping where a newspaper in Albany had written about him and his travel experiences. One agency hired him. It was a faster way than going to a specialized school where on would have typically studied to become a travel agent.
What was travel like before the internet?
In order to book an airplane ticket before the internet you had to have connected with an agent who would look up airplane schedules in what could only be described as a phone book. They would then get on the phone with airline agents, validate each leg of your flight, create a booking, and eventually hand-write you a ticket. It was very tedious and time-consuming.
How do you deal with challenging times in business?
One day Chris Ohanian received a full-page fax, explaining that airlines were switching to a zero-fee commission. This was a final straw in already declining business, so Chris took a marker, wrote "FU" on it, and sent it back to the airline. However unwelcoming this change was, the business did not end there. Life is always changing and you have to adopt and make changes, so Chris did whatever it took to keep going.
How can you make the best out of a bad time in business?
Post 911 a significant number of travel agencies went out of business. People were not flying for a good year. Chris was lucky to have saved up enough cash in the bank to be able to ride through the bad times. It was a challenging time, but on the bright side, the survivors benefited from all the folks who left.
What is your advice for people who want to start a business?
Start small and don't put yourself in a financial hole.
What is one thing that attributed to your success as an entrepreneur ?
Relationships. Many of Chris's clients have been with his for a long time and keep coming back because it is worthwhile for them. If you do not have good relationships or stay proactive about issues, your client would not come back.
How do you balance family life and entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is time consuming. Chris did not have a vacation for the first two years of his agency, but having his own business allowed him to spend extra time with and take care of his wife while she was diagnosed with cancer. Children grow up pretty quickly and you only have a limited time to build those relationship. Family life is important, and luckily, today’s generation of entrepreneurs is catching on.