Business Schooled on Smash Notes

Lesson 8: Minding your dad's business

Business Schooled

As he concludes his journey across the country learning from OG Gen-X and Boomer entrepreneurs, Alexis admits he’s never talked business with the man he credits for getting him started. Alexis heads to Baltimore, Maryland, to sit down with his father—and CEO of Infinity Global Travel—Chris Ohanian. The two take a trip down memory lane and leave us with some timeless wisdom to hand off to the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Episode notes last updated on May 28, 2019 21:35

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Smash Notes summary 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?

Back in 1998 Jason Schuller got a webmaster job at Boeing without knowing anything about the web, or at least not being a web designer on paper. He reverse-engineered web pages by inspecting their code and learning from the source, teaching himself how to design and code. At the end, he was able to pitch those skills to Boeing and basically to create a job where one did not exist.

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.

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.