Written by The Business Journal Staff
Founder and CEO
Gordon’s Guide – Adventure & Active
What we do:
Gordon’s Guide –- Adventure & Active Travel Worldwide is a leading publisher in the adventure and active travel
sector. The company publishes GordonsGuide.com, the largest website for adventure and active travelers in the world, and magazine-style travel guides. The Web site offers 55 travel categories, 25,000 photographs and features more than 7,000 adventure and active vacations such as dude ranches, ATV vacations, houseboating, whitewater rafting and four and fi ve-star resorts and unique retreats worldwide. Visitors can research vacations, check trip availability and click on direct links to vacation providers to book trips—it’s the premier information resource for active travelers
What led you to found Gordon’s Guide? I founded the company because I wanted to be more creative and fully realize my ideas, which leading the business has allowed me to do. Wanting to develop my potential, I started to look for an avenue where I could pursue my interests and utilize the skills and experiences I acquired over a 22 year period while working in many sectors of the adventure travel/hospitality industries. Furthermore, having worked for different employers, a few who were good and more that were not so good, I learned a great deal about what makes a good employer. These experiences and insights led me to want to create one of the best companies to work for—a place where employees truly enjoy working and feel deeply cared about and appreciated. As Dr. Phil says “you either GET IT or you don’t.” I feel there are too many employers and companies that really “don’t get it” and I hope we’re “Getting it” because it’s a big part of what we’re about–-our people.
What were you doing prior to that? Prior to Gordon’s Guide, I was in essence doing what I am doing now—helping people fi nd and experience adventure. I spent 22 years in the adventure travel sector working as a Vail/Beaver Creek ski instructor, river guide and river operations manager, a packer and outfi tter for Yosemite National Park, a snowmobile guide, a cross-country ski guide, and many positions within the dude and guest ranching industry that lead up to general ranch manager.
What is your essential business philosophy, Timothy?
I have several philosophies that guide the way we conduct our business. My core philosophy is “To keep the eye up on the donut and not upon the hole.” Simply put, this means stay focused on the company’s purpose and be the best—which I think is evident if you look at what we do at Gordon’s Guide. Another philosophy is that from the inception of business to day-to-day operations you need three ingredients for success: 1) timing, 2) courage and 3) vision. If one of these three ingredients is missing, a business will not be successful. Of course, if you do not have the right people then all these elements are irrelevant. This leads me to another core belief: Surround yourself with smart, high quality people with the right type of experiences that have the right heart and attitude. I fi rmly believe that education can be provided and skill sets can be learned in the workplace, but the right attitude and heart are more diffi cult to teach, especially among adults, with longterm established habits and character traits. I also have a Web site business philosophy central to GordonsGuide.com. In my opinion, a Web site is like a restaurant. If you have a complete menu, nice ambience, good service and delicious food, people will come back AND they will tell their friends. But, if you are missing any of these elements, people are not going to come back AND, again, they will tell their friends. At Gordon’s Guide we strive to provide all of the elements that will keep travelers coming back (huge selection, high quality presentation, great trips and the best service possible)—and they do. In fact, the senior V.P. of one of the world’s leading vacation providers, operating more than 40 recreational and resort properties, just emailed us and stated that Gordon’ s Guide is “clearly best-in-class in terms of Web-based resort and recreational marketing.” Travel books, magazines and an award winning Web site.
Where should someone begin to learn about adventure travel, Timothy?
I would suggest starting at GordonsGuide.com because it truly has the largest selection of adventure and active travel anywhere. Travelers of all ages can go to the site and, depending upon their interests, fi nd a vast array of vacations and resources to meet their needs—and the selection is worldwide. I feel confi dent in saying that there is no other adventure and active Web site that provides as much information as GordonsGuide.com. The site offers a range of activity for all adventure and active travelers from women’s travel and dude ranches to ecotourism and resorts, spas and retreats, from helihiking to houseboating vacations—55 categories in all. Also, GordonsGuide.com is the most photo-rich travel website in the world and dwarfs anything else out there – our Web site has more than 25,000 photographs to inspire people to try new and exciting things.
What is your goal for the Gordon’s Guide over the next 10 years, Timothy?
Our biggest goal is to stay true to our mission, which is “to lead the way in promoting adventure and active travel and the companies offering these services.” For example, at GordonsGuide.com travelers will not fi nd anything irrelevant to adventure and active travel, whereas other sites in the same industry will display advertisements for dating, cars and cosmetics in an attempt to make more money. I do not believe in entertaining the dollar if it means getting off the mission.
What is the toughest part of your job, Timothy?
The toughest part for any business is to stay focused and remain true to the mission. In relation to our business, there have been many times when I have had to turn away thousands of dollars because potential partners do not provide the right match for what we do, and we don’t want to send mixed signals about what you’ll fi nd at GordonsGuide.com. This can be especially tough for salespeople who have worked hard to close the deal. For example, I recently had an exclusive hotel on Rodeo Drive that wanted to be featured on our site. Unfortunately for them, Gordon’s Guide is not in the business of promoting city hotels, but rather resorts. On a regular basis I am faced with potential deals, strategic alliances and partnerships that I just have to say “no” to and turn away (as much as $35K in one ad deal last year). The second toughest part of my job is planning my vacation—too many great choices.
What is the goal of Gordon’s Guide, Timothy?
The goal of Gordon’s Guide – Adventure & Active Travel Worldwide is to stay true to our mission to be the premier information resource for adventure and active travelers through the Internet and printed publications. Again, our goal is to stay focused and “keep our eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”
What is your favorite travel adventure, Timothy?
I have had so many great adventures that it is really hard to choose just one. However, if forced to choose, I would have to pick being a river rafting guide. I was a river rafting guide for eight years, and as they say, once a river rat always a river rat. It’s a fraternal thing. It probably also goes to being a Pisces—I love getting wet. What did the Outward Bound winter mountaineering survival course teach you about yourself? As part of the course, I participated in a threeday solo activity where I was alone in the woods with nothing but the raw natural elements (and lots of snow)— and my provision of six matches, a Pay Day candy bar and a paper packet of Lipton chicken soup. This activity taught me that I was very comfortable being alone. Most people found this their least favorite part of the course, but I thought it was very spiritual. I knew then that I didn’t need other people or things around me to feel safe.
What don’t we know about Gordon’s Guide that we should, Timothy?
I think there are several facts that people would fi nd interesting about Gordon’s Guide. First, since the inception of the company, we have had only one month where we have not grown in total revenue over the same month in the previous year. That is a pretty big achievement for any company. Secondly, GordonsGuide.com is one of the most photo-rich websites in the world and the biggest in the travel industry. Currently, we estimate that there are more than 25,000 photos of various active and adventure vacations—and growing daily. This is one of the biggest differentiators between GordonsGuide.com and other adventure and active travel sites. Our site actually gives travelers a more comprehensive view of vacation destinations so they can make more informed choices. Another fact people may not be aware of is that we are partnering with travel agencies across the country to provide them with new products and services. Currently, more than 200 travel agencies are seamlessly integrating Gordon’s Guide content into their own Web sites. The vacation providers we bring to their sites are 100% travelagent friendly, which means they have signed commission agreements between 10 to 25 percent for the agents, based on the vacation provider’s regular pricing. The consumer can gain the help of an agent and the pricing is not infl ated. This expands the exposure we are able to provide vacation providers while giving travel agents another revenue stream. So far this venture has been extremely popular with the travel agencies. We are signing up about 50 new agencies per month, some with as many as 148 full-time agents and the list is growing globally with agencies singing up in many areas outside of North America. We also have an in-house psychologist. His name is Max Willis, and his origin is canine. He does wonders for people with his daily visits to their offi ces and personal work areas. And his fees are quite reasonable—a french fry here and a turkey sandwich there.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Timothy?
I had my first job at 14, changing irrigation pipes on our next-door neighbor’s cattle ranch every morning at 5 AM before going to high school. From that experience, I learned that I’m not fond of having really cold, wet feet and legs and that $1.89 an hour doesn’t really go very far—even when the payment on your new Jeep is only $99 per month and gas is only $0.23 per gallon.