Go Ape! was founded in 2001 by Tristram and his wife Rebecca, after they were inspired by a tree-top adventure course in France. The first course opened in March 2002 in Thetford Forest. There are 29 Go Ape adventures around the country and 6 in the United States.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
Not worrying that someone will fire me is a pretty major benefit. Also, being able to choose who you work with is terrific. If you carefully recruit people whom you like and respect you will always enjoy going to work. It has the added advantage of creating a really positive and cohesive team which has given us a competitive advantage as well as being fun.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
When in doubt - do it!
How do you make contacts that can be useful for business?
If you're attempting fast growth, the most valuable contacts are those who have been through the growth stages before you. With that in mind we took part in Cranfield School of Management Business Growth and Development Programme in 2006, and again in 2009. The experience was profound. It gave us a network of 40 other business owners all in similar business positions and with a desire to grow rapidly. Case studies helped us learn from successful business. The programme also gave us access to a very valuable network of academics and other business advisors, including financial journalists. We have stayed close to Cranfield ever since and have often turned to its a academics for advice and tips.
Tell us one tip that could prove valuable in life and business?
Life's too short to spend time doing stuff you don't enjoy. So if you don't enjoy the work find something else to do. The added bonus is that you're much more likely to be successful in a field you feel passionate about, and if you aren't successful you won't mind as much as at least you will be enjoying yourself.
How has technology changed your business?
At first sight Go Ape is a low-tech steam-driven business. But behind the scenes it is powered by cutting edge technology. Online and mobile booking systems have transformed the business's cash flow enabling 90% of customers to pay in full, in advance.
VoIP and Skype has enabled many of our managers and senior team to work remotely from home which has helped work-life balance and reduced cost.
Satellite software packages such as Google Earth have helped our business development team evaluate the suitability of prospective course locations across the globe without having to run to the expense of a site visit.
What made you join the Forum and what is the best thing about being a member?
When I set up there were very few people who I could turn to for business related advice and guidance. The Forum was very useful in the areas such as employment law, contract templates, & health and safety etc. The Forum's helpline, free legal advice and discounted credit card rates were all particularly useful in the early days.
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