By Kate Douvan & Adam Epstein
Imagine a club that offers you the most imaginative experiences in the world. As if there were a guarantee written into the trip that you would have an "Ah ha!" moment on the adventure. An epiphany where you think to yourself, "This is as good as it gets". It might be sitting under the stars in a Roman amphitheater watching the Three Tenors perform, or the perfect heli-ski run in British Columbia -- we're going to find and offer these experiences to you. Athletes refer to these heightened experience as being in "the Zone". In the East it's Zen or Chi. We're going to align the right elements to create these "peak" experiences.
Imagine deep sea diving in a magical tropical location. During the day you are coached by an exceptional teacher. You miraculously master a new sport, and can't remember the last time you had so much fun. New friendships are born. Then on the boat in for the evening, the conversation is electric and you discover a connection between your work and the work of another club member. The magic known as synergy takes place -- ideas seem to come out of the ether, new possibilities are conceived. You come away from this trip with a heightened sense of wonder. That's our goal. That's our club.
II. THE IDEA
Timing is Right
Never before in history have Americans been wealthier or more travel minded. The great bull market of the 1990s has created heretofore unimaginable numbers of millionaires, and the health/fitness revolution, also part of the 1990s, has spurred the adventure travel industry to previously unscaled heights.
Affluent Consumers with High Expectations and Little Time
However, these newly wealthy, adventure-minded Americans face challenges which hobble their interests. They have onerous demands on their time, e.g., longer work hours, parenting responsibilities, and tedious commutes. It is no wonder that these people are the greatest consumers of time saving technologies like the internet, e-mail, lap-top computers, and cellular phones. While affluent adventurers abound, they have little time to plan high quality adventures, and their busy schedules dictate that they have little tolerance for unmet expectations. Therefore, any business which can provide access to convenient, quick, reliable, user-friendly, one-stop shopping for great deals on premium adventure trips will have the opportunity to tap substantial consumer demand1.
Convenient & Quick = Internet
It perhaps goes without saying that when speaking about "convenient" and "quick" service to this target audience, an Internet component is mandatory. Hence, the business' natural synergy with TICKETS.COM, a synergy that goes beyond their respective "on-line" foundations.
Development of Service Tiers
Just as the branding process of TICKETS.COM is likely to yield a variety of service levels from "green-to-gold-to-platinum", so too is the adventure travel service uniquely amenable to the same progression. So for example, the travel service might initially dovetail with TICKETS.COM's initial offering of sports related travel packages to offer simple "green-card" travel services. One could choose the Superbowl package or be tempted to try the participatory golf weekend in Pebble Beach. As more and more TICKETS.COM clientele utilize, and are satisfied with, the "green-card" travel service, a new core of customer loyalty will be born from which to leverage into "gold" and "platinum" customers.
The high-end TICKETS.COM customers may ultimately become a premium or "platinum club" of extremely discerning clientele who, for a fee, and having met membership standards, have exclusive access to tickets to coveted sports/concert events. Similarly, the "platinum" customers of the adventure travel service would ultimately consist of a "club" of discerning clientele who have access to the world's finest adventure travel in the carefully selected company of others with similar educational, social, and professional backgrounds2.
From Commissions to Fees to Advertising Dollars
At the "green card" level, the travel service would operate on a commission basis. The premium levels, in addition to commissions, would also generate membership and other transaction fees. Furthermore, if, as previously discussed, a "frequent flier-type" point system3 is created, the opportunity also exists to bring in ancillary marketing dollars from appropriate sponsors. Once the service is successfully branded, advertising dollars could be generated in a variety of ways.4
Adventure Travel Service is an Outgrowth of TICKETS.COM
The success of the adventure travel service component, is predicated on the successful branding of TICKETS.COM, and the successful movement of TICKETS.COM customers to related services that are ancillary to TICKETS.COM. Indeed, if TICKETS.COM is successfully branded and brings the number of expected hits, far more than just an adventure travel service might be spawned.
III. WHY ADAM AND KATE
Assembling principals for a business is akin to putting a band together; band members must not only be able to provide background support for one another, they must also have the requisite skills to solo. Really great musicians are also masters of improvisation.
Nowhere in the business world is improvisation more necessary than in an internet business. The only constant in the world of internet is that it is always in a state of flux. Therefore, successful internet related businesses must be capable and willing to adapt. They must have a business vision which is fluid; that is, investing time and energy into specific goals while at the same time acknowledging that these goals are mutable.
Similar to assembling a great band, gathering together the right personnel for a business presupposes that the prospective participants have peerless base line skills, but also a commonality of vision and understanding that will promote a synergistic combination of unique talents.
As an artist and a mother, Kate is a skilled improvisor. Both roles require a tenacious openness to change -- the ability to shift from one preoccupation to another, to divide one's attention among multiple tasks, and to deftly handle fluidity.
Kate, to her credit, has shifted work focus numerous times from visual arts, to writing, to internet design. As a result she has developed a keen sense of her strengths. Her successes are the result of excelling in areas where few do: (1) in imaging something "new"; (2) in seeing "problems" as the creative opportunities they present; (3) in seeing "connections" between things/ideas; (4) in thriving on the challenges that come with change -- learning, developing, and growing; and (5) in being unafraid to take risks.
As a professional athlete, entrepreneur, and attorney, Adam shares many of the same core traits as Kate, but also possesses other skills and characteristics which compliment Kate's, thus making the combination of Adam and Kate even stronger than their individual components.
Adam's successes in law and business are directly attributable to the lessons learned throughout his athletic career in tennis, extreme skiing/mountaineering, and high altitude endurance events. That is, there are no short cuts, and excellence can only be achieved through discipline, hard work, integrity, good humor, and support/education from those with different or greater skills. Furthermore, Adam's disparate successes have all evidenced and required the willingness to assume considerable responsibility, to take risks, to improvise, and to seek help and input from colleagues.
Like Kate, Adam has a core confidence and strength which makes him equally adept at creating, implementing, leading, and supporting. What makes the combination of Kate and Adam together so unique is that they effectively combine the right and left sides of the brain into a complimentary nexus. That is, patience, nurturance, creativity, and adaptability on one side are complimented by discipline, focus, order, detail, and implementing on the other -- all in a context of mutual respect and good humor.
Nuts & Bolts: How Adam & Kate will Contribute to TICKETS.COM
Because the adventure travel component is predicated on the underlying success of TICKETS.COM, Adam and Kate must not only be intimately familiar with TICKETS.COM, but must also necessarily assist in its evolution to viability. As set forth below, Kate and Adam are well-suited to this task.
Kate can be of enormous assistance in creating and promoting TICKETS.COM's brand identity. Her cross-discipline design skills will be an asset in a myriad of ways -- from creating logo/identities, to print collateral, to interface/web site design. She also writes html. Perhaps her greatest strength is her ability to connect with others -- both creative and technical types. Because Kate speaks their language and wields the same tools, she garners immediate respect and thus can assume a vital creative/technical management role.
Adam can leverage his successful entrepreneurial experience to assist in any number of management capacities. He is a skilled negotiator and manager of personnel. Furthermore, Adam can save TICKETS.COM both time and money by assuming a central role in the management of TICKETS.COM's legal issues. As a well rounded litigation attorney, Adam is adept at quickly becoming knowledgeable in areas of the law with which he has little previous experience.
Adam and Kate will both provide considerable nuts and bolts assistance, while at the same time they have a sense of vision and mission that will contribute significantly to the evolution of TICKETS.COM.
1. The specific parameters of this target group will be further defined as more research is undertaken.
2. The idea of a club, with a level of control of the clientele based on educational, social, and professional background criteria (and fee criteria) stems from the desire to bring together individuals likely to create synergy -- with the goal of promoting personal and business opportunities among participants.
3. The adventure travel club would have a point system modeled after airline frequent flyer miles -- a mega, high-end "Green Stamps" point system, in which the marketing deals are limitless. An example: Purchasing a Lexus would give you 10,000 Imagine miles; these 10,000 miles could be cashed in for a gold sports/concert event.
4. For example, if the demographics of the "platinum" adventure travel club membership are precisely the same as the demographics of the average Porsche buyer, the Porsche of North America might not only pay to advertise on the relevant web page, but might also be willing to pay to participate in mutually beneficial marketing and promotions. In place of Porsche, one might easily substitute the likes of Motorola, Rolex, Polo, etc. Furthermore, "platinum" adventure travel club members might also, as part of club membership, have access to monthly book selections and on-line meetings which are relevant to upcoming adventure trip. Barnes & Noble might well wish to pay to be affiliated with the club in order to bring more of its target customers into its stores. The possibilities of mutually profitable affiliations/ventures are nearly endless.