Brixham-based Blue Chip Holidays is the South West's largest provider of high-end self-catering and lodge holidays. Managing director Alan Taylor explains his role.
QHow did you come the join Blue Chip Holidays?
AI was invited by the now chairman of Blue Chip Holidays, Liam Gavin, to join the business. I'd known Liam for years as our wives were good friends at university and we regularly holidayed with them in South Devon, so when the opportunity came up to join the business, to help it accelerate and to take a lifestyle change in 2006, we leapt at the chance.
QWhat was Blue Chip Holidays like then?
ABack then the business was based in an office above a hairdresser's salon on Fore Street in Brixham. We represented 170 properties and had just six members of staff. At that point we'd just expanded out of Devon to take on our first Cornwall properties.
QHow did you get appointed to your current role?
AI joined as commercial director; Liam was managing director. I looked after most of the day to day aspects of the company. After a couple of years of rapid growth Liam asked if I would be interested in taking direct responsibility for management of the whole business. I said yes.
QHow have things changed since then?
AWe've gone from strength to strength. Liam and I continue to run the business together. I manage the day-to-day business while Liam takes a more strategic view. From being a relatively small player we've expanded to become the South West's leading four- and five-star agency. We've invested in and built a great team of 60 staff across our offices in Brixham, Salcombe and Exeter. We represent almost 300 properties in South Devon alone and more than 800 properties across Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset and the Isle of Wight. With growing demand we're always on the lookout for high-end properties, particularly in Torbay. We welcome the challenge of helping second home owners maximise their income.
QWhat major challenges have you faced?
AFinding the right structure and team has definitely been challenging — and we haven't always got it right. The weather is also a continual test too. We constantly have to create new initiatives and incentives that will attract visitors despite the vagaries of our climate. Fortunately for us 94 per cent of our guests say that they'll book a holiday with us regardless of the weather, but we can never rest on our laurels.
QHow would you describe your leadership style?
AGenerally I try and let people get on with what they're good at, and with such a talented team I'm blessed in that respect. That said I am detail focused and having covered most areas of the business I do like to get involved with projects where I feel I can add something. Letting go isn't easy.
QWho has been your most significant mentor?
AMy first boss, who was MD of Churchill Insurance, taught me a great deal and gave me lots of opportunities at a very young age –– he didn't even mind my ridiculously long hair. Fortunately all photographs from those days have been destroyed.
QHow do you keep enthused and keep things fresh?
AEvery day is different at Blue Chip Holidays and that in itself keeps things fresh and exciting.
QHas the company won any awards?
AWe received two nominations in finals of the prestigious 2013 British Travel Awards. One for the Best UK Cottage/Self Catering Booking Company and the second for the Best Holiday Company for Customer Service 2013.