Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Help Wanted: Finding staff in a Travel 2.0 world

In the early days of doing this blog the majority of the email I received was from start-ups and entrepreneurs asking me for advice. These fell into two camps -"what do you think of my idea" and "where is the best place to look for money". Toward the end of last year the email became much more PR related - "Dear Tim - company X is doing thing Y. Isn't that cool! Don't you want to write about it?"

In recent months this has changed. Email has been coming in from start-ups and younger companies desperate for talent and advice on where to find new hires/recruits. I think this says an interesting thing about the state of the online travel industry. In 2006 there were companies to build and ideas to finance. Now there are small sites moving from beta to full launch, gaining traffic and scale, and big sites fighting for growth and pressing for market expansion. Both need people, good people, lots of good people to fire up the furnaces and keep the engines roaring.

Let me give you an example. I was talking by email with Marcus Cent from ibooking , a small (but he tells me) profitable online reservation technology provider. I don't know much about ibooking but Marcus wrote asking me the following
"[Dear Tim, I am] trying to find a resource where I may be able to find an experienced director level person who may have the right experience to help us with future growth. I was wondering if there was something online that would allow a company like us to find someone that may have had previous experience of high level travel/tourism and have good industry contacts that may be looking for a new challenge."
This is typical of the "help wanted" email that I am receiving. Here is an edited (and updated) version of what I said in return
"Everyone is short of people and looking for them. I don't know specifics about the your market but imagine it is similar to this trend. If you are looking for targeted recruitment sites you can and should try some of the recruitment networks like Linkedin and the hospitality specific WIWIH (though WIWIH has not yet achieved sufficient scale to be a big difference maker). If you want to go people hunting I suggest trawling for names in Linkedin and cold calling or attending every conference you can find with a stack of business cards and plenty of beer money.

If you are looking for board level or advisor help (not full time operational staff) then this level of support is best provided for my an investment company (ie alongside cash!). Firstly because they have a significant interest in the success of the company and secondly because their network is wider in hunting for talent for you. If you are not looking to tie this board level person to a capital injection (or need this person to help with the capital raising) then things become complicated (but not impossible). In this case the perfect candidate for you is someone who has already made their killing in online travel but is too young or invigorated to stop working. You should build a list of all of the ex-Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, Lastminute, Bookings/Activehotels, Yahoo Travel, Opodo etc execs you can think of (or track down on Linkedin) and start "stalking" them - finding out what they are up to and interested in. Then pitch at them."
Unfortunately this is not silver bullet advice. It is does not provide an easy to follow guide to finding staff. I predict that talent hunting is going to become the number on growth constraint for online travel in 2008 despite what idiot government ministers in Australia might say.

thanks to "Darth Dragon" for the photo care of Flickr

UPDATE: if I needed any further proof about this story, it arrived moments ago. Exactly 2 minutes after pressing the "Publish Post" button on this story I received an email from a high profile online company I wont name asking for help in the search for a European MD. Maybe I need to set up a BOOT Job Board...?


Anonymous said...

I would have thought existing 2.0 networks would suffice, Linkedin especially.

Perhaps these guys are more in the situation of 'knowing they want it' as opposed to how to use it.

Anonymous said...

+1 for a BOOT job board :)

both are fast to setup. however, I do recommend jobthread over jobamatic.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are many young online professionals with a few years experience who would be willing to work in online - however, my 3 years in online travel (with two of the industry's biggest players) tells me that online travel doesn't pay as well as other industries.

To keep and retain good staff, the travel industry has to break ties from the hospitality industry and start to pay it's online staff more money, or like me, they will leave to other industries.

Anonymous said...

EyeforTravel are currently organising a Human Capital in Travel confernece set to be held in September or October in Kuala Lumpur.

Its set to deal with recruiting, training, retaining staff as well as productivity, incentives etc. I'd really like to get any input I can so if you can help shoot me an email at



Anonymous said...

"two ships passing in the night" - sounds like there are some great positions out there and some talented people (such as myself :-)) who just seem to be missing each other because there are so many networks. (travel, travel 2.0, ecommerce firms / hospitality etc etc)Sometimes the networks touch - other times they just co-exist in tandem with a rare foray from one network to another. A central crossover point is needed. Until then linkedin will have to suffice.