It’s our 10 year anniversary! We kick off the celebrations by having a chat with our CEO, Neil discusses the ups and downs of the past 10 years in business and shares some great business advice.
1) In the 10 years what has been your favorite product evolution?
We are blessed with an innovative group of people and over the past decade we have come up with some great ideas, some of them went nowhere, some were great and made an impact like occupancy-based pricing on networks, which was an early innovation alongside HP which is copied to this day. The Evolution Family has obviously taken off, our EV Connect solution is a brilliant idea created whilst clocking up many steps in Orlando, walking definitely improves creativity, and EV connect is now helping so many hotels. There is more to come too!
2) What were your technical aspirations 10 years ago and how have you gone about achieving them?
I personally didn’t have any, what we did want to do was to try and innovate and be different and we have certainly achieved that. Occupancy-based pricing was a real innovation that lives on and is used by other companies and I am incredibly proud of the work we have done creating our Evolution Family. We came up with this idea many years ago and some of the products have taken off and others not so much, but that drive for new ideas and innovation is still there and is evident with solutions like EV Connect, which has taken a lot of work to develop and even more time in the lab making it work in the real world, but that solution and the collaboration with partners to make it worthwhile for hoteliers is something we are all very proud of.
3) What has been the best thing to come out of the past decade?
Slightly longer than a decade but my wonderful wife and daughter. Within the last few years my Disney Pass!
4) Have you noticed a difference in people’s decision-making and drivers for adopting new technology within the hospitality sector?
Absolutely, the last ten years have seen a steady (and I mean steady) move to the cloud and that is still accelerating. The industry moves with its guests and it will be interesting to see how the various chains and brands adapt or not following the pandemic. There will of course be change and some will last and some will not. We are already adapting to that and one of the reasons for our success has been our ability to listen, see change, adapt and come up with solutions quickly.
As a global company now we have to be mindful of regional variations on customer and guest requirements.
5) What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
That’s a real tough one, as experience teaches you many things, for instance when things go wrong, or you trust people or products and they fail. But would I go back and say don’t do this or don’t trust that? No, I don’t think so. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by amazing people all with different skills and all with a different view on risks and opportunities and amazingly all of whom believe in me, as much as I drive them mad, it’s a real honor. We have headed into new products as well as new countries and we have made mistakes along the way, but we always learn, adapt and, improve. Listen to your customers, trust your friends and colleagues and your instinct and enjoy yourself as much as you can as it will be over before you know it. 10 years have gone by in a flash and I would like to thank everyone involved in what has been a truly amazing journey so far.
6) What has been your proudest career success?
This. Starting a company from nothing and pretty much with nothing, risking everything based on a belief in myself and my colleagues and that we would listen, innovate, adapt and do our very best at everything we do in a very open and honest way. It’s been far from a straight or flat road but it’s one heck of an achievement and I look forward to having time to celebrate it with my colleagues, family, and friends as soon as possible.
7) Have there been any failures along the way that you have learned from?
Hundreds, that’s what it’s all about. You expect to succeed, and you expect things to go as planned, only when they don’t do you learn. We encourage everyone at Fourteen to make decisions and take risks and learn from their mistakes. Right at the start of our journey, we sold IP phones to a hotel that did not work, they never worked. That event was nearly the end of us but we worked through it and resolved the issue and never made such a mistake again. There have been hundreds of failures along the way, many of them turned into some of the successes we are most proud of.
8) Do you have a favorite memory you could share?
There are a lot and there are some people who need to be mentioned for helping us along the way. Firstly, we should say thank you to our fantastic team for all they have done on this road to our 10th anniversary. There are many memories, but I think such a question leads me to think of fun things.
When we first started Fourteen we had a very low, £0, marketing budget and we managed to persuade much bigger companies to help us by giving us both money and goods. We sponsored the evening at IHTF in Europe and the first one was not great, so we decided to really try and shake it up. Peter Lathrope and I along with Craig Walden and a cast from the hospitality industry created and filmed our spy theme quiz. We managed to persuade our friends Piotr and Dong Min to give us LG TVs as prizes and we went on to present our spy movie and quiz evening and thrilling ‘blow up the bomb’ end game. We were petrified, but it went down incredibly well and I can remember being at the bar afterward and overhearing someone saying ‘I am going to be in the movie next year’ and that was exactly what we wanted to achieve, so I knew we were on to a winner.
The next year we re-filmed Star Wars and it was an even bigger success and so much fun. We got two people off the street in Barcelona, gave them a few Euros, and dressed them as Stormtroopers for the evening and they went down a storm! (no pun intended)
I have to say huge thanks to our great friend Paul Squires RIP, none of it would have been possible without his help and his never-ending willingness to do anything for a laugh and to be made a fool of non-stop for the greater good. I still think about Paul very often.
After Star Wars there was Thriller and an amazing scene with Paul and Joanne Richards (and the gardener from the hotel we were filming in) and a cast of many from the industry who all joined in as we filmed at HOSPACE with permission from Carl Weldon, who has been another great friend and helped us host many events and add our extra bit of fun to them.
We have had a lot of great commercial success of course but when it comes down to it it’s all about the people and the relationships and we have been incredibly lucky to work with amazing people in an amazing industry. I for one feel blessed to be surrounded by and working with such an amazing bunch for so long and to have so many happy memories.
9) How have you and your business adapted during the Covid pandemic?
COVID hit and is still hitting our customers hard. We have done all we can to help them and our Fourteen IP Family and being the innovators that we are we have worked on numerous different programs and new products to help the hospitality industry now and as it opens up over the coming months, we are really starting to see the benefit of this work now which will see us really busy through the remainder of 2021
10) What do you envision the next 10 years will hold for Fourteen?
There were just a few of us when we started Vicki, Alan, Kevin, Debbie Hatchard, Chris Scutt, Steve Lumley, Christine Rowan, Jason Green, Mark Kettle, Lisa Hough, Rob Lowe, peter Lathrope, Matt Adams and myself. We have grown now to be a UK, Irish, US, Mexican & Canadian business with customers in 22 countries and a global carrier in our own right. What we have achieved in 10 years is amazing, genuinely amazing, and what I am sure will be the roaring 20’s we will continue to grow, continue to innovate, help our customers and one another, and wherever we can to have fun. What we have done and what we do is based on our customers and our Fourteen IP Family and that is how we will continue to grow and develop together over the next decade.