David Speakman, who set up Travel Counsellors in 1994, started out in business 30 years ago with an off-licence and delicatessen, later opening a restaurant.
He has a habit of saying what he means, and meaning what he says. So when he says, “We’re on a mission and we love winning,” you can believe him.
Success, according to Speakman, is not about the money, the money just happens to come with it.
Speakman is and always has been a man who stands up for his principles. He is passionate about his beliefs and has a problem turning a blind eye when things are wrong.
However, he is also a man who isn’t afraid to show emotion – just ask his staff. Not only is that unusual these days, research says, it is the sign of a great leader.
What motivates you? Winning and being the best. I’m a bad loser. Why should I accept anything less than being the best? I enjoy working in an environment where there is plenty of pressure.
How have you coped with people who have doubted you, and what you have been trying to achieve? It drives me more. Although I am affected by what people say, it doesn’t and won’t stop me from doing what I believe in.
Have you had a mentor who has helped you achieve your success? It’s hard to have a mentor when no one has ‘been there before’ (for example, with the Travel Counsellors concept) but I love innovating. And some of my inspiration comes from books I’m an avid reader.
Who has influenced you over the years? My family. I have strong family values and I have had access to a great education. Now I like to class Travel Counsellors as my extended family.
On a scale of one to 10, how do you rate your success? I’m not bothered about the money success for me is about loyalty, friendship and integrity. Success is not size, it’s quality. So, on that basis, I’d say 10.
Have you ever felt like giving up? No, never, because work is not like work to me – it’s a passion.
Does anything get you down? Yes, people not being as good as they can be, and bad press.
What advice would you give someone with ambition? Be honest, work hard, and enjoy yourself. It’s only a game.
What makes a good leader? They should be charismatic and they should be able to create a bond. People don’t follow someone if they don’t trust them. A good leader can see a problem two miles away. They are streetwise and don’t allow anyone to hurt them.
What’s your ambition? To have Travel Counsellors in more countries, to have a social connection and a partnership between all Travel Counsellors globally. I want to give people a better life, and make them proud to belong.
“David Speakman is an interesting character. He has clearly worked his socks off during his life, but at the end of the day it’s family that counts, and by family, I also mean Travel Counsellors.
He knows he has great people working for him, and you get the feeling he would do anything for them. He is a classic entrepreneur – not afraid to fail. That’s probably one of the reasons for his phenomenal success.
He has this ability to connect with people, it’s not always about what he says but how he says it and how he makes people feel. He speaks from the heart. It’s a rare ingredient of successful people. David creates an exciting culture of enthusiasm, passion and enjoying life.”