Behind the Business with Last Night of Freedom
Bdaily goes behind the business with Matt Mavir who is the self-described Head Honcho at Last Night of Freedom, the specialist stag and hen events organiser based in Newcastle.
What key challenges has your company recently faced?
Up until a few years ago, we acted as a travel agent selling other companies’ stag and hen weekends. However, we realised that we didn’t have control of the full customer experience, and couldn’t guarantee the high levels of customer service that we always look to deliver. As a result of this lack of control, we decided to become our own Tour Operator and this allowed us, for the first time, to become truly customer-focused.
This change of approach, has led to us focusing on improving and integrating our old systems within this new business model, to deliver a seamless and effortless experience for the customer.
We moved slowly at first, picking just a few locations and bringing them “in-house”. By 2013, we were up to 15%, and in 2014 it was 30%. The middle of 2015 saw us fully operating all the weekends we sell – that’s over 40,000 people per year controlled exclusively by us and in control of their purchases fully.
These changes created some challenging circumstances for the business as we dealt with a huge investment in terms of recruitment, training, processes, compliance, systems and finance. The business has really progressed through these changes, and we’ve risen to it as a team - and it’s proven to be one of the best things we’ve ever done. We’d never go back to the old way of doing things.
What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?
We had a great year with sales, but I think as a business, deciding to become a living wage employer has been our biggest achievement in the last 12 months. We’ve got 47 highly motivated, committed and excellent members of staff - and it’s nice to show them how much they are valued for the great job they do.
What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?
A lot of our focus, this year, will be targeted at behind the scenes system consolidation. The customer will not notice a difference, but this work will give us the platform to push on and continue to lead our industry for years to come.
What excites you most about your industry and business?
The challenges that lie ahead. It might seem easy sending a group of lads or lasses away for a knees up, but when you consider the logistics involved in sending out invites, taking individual payments, organising rooming lists, arranging pre-ordered meals, dealing with allergies, co-ordinating flight details, sourcing accommodation, procuring new and varied activities, sorting transfers, printing t-shirts, being on call 24hrs a day – and doing this for over 3,500 groups per year you can see how things start to get a bit tricky. I love the challenges that this presents and thinking of new and exciting ways to solve these problems.
As a business, we have a great team on board and we are progressing at great speeds, ensuring we are industry leading experts in the market. As we further progress with our systems, and continue to source new products and locations, we will continue to reinforce, and expand, our knowledge base to fulfil the requirements of our customers in the most effective and exciting way possible.
What do you wish you’d known when starting out?
When we first started out, we’d look at a new venture every time we had an idea. At once point we had over 20 websites selling everything from activity gifts and home wind-turbines, to artisan food and vacuum cleaner bags. If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s to pick just one idea and dedicate yourself to becoming the best in the world at doing it – and that’s what we’ve done with Last Night of Freedom.
What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?
When we first started selling stag and hen weekends, it was sufficient to offer basic, unnamed hotels and generic activity options. The world is going “hyper-personalised” by offering new, unusual and bespoke products and services. We’re bringing on a range of new products and services that will really maintain our position at the front of the market for your stag and hen weekends.
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