Founder Profile: Brett Ziegler (COO)

Brett_portrait-01Trip Ninja is an organization that hinges on innovation. From a behind the scenes perspective, how do you ensure you’re creating a culture of innovation within the company?

I think that companies can foster a culture of innovation by maintaining a clear focus on their goals and then being flexible in the ways they accomplish them. 

I work to ensure that we have mechanisms in place for the entire team to access and understand the company’s goals as well as contribute their ideas and provide their feedback.

 

For startups especially, there can be a lot of pressure to ensure you’re hiring the right people for both the company and the role. Any recommendations for how you’ve been successful?

We’ve made the development of a cohesive and innovative “can-do” culture a priority in our hiring strategy. Skills acquisition is obviously a priority for every company, but we’ve found that skills are also easier to learn than a good attitude. Every team member has their strengths and weaknesses, but when they know that they’re supported by and are encouraged to support their other team members we see productivity beyond what any one, individual rockstar could provide.

In your role you’re responsible for hiring, strategy, some sales, some development, and a whole bunch of other stuff behind the scenes. How do you avoid having to put out fires, and if you do have to put out fires, how do you make sure you’re putting out the right ones?

Every founder, regardless of whether they’re technical, sales-minded, or otherwise, is a part-time firefighter; that much is unavoidable. But like a firefighter, one needs to make tough choices and direct their attention to the most important things. The clearer the company and personal priorities are, the easier this task becomes. Further to that point, clear communication and expectations between team members is a necessary feedback mechanism that ensures that the right tasks are being focused on. 

If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would be?

Tough question - I’ve got plans to explore just about every corner of the globe at this point. If I was forced to choose just one place I would go to the Faroe Islands - an archipelago of small islands, caught roughly in the middle of the UK, Norway, and Iceland. I’ve spent time in Iceland and was taken by the isolation of the rugged landscape. I’m eager to see how this remote local stacks up against Iceland.

If your house was on fire and you could only save one piece of tech, what would it be?

Most, if not all, of my important work and documents are stored in the cloud, so honestly my focus would be on the “old-fashioned” media like my photo albums.

What trends do you think will be the most impactful for OTAs in the future?

I think it will be hard to distill it down to one trend. Personalization is the easy answer, but who and how will they personalize their content? I think that diversification of content and a strong focus on customer service are perennial success factors that will help OTAs thrive in the coming years. 

As Co-Founder, you’ve been with Trip Ninja since the beginning. Looking back at the Trip Ninja journey, what’s the one thing you’re most grateful for, and if you got one do-over, what would it be?

It’s been a long journey already and I suspect that there are many miles still ahead. Throughout the journey though, I’ve been most grateful for the tenacity and open-mindedness of my co founders. Without those qualities, I don’t think we would have gotten to where we are and I think that they are what will continue to carry us to greater heights.

If I got a do-over and could change one thing, it would be to be more open to sharing and talking about our project. I think a lot of founders are fearful to have their ideas stolen and I’m sure that there is a real risk of that. However, in our case, most of our success came from open and vulnerable conversations about our products, direction, and industry.