The Story Exchange, Tamara Heber-Percy, Mr & Mrs SmithYour Name: Tamara Heber-Percy

Business Name: Mr & Mrs Smith, an online guidebook for romantic travel; Smith & Family, an online guidebook for family travel

Type of Business: E-Commerce/Hospitality

Business Location: United States/Australia/China/United Kingdom

Website   www.mrandmrssmith.com and www.smithandfamily.co.uk
Twitter   @smithhotels / @smithandfamily
Facebook   www.facebook.com/smithhotels / www.facebook.com/smithandfamily
Pinterest   http://pinterest.com/smithhotels / http://pinterest.com/smithandfamily

Reason for starting
My now husband and I went on what was supposed to be a romantic weekend break to the Lake District in the UK. Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t anything like the guidebook suggested! We realised there was a gap in the market for a boutique hotel guide, detailing stays that your friends would recommend, places that are truly unique. It took us nine months to secure investment from friends and family, but eventually we published the first Mr & Mrs Smith guidebook, self-financed, in 2003. Two years later, we launched the online booking service at www.mrandmrssmith.com; we’ve now grown to become a global collection of nearly 1,000 hotels and have offices in New York, Melbourne and Singapore. Our global team of expert travel consultants is standing by to help our customers 24 hours a day.

How do you define success?
Success for me personally comes in small packages. I love hearing the stories about how our travel consultants have helped customers book amazing holidays; I love being able to turn someone who’s initially been dissatisfied into an advocate; and I love hearing from customers who have really enjoyed their trips because they’ve trusted our recommendations. These small snippets that get shared with everyone in our company give me much more pleasure than, for example, launching a new website…although of course there is a real sense of satisfaction when something new, such as smithandfamily.co.uk, goes live.

Biggest Success
Our biggest success on the technical side was having the courage to build our own booking system; the independence and flexibility that it’s given us as a business still resonates with me year after year. We’re now working towards having all our websites running as thin clients: seeing that vision come to life will make us flexible, nimble and future-proof…it will be a huge success for me.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My current challenge has been to make us channel-agnostic. For many years, people have been talking about mobile; like many companies, we built a mobile website and developed an app but the proliferation of screen sizes and devices has meant that it’s not enough. In the last year, I’ve been learning about fluid web design and we’re now implementing that across all our sites (the new designs are scheduled to be launched in July). It won’t matter in the future what screen or device manufacturers throw at us – bring it on!

Who is your most important role model?
My mother taught me to have the courage to try things myself and to be independent. She’s a very calming influence on my life.

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