Kevin Groh – CEO Interview
When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
We first visited Peru in December 2015 and my partner and I were on a four day Inca Trail hike. Our partner in Peru, David, was our Inca Trail tour guide at the time. He’s extremely knowledgeable and very passionate about Peru and it’s history. He told us a story of how he had tried to start a business operating tours as a manager however, he was completely run over by the big guys. While on the trek we asked him what it would take to do this together and if we built it we could send him people. It was then on the trail on the third day that we said we would do this together.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus and why)?
We are still doing that, but with the pandemic we have diversified our business and have been in the process of publishing a Machu Picchu travel guide.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
It was instant. The minute we got home from our trip we started on the path to starting the business.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
Our inspiration was our partner in Peru, David. We wanted to help him reach his dream of managing a travel company.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
My favorite mentor, was my previous supervising physician, Dr. Alan Moelleken. He was started his own spine surgery practice and grew his business to multiple clinics subsequently employing more than 10 physician assistants, and 5 orthopedic and pain management physicians. He always taught his employees not to cut corners and if you do a better job and essentially create a better product your business will grow.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
The hardest part was definitely obtaining the first customer. We were a brand new company in a very established and extremely competitive space, trips to Machu Picchu. We had to do something to diversify. Everyone had advertisements and boots on the ground with good word of mouth. So we started a podcast. That was something that no Peru travel company was doing. We got our first customer from the podcast. It has been mostly downhill since then.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson I learned was how difficult it is to enter such a competitive space. When we first started we thought to ourselves that “it’s Machu Picchu, the people are going to just come.” What we underestimated was that, because it’s Machu Picchu, how many other companies are out there competing for that high demand.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
The best thing we have experienced is how we have been able to give back and help support the small farming Quechua communities in the Sacred Valley region near Cusco. The smiles on their faces when we go to support them or deliver Christmas gifts has be without a doubt the best part. One year we filmed and release a video of the delivery of the Christmas gifts and was such an amazing thing we were able to do. The smiles on all the kids faces were priceless.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?
The weirdest thing we had was our very first customer. It was a person in their early 20s and we looked at Zillow at the address that was listed on the booking. The house was essentially a mansion. I remember we all got on the phone and thought that it was a fake. We then did some further digging with the name that was booked and found out they were a direct relation to Andrew Mellon the Secretary of Treasury under Warren Harding, the same man who has Carnegie Mellon University named after him. We didn’t know what to do. We were terrified. We talked about telling the person that booked that we couldn’t take them. I remember David (in the US) saying, “if something happens to the customer in Peru, not only are we dealing with a wealthy family, we’re talking about someone who has a substantial part of developing the country.” We thought about one of us joining them on the trip to make sure nothing happened to them. Ultimately we decided that we had to trust David in Peru as he had been doing this for years and would be in good hands. After the trip, the group gave us feedback that it was the trip of a lifetime. We were so pumped that we had done it and made it happen. We knew from there we could grow this thing and could take anyone if we had taken someone as important as was in that first group.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
Best decision we ever made was definitely starting the podcast. Not sure if we would have ever made our first booking without it. Had that not happened not sure if Cachi Life would still exist today.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
Our biggest mistake was not using a CRM earlier in the course of the business. My partner and I have full-time jobs while running our travel business and have a part-time passion project. The saving grace from Close, our CRM, has been its automation. I can set an automated response to a lead after 7 days that goes out in a planned sequence asking if they are still interested in the trip and if we can help them with the planning process. Before utilizing this CRM we were losing track of potential customers and thus losing sales. Using the CRM has resulted in thousands of dollars that we have made that we were previously losing prior to using the Close CRM.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
This year has definitely been a down year but the good news is that nearly all our travelers, over 95%, that were scheduled for 2020 just changed their travel dates to 2021. So we are looking good for 2021 and on the path to continued growth. We’ve started to see an uptick in inquiries for trips over the last couple of months as well. So people are looking to get back to travel. Fortunately we run a completely remote company, so our only overhead is our online presence and the money we reinvest into the company allowing it to grow.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
Knowing that everyday we grow more and more. Seeing the growth that we are developing with our own sweat and blood is what keeps us going.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?
Everyday I meditate and workout. Keeping your body and mind sound outside of work is extremely important for helping your business to grow. You can’t be on 100% of the time at your business. Otherwise mental fatigue will set in and your business will suffer.
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
The one thing that I would take from this interview, is that if you have an idea or dream, don’t delay just go for it. If you try to have everything perfect before you launch you will never do so. You are going to constantly learn and adjust along the way. That even happens with the biggest companies in the world. Secondly, don’t take shortcuts. If you are going to do it right and with the highest quality possible. No matter which way you go, shortcuts, or exceptionalism, your customers are going to remember something. You want to make sure they remember exceptionalism.
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About the Community
On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.
Discover through these amazing episodes the courage to open your mind, heart, and soul to the world so you can be the best entrepreneur possible, respect the people you work with, and improve the world with your company while not hurting others or yourself in the process.
Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.