Contiki founder explains why entrepreneurs are dangerous people
Contiki buses usually don’t get much attention from people in their 80s. But every time John Anderson sees one, he smiles. This is because Contiki was his original idea, in 1962.
“I’m always waving because I’m thinking to myself, if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have the time of your life.”
Anderson built the business out of necessity. He had arrived in London with the intention of visiting Europe, but without the money to get there. A born entrepreneur, he posted a notice saying he had “ only two seats left ” on a non-existent camping tour on the mainland. His ploy worked, and he quickly had the numbers he needed to make it happen.
So he stole a van, hit the road, and Contiki Tours was born.
Fortunately, his “make it up” attitude seemed to be paying off. On his second trip he discovered he was strapped for cash to complete the last leg to Spain. So he took the money he had left, found a local casino and put it on roulette. Luckily with his bets he brought home his winnings and completed the trip. His guests were not the wisest.
He had started Contiki to see Europe, then he had continued because it was a way to make money. “Then, thereafter, it became the challenge of turning an idea into commercial reality.”
But unfortunately his latest challenge didn’t end so well. The projects to build complexes for young people ended in disaster. Thanks in part to the stock market crash, John and his family lost the business, and even their home. They moved to New Zealand penniless.
Fortunately, Anderson’s resilience and good nature were about to pay off. He had a pruning job in the vineyards, when he got a call asking him to share his business story at a conference. Puzzled, he went, and was eventually picked up by a word agency. He attributes this to his entrepreneurial skills.
“(We) are dangerous people. We don’t have negative bones in our body, of course we can! “. This launched his second career as a keynote speaker.
These days he’s once again traveled the world, this time telling his story to a paying audience. But he never forgot the pleasure he had in creating Contiki. And even today, he loves to see the pleasure people get from something he created. “I take advantage of it every time!”.
If you want to learn more about the Contiki adventure, John Anderson’s episode of HP Business Class is here.