John Prince, co-founder of HotelPlanner, an automated hotel group booking service that was named one of GrowFL's Companies To Watch for 2016, got his start in entrepreneurship at a young age. "I've always been an entrepreneur since I was a kid," said Prince. "On my paper route, I would distribute my own ads for my lawn mowing, snow shoveling and painting services. Even at a young age I was doing what it took to generate business."
Prince has only improved since those early entrepreneur days. HotelPlanner has grown its revenue every year since launching 13 years ago and has been profitable for 12 of those years. "We never raised money," said Prince. "All our growth has been organic and now we're focused on continuing that growth. We are hiring 25-30 people right now and just moved into our new 15,000 square foot office space where 70 of our 150 employees will be located."
HotelPlanner has been so successful in part because it was the first company to innovate how to automate the complex and labor intensive hotel group booking process. "There was no one doing what we were doing at the time we launched," said Prince. "Group booking accounts for one out of every three hotel rooms so it's a giant market but it's not a simple online transaction. It takes a lot of human involvement and the life cycle of group booking can be anywhere from six months to a year. We automated all the mundane activities and the negotiation process"
Prince advises entrepreneurs to choose the right partner and then work as hard as you can. "Many businesses fail because of founder conflicts," he said. "You want to choose someone to compliment you who will work at the same intensity and output as you. Beyond that it's about never quitting and making sacrifices in your personal life to make sure your business succeeds and grows. If you have a choice between going to the beach and fixing the thing the big partner wants you fix, you fix that thing the big partner wants fixed. If you do that everyday, you've got a great chance of success."