Shaper: Noel Josephides

Show aired on 19th November 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Lovely sound there of Cannonball Adderley with Nancy Wilson and Happy Talk. I hope you are feeling happy this morning. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and we bring in the people who are shaping the world of business to keep them company and my Business Shaper today is, I am very happy to say, Noel Josephides and he is the co-founder of the fantastic travel company which has spawn many other travel related businesses called Sunvil Travel, they may have taken you personally to Greece or other beautiful parts of the world. You will be hearing lots about this fascinating man and the journey that he has been on as he has built his company and his empire indeed. In addition to hearing from Noel, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we have got some brilliant music on top of that from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul. Diana Krall is coming up, Oscar Peterson as well and this from one of my personal favourites it’s Donald Byrd.

The brilliant sound of Donald Byrd and (Falling Like) Dominos. Reminds me of my urban classic day’s way back in the day. My Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers is Noel Josephides and he is as I said the Chairman of the Sunvil Group. They are a travel company, he is also the co-founder and they have been transporting people around the world to holidays of their dreams for many, many years. Noel thank you very much for joining me.

Noel Josephides
It’s a pleasure.

Elliot Moss
I am going to start in 1970 the year that you founded this august organisation which you now run. How did it come to pass that you ended up founding an organisation like this because it wasn’t always, you weren’t always involved in the holiday business at all were you?

Noel Josephides
No. I don’t think our generation or in those days anyone seriously expected to end up being a tour operator, the job didn’t exist, it wasn’t a real job. So all of us then got into the business by mistake and I think that’s very true of me. I started off after University working for C&A in their management training scheme, I wasn’t really suited I think to the corporate life. I left there and then I started up a branch office of a very big developer in Cyprus importing citrus fruit from his plantations in Kyrenia and then marketing property and buying electrical components for work they were doing in the Middle East.

Elliot Moss
A nice collection there of things.

Noel Josephides
Yes.

Elliot Moss
But a classic…

Noel Josephides
Yes and then yes…

Elliot Moss
But a classic Greek/Cypriot kind of, we are going to buy stuff, we are going to sell stuff and very, very entrepreneurial right if you don’t mind me saying.

Noel Josephides
Very much. So we at that time then appointed John der Parthog who we then went into business together in order to help sell property and after a while we both realised that there was much more money to be made from actually renting property rather than selling it. In those days there were exchange control regulations, it wasn’t particularly easy. So we started renting what we were selling and at that time that was a brand new market. Actually renting a villa in a place like Cyprus was really Avant-garde, no one was doing it and for a long time the Authorities were very suspicious of what we were doing because they thought of hotels and that was the market at that time. So really that’s how we, that’s how we began.

Elliot Moss
And I am going to jump right to the end, right now how many people work for your business?

Noel Josephides
We are now, with our reps abroad just under ninety.

Elliot Moss
Just under ninety. A turnover significant?

Noel Josephides
Twenty seven million.

Elliot Moss
And this began by renting a villa or two in Cyprus.

Noel Josephides
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
Back in the day.

Noel Josephides
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Find out more how this kind of extraordinary journey has happened. He’s nodding here and smiling going ‘wow that sounds pretty good doesn’t it’ and it is you, it is actually the work of Noel Josephides and the people around him as he has built this business over the last four decades. Time for some music right now before we go back to Noel. This is Diana Krall with Let’s Fall In Love.

Diana Krall with the gentle Let’s Fall In Love. Noel Josephides is my Business Shaper today. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Sunvil Group and they are a travel business which didn’t start quite in that place. You said something right earlier on Noel about before you got to looking at that particular business there was the work at C&A and you were on a management programme and all that and you said ‘I don’t think corporate life really suited me’. I hear that many times, what did it mean for you, what did not suit you, what wasn’t working for you way back when if you can remember?

Noel Josephides
Well you have to fit, you are the peg that has to fit in the hole there and I know why big businesses are like that, it has to run efficiently, it really can’t afford to have mavericks within the structure because they are very disruptive and it just didn’t suit me at all. There were various things that I would have done differently, I thought very differently and I suppose I didn’t really feel that that would be my business career as such. In fact at that time I didn’t even know I was going to have a business career, I didn’t have a clue and this is what I always says certainly to my children and to students that ask me ‘ well what am I going to do’ and I always say ‘well just don’t worry’ as you go along things will happen and you take a choice and sometimes that choice is wrong and sometimes that choice is right, but if you think that you are going to end up doing what you think you are going to be doing, it’s a big mistake, you will just evolve and you should relax and not worry about it.

Elliot Moss
That open mind that you’ve had and anyone that’s lived over a number of years has seen stuff and you have seen a lot of things, you have seen war, you have seen people being moved out of countries, you have seen all sorts of political and economic turmoil especially for the travel industry, the Brexit vote a few months ago would mean, that was meaning different things for the travel industry. How have you managed to remain calm? I understand your openness and your advice which I think is excellent, where does the calmness come in the face of really serious stuff?

Noel Josephides
There does come a time when you realise that you wake up in the morning and you don’t know what you are going to face and you might as well not worry about it. It doesn’t mean to say that I don’t worry, I worry a great deal. I worry and my main worry is not to go out of business. That may sound strange, but I suppose that’s the main motivation. I’ve got people who have been with us for many, many years and I hope that I have provided a good working environment for them and yes I suppose outwardly I am regarded as calm. What goes on inside or course is another matter.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more and see if I can tease out what’s really going on inside this very calm man, Noel Josephides, he has seen it all and he’s got great advice which is just stay calm and don’t worry or at least not outwardly. Latest travel in a couple of minutes but before that it is another part of our Future Shapers series, it’s someone who is going to be shaping the world of business in the very near future.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. If you ever would like to, and I hope you do, would like to re-visit some of the fantastic people I have met in the last few years. Go into iTunes, you can catch most of them there. Put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’; the other destination for you is cityam.com that will hopefully satiate your appetite for fantastic people in business. Noel Josephides is my fantastic person in business today and he is the co-founder and chair of the Sunvil Group and they are people that offer fantastic holidays across Greece, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latin America you can go on and if you look at their Twitter handle you find all sorts of lovely things as well – you’re doing it all. We talked earlier about your advice to young people, we talked about remaining calm. It has been a long, I mean you know time passes fast, but you’ve experienced a lot of things. Have there been moments when you thought ‘I don’t think this business is going to make it, I think I am going to have to pivot and do something else’ and if so, how did you deal with it?

Noel Josephides
Well the first blow was really very near when we started which was the 20 July the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. It was our first brochure that we’d published.

Elliot Moss
What year was this?

Noel Josephides
1974. So, it was the first brochure that we had published and when you print brochures and advertising you expect to recoup it in the peak. Well the peak came and what was happening is that our clients were in villas all along the Kyrenian mountain range, watching paratroopers come down all around them and we had to get the people out, we had to get them to the British bases. At that time we had… our representative was married to a Turk so we really didn’t have so many problems and we got them all out except for one family that wanted to stay and watch the war. And the reason why people do that is because when they are in a foreign country they don’t feel that anything happening in that country actually relates to them. They don’t live there so what’s it to do with them. But then after that of course we had no money. It would have been much simpler to fail, but we said to all our clients, look we will refund you the money in due course, in those days there was no travel bonding, there was no Civil Aviation Authority umbrella and it took us about six years to pay them back and what we did because we couldn’t send anyone to Cyprus it was our only destination, I got my mother to cook Cypriot dishes and from our mailing list we asked our clients in the general vicinity whether they would like an evening and we could provide the Cyprus dishes and John and I would take the food round there, then collect it, do the washing, send it back to my mother and in fact I often think that we had done that, carried on with that, we would be making a lot more money than being in travel because that now of course is very much in fashion. And then we would go to our owners who had their houses occupied by either mainland Turks or Turks coming across from the south and they would charge them £5.00 to send a representative there to report on the state of their villas and what was happening. And that’s how we got over that one. That was probably the most traumatic but also in many ways the easiest because there were only two of us. I am far more worried now with what happened on Brexit because the variations in the exchange rates, will we be able to employ our staff abroad, will there be effect on freedom of the skies, there is a lot, a lot of questions that aren’t being answered at the moment and just the currency hit can put you out of business even if you do hedge, it’s a very dangerous time to be around.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from Noel Josephides who is my Business Shaper today. Time for some more music. This is C Jam Blues from the one and only Oscar Peterson and he is actually accompanied and he is part of his trio.

The imitable sound of Oscar Peterson Trio with C Jam Blues. Noel Josephides, chairman of Sunvil Group and the co-founder indeed of that business is my Business Shaper today. We’ve been talking about, well just really fantastic advice about your mentality and how important it is to remain calm and open minded. I like that Noel. He probably going to say his family will say ‘you’ve got to be joking, this is not the Noel I know’. And also this important point I asked you about it intentionally which is the way to deal with a crisis and you defined and described one crisis back in 1974, a pretty serious one, and now we are talking about a different one in 2016 with potentially what the fallout is from Brexit. Where complexity has grown Noel over the years because back then although it was very serious, it was an invasion and so on and so forth, you said it was two of you. What have you done as the business has grown and the problems have become bigger because the business is bigger. How have you coped with that scale? How have you changed what you have done personally and how you have grown this team to cope with it?

Noel Josephides
You have to grow because you have to give an incentive to the people who work for you and you will lose your good people if in fact they realise that you are not ambitious, if you don’t want to take the business forward. In our business it’s very important that you diversify, that you do not have all your irons on one destination as happened to us in Cyprus because it took us years to recover from that and the best thing to do really is always to recognise talent and to try and delegate, you know mistakes are going to be made but on the other hand when you’ve got very good people then it’s such a burden lifted from you when they begin to develop the confidence to take the business forward and that’s what I am very keen to do now because once you pass a certain age you do recognise that you begin to forget more, you don’t have the energy, you can’t keep up with what it means now to run a business with the web, with everything that is happening with the sheer pace that things move at and I think at that stage you’ve got to begin to have confidence in the people around you to take it forward and that is not an easy decision to take, but you have to recognise that a company has to move on otherwise it will die very, very quickly.

Elliot Moss
It sounds like you’ve got that sorted in a sense that the attitude has been, I’ve got to bring it on, I’ve got to be ambitious, I’ve got to step back in certain places, bring in younger, fresher, whatever it is talent as you defined it. The other thing that strikes me in terms of knowing about you from what I’ve read, you’re interested in the structure of the travel business and you have been involved from a very early time and indeed you have been awarded many, many kind of, I am looking here at the Gold Medal Merit Awards from the Portuguese Government I am just pulling that one out, there has been many other places, but you’ve been involved in the Association of Independent Tour Operators, the Civil Aviation Authorities, one of the Committees over there, you’re the chair now of ABTA. Why has that been important to you because many people selfishly just look at their own business, what is the one thing that has driven you to say you know what I want to be there?

Noel Josephides
It’s a fascinating industry, extremely complex, nobody, no outsider can understand how complex the travel industry is and it’s very exciting and its knowledge. When you know what’s going on in other sectors of the industry, when you understand the legislation, when you are involved with directives that come out of Brussels, it’s very important for your own business as well. The knowledge that gives you and the scope that gives you is extremely important and I would really urge a lot of young people, no matter what business they are in, to begin to want to understand what’s going on to appreciate the wider picture in their industry because it will help them very much in developing their own business and I think that if I wasn’t involved in so much that the industry is doing that I don’t think Sunvil at the moment would be in the same place.

Elliot Moss
Final chat coming up with Noel plus we will be playing a track from The Meters that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

That was The Meters, Just Kiss My Baby. For those of you in the know, back from the late 60s/early 70s that’s The Meters when they were pretty prolific and when they began plying their trade. Noel Josephides is my Business Shaper and he was plying his trade way back in the 19s, from 1970 as well. The other thing that strikes me is that you are an organisation and probably as a person interested in giving back in sustaining the environment in making tourism a force for positivity rather than negativity. It isn’t all about taking, it’s about giving. Just tell me a little bit about this Foundation which I read about, the Travel Foundation and why you are involved in it.

Noel Josephides
It was set up as an organisation in order to help the industry understand their responsibilities to do, carry out projects abroad at destinations that we were all featuring. It is funded by the industry, it’s got a budget of about one and a half million pounds every year and the biggest challenge that we have as an industry is our environmental impact and making sure that we are doing the right thing and that is not an easy thing to do. This is an industry which lives on short-term, it’s all about next week or next season. No one is looking far into the future on environmental terms, it is very difficult for instance Boeing says by 2035 European airlines will need another 7,500 new aircraft. Now you look at it and you wonder well where are they all going to fly? Will technology by that time have cut the Co2 emissions of these aircraft. What are cruise lines doing? What is really the plus that cruising brings. All these things I don’t believe at the moment are really being seriously looked at by the travel industry and of course it’s big, big business and at the moment probably the travel industry accounts for 10% of all emissions, but out of those emissions 80% come from aircraft and I think we have to look very carefully about where all this is going. Yes we have brought travel to the masses and that’s been an incredible thing that the travel industry does, but I think we have to look further ahead and make sure that what we are doing is sustainable otherwise we will simply have ruined the very places that we derive our livelihoods from.

Elliot Moss
And it sounds like that that’s going to be important as a focus for you and your business as part of your growth and I understand that and I think that that must be right. For you though after all these years and you talk about the size of your business. Beyond the money, beyond the business, what are the things that really matter to you personally as you look forward to the next few years?

Noel Josephides
Definitely creating a working environment which is comfortable for everybody that works there, to give them incentive, to make sure that we look after the destinations we feature, it’s very important and I think I have achieved those two things then I would be very happy.

Elliot Moss
I hope you are going to be very happy. You seem happy now. I hope it works. It’s been fantastic to briefly have met you and to talk to you and your wisdom is there for all to see I think. Just before I let you scoot away though to your next destination Noel, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it.

Noel Josephides
Well, when I first came to England and I was in Boarding School and Acker Bilk, I think it was 62/63, recorded Stranger on the Shore and like every other youngster you are always encouraged to play an instrument and I was learning to play the clarinet. But the interesting thing was that everybody but everybody no matter what instrument they were playing who was learning an instrument then were all playing Strangers on the Shore. . And so I think that, that’s always remained with me really as something that I will always remember.

Elliot Moss
And here it is just for you. Thank you so much Noel.

That was Acker Bilk and Stranger on the Shore back from 1962, the song choice of my Business Shaper today Noel Josephides. His advice to young people was to keep an open mind, be relaxed, things will evolve, you don’t need to worry about what your career is straightaway and he is probably right. Remain calm, he was super calm even in the face of serious adversity in the course of his phenomenal career and be involved in the industry that you are in. When you have made that choice then see the bigger picture because it is going to help you as you develop your strategies for the future. All fantastically simple and brilliant advice. Do join me again, same time, same place. That’s 9.00am sharp next Saturday for another addition of Jazz Shapers. In the meantime, stay with us because coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Noel Josephides

Noel is a founding partner of Sunvil; a travel agency and tour operator company based in Isleworth, London, established in 1970. He was  formerly Managing Director of Sunvil Holidays and since 2013,  has been the Chairman of Sunvil Group, which comprises of several companies including Sunvil Holidays.

Noel was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. He was first educated at a Junior School in the Cypriot capital before moving to the UK, where he attended boarding school at Ratcliffe College in Leicester. He then went on to study a bachelor’s degree at Leeds University focusing on Economics, Law and Accounting. Noel has had a long and varied career, including a role as an international trader at A&P Paraskevaides, an arm of a Cypriot construction company called J&P. He has also been Chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and Chairman of the Association of Greek Cypriot Travel Agents and Tour Operators (AGTA). Noel is also currently Chairman of ABTA, a leading association of travel agents and tour operators, providing expert travel advice, guidance, and resolving travel complaints; he has been in this position since July 2013.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I don’t think anyone seriously expected to end up being a tour operator, the job didn’t exist, it wasn’t a real job. So all of us got into the business by mistake…”

“…as you go along things will happen and you take a choice and sometimes that choice is wrong and sometimes that choice is right…”

“I suppose outwardly I am regarded as calm. What goes on inside of course is another matter.”

“The biggest challenge that we have as an industry is our environmental impact and making sure that we are doing the right thing.”

“There are a lot of questions that aren’t being answered at the moment and just the currency hit can put you out of business…it’s a very dangerous time to be around.”

“You have to grow because you have to give an incentive to the people who work for you and you will lose your good people if they realise that you are not ambitious.”

“I would really urge a lot of young people, no matter what business they are in, to begin to want to understand what’s going on…to appreciate the wider picture in their industry”

“I think we have to look further ahead and make sure that what we are doing is sustainable otherwise we will simply have ruined the very places that we derive our livelihoods from.”