Strictly Business: Alex Cheatle
I got into travel… at a young age. I was born in Brazil and we used to have very glamorous Brazilians stay with us sometimes. I think that’s where my love for travel came from, believing that the world was populated with these fantastic, vibrant people who were slightly different but really interesting.
I set up my business… in 1998 following a sabbatical from [consumer goods giant] Procter & Gamble, where I was a brand manager. We wanted to set up a platform that used knowledge management technology to build a service business at massive scale.
I was meeting people and saying, ‘if you could delegate anything in your life, what would it be?’, and travel was always one of the biggest things. We also set up a dining recommendation and access service and we arranged live entertainment, theatre, sport and shopping.
I grew the business… gradually. We started off selling membership privately, and we still do that, but now private banks and wealth managers also give our service to their most well-heeled clients.
In the UK, that’s Coutts, St James’s Place, HSBC, NatWest, Black and Barclays. Because we get paid by the banks to look after them, we don’t need to worry too much about commission.
We didn’t invest anything in marketing for years because we knew that we needed to get our product right. We’re the largest and highest-quality concierge service in the world, but nobody’s really heard of us, and that’s because we spent every spare penny on training, technology and recruiting great people.
We now employ over 1,000 people globally and we look after two million clients.
The suppliers we have the strongest relationship with are… Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons. They are fantastic for consistency and the ability to personalise. Boutique properties can also do fantastic things.
The first five-star hotel I stayed in after setting up Ten was Baur au Lac in Zurich. I went there recently and they said, ‘welcome back’. The last time I was there was 19 years ago and they still had the information to make a difference.
My proudest career achievement is… helping members during the ash cloud crisis , when they couldn’t get back to the UK.
We organised luxury buses to pick them up from Madrid and Rome and drive them back to London via a beautiful lunch in a chateau in France. Some members said it was the best part of their holiday.