Looptail: How One Company Changed the World By Reinventing Business

Posted March 1, 2015 in Career Management, Decision Making, Leadership, Resilience, What We're Reading

By: Bruce Poon Tip

Review by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: Founder (but not CEO) of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip started his adventure travel company on two credit cards and a loan from his sister in 1990. Looptail chronicles Bruce’s adventures – both as a traveler and a business owner – as he chases his dream to change the face of group travel and make the world a better place. The book breaks down his journey in chapters that reflect Poon Tip’s personal philosophies about business which includes the belief that beyond profit, people and planet, organizations need to embrace passion and purpose. G Adventures mission is to change lives and Poon Tip outlines how he built his business with a view to empower and engage local communities in addition to broadening the lives of his customers. Through the book you get insights into some of the behind-the-scenes challenges (eg: the sinking of their tour ship Explorer in Antarctica) along with his own personal ups and downs as an entrepreneur grappling with how to lead a global business. With chapters based on themes rather than a strict chronological timeline, the book is an informal and quick read that gives you interesting insight into the mind of a self-professed atypical entrepreneur and leader.

The Bottom-line: I admire Bruce Poon Tip for the business he’s built and the culture they’ve seemingly created at G Adventures. It’s a great Canadian success story and a fascinating window into the trials and temptations of a founder (how many people would turn down a one million dollar offer for their business?). But, I have to say, there’s something about this book that just didn’t sit right with me. I found it filled with humble bragging about awards and accomplishments and then very vague around some tough decisions. Entrepreneurs are difficult people. Smart, driven, tenacious… but, in my experience many are difficult to work with and I don’t think Poon Tip is an exception. For those interested in what it takes to build a multi-million dollar global business, there’s lots of good stuff in the book about focusing on your purpose and making tough choices. Certainly his commitment to giving back to local communities, as evidenced by his foundation Planeterra, is truly admirable. However, too many of the examples cited in the book left me feeling like I was getting a very “cultivated” view on Poon Tip’s personal leadership style. Tenacious, driven entrepreneur? Absolutely. Hard to work with or for? Probably. Great leadership has many different definitions. I’m just not sure Poon Tip’s aligns to my own.

Roundtable Rating: interesting insights into the tenacity and mindset it takes to grow a business.

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