Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business

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Overview

Much in the same vein as DELIVERING HAPPINESS, LOOPTAIL combines both Bruce Poon Tip's extraordinary first-person account of his entrepreneurial instincts to start and develop G Adventures, a highly-successful international travel adventure company, and along the way, he reveals his unusual management secrets that not only keep his employees fully engaged but also keep his customers extremely happy.

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Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business

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Overview

Much in the same vein as DELIVERING HAPPINESS, LOOPTAIL combines both Bruce Poon Tip's extraordinary first-person account of his entrepreneurial instincts to start and develop G Adventures, a highly-successful international travel adventure company, and along the way, he reveals his unusual management secrets that not only keep his employees fully engaged but also keep his customers extremely happy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Poon Tip recounts his path to founding his company, G Adventures, the world’s largest adventure travel agency, which focuses on helping people see the world without exploiting the communities that they visit, in this vanity project. As a child, Poon Tip’s family of nine moved from Trinidad to Calgary, Canada. Determined not to be hindered by the racism they experienced in their new country , he began founding businesses even in childhood, when he contracted other kids to run paper routes. Ultimately, his love of adventure led him to start his own company in 1990. The book is a love song to the business, covering the growth years, his extraordinary travels, and the company’s work to promote social responsibility and poverty alleviation. In this first-person account, Poon Tip offers suggestions on how best to structure a company, develop company culture to build a brand, and retain customers; he also discusses the importance of building a business that reflects your values. Unfortunately, he doesn’t manage to advance a convincing argument that his strategy is revolutionary enough to back up all the self-hype, and his story offers little substantive inspiration or direction. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
From the Foreword of LOOPTAIL from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

This book by Bruce Poon Tip encourages me. I met Bruce in May this year. In today's materialistic world where people risk becoming slaves to money, Bruce seems to be one of those entrepreneurs who understand that human dignity, freedom and genuine well-being are more important than the mere accumulation of wealth. Wealth should serve humanity, and not vice versa. The stark economic inequality between rich and poor is not only morally wrong, but is the source of many practical problems, including war, sectarian violence, and the social tensions created by large-scale economic migration.

Not only in his business, but also in this account of his adventures, Bruce Poon Tip is making an active contribution to creating a more peaceful and happier world, while at the same time creating a model from which others can learn.

"I've never bribed my way out of a Burmese prison, nor have I climbed anything higher than a few flights of stairs, but Bruce has the courage not only to brave these, but also to lead a company with the candor and character demanded from our twenty-first-century business leaders. Executives take note, the internet age will not be forgiving to companies that fail to walk the talk of being a socially responsible, high-quality business.
-Alexis Ohanian, startup guy: reddit & Hipmunk

"LOOPTAIL gives readers an insightful glimpse into Bruce's world and his philosophy of constantly seeking out new adventures while simultaneously ensuring his company maintains a sense of social responsibility."
-Tony Hsieh, author of the New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.

"Bruce Poon Tip has created an awesome company that is changing the world. As both a fan and a customer, I loved peeking behind the curtain to see all the greasy inner gears whirl and clink with beauty. LOOPTAIL is not only an incredible story, but also serves as a how-to guide for creating happiness in the workplace!"
-Neil Pasricha, author of the New York Times bestseller The Book of Awesome

"In LOOPTAIL, Bruce Poon Tip shares an entertaining and engaging account of his entrepreneurial success story of how he built his company from the ground up, and how elevating customer and employee engagement to a higher purpose can also be great for business."
-Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO, Salesforce.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455574094
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/17/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 200,686
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

A native of Trinidad, Poon Tip grew up with his family in Canada and still lives there. He is the founder of the travel company G Adventures.

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Read an Excerpt

Looptail

How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business


By Bruce Poon Tip

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Bruce Poon Tip
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4555-7409-4



CHAPTER 1

Happy Birthday to Chi


MARCH 14, 1997. TATOPANI, NEPAL.

Water fell on my face, bringing me back to consciousness. In one sudden movement, I sat straight up, gasping for air. My face was numb. It was so dark, I wasn't sure whether my eyes were open, what time it was, or even where I was. I was disoriented. I heard snoring around me.

My mind quickly came back to reality. I had been sleeping in an overstuffed, down-filled winter jacket I had rented days before. In our hotel, there was no heat and no electricity; I assumed that the moisture on my face that woke me was made up of my own breath freezing in the air. I was in a room with different travelers, some of whom were my friends; the rest were strangers. The darkness surrounding me was absolute; I couldn't see the gigantic fire-engine-red jacket I was wearing, which was so bulky, I couldn't even lie down flat in it.

We were in a hotel along a mountain pass that led through Nepal and into China. It was colder than seasonally normal, and the small town was covered in snow and ice. During the day, we played Yahtzee to pass the time while we waited for our Chinese visas to arrive. The cold front had frozen the roads, making it hard to drive. On the way to Tatopani, our van had slid off the road a few times. We had to get out and push the van, which was ill-suited for the frigid weather, back onto the frozen path. It had seemed funny at times, but that may have just been the high altitude affecting our moods. I didn't realize when planning the trip that we'd be at some of the highest altitudes you can drive in, and for long periods of time. I remember eating lots of candy bars because you lose your appetite when you're in those altitudes, and I'm a bad eater at the best of times. So I was devouring all these Mars and Snickers bars I had brought along in addition to a diet of mostly noodles, and frankly, I thought I was going a bit mental.

The winding roads had become thinner as we went deeper into the unforgiving Himalayan mountain range, and our youthful humor gave way to a more intense concern that we might not make it. By "make it," I don't mean staying alive—I mean making it into Tibet and completing a major personal goal of mine: to have visited one hundred countries before my thirtieth birthday.

But what should have been a time of celebration was overshadowed by worry because of the critical situation that awaited me when I returned home. Over the last year, the Canadian dollar had fallen to all-time lows against the greenback, and the British pound was gaining strength with every passing day. For companies like ours that pay in foreign currency for services such as hotel stays and equipment rentals, a weak Canadian dollar meant that our costs were skyrocketing on a daily basis. We didn't have systems in place to react quickly enough, and in a frighteningly short period of time, our liabilities would surpass our assets—technically we were bankrupt. Unless we found a way to get back on our feet, we'd lose our tour operator license after the next reporting period. I knew when I went home, I'd have to deal with it.

Sitting in my room at night, with the Tibetan border within reach, I should have enjoyed the feeling of being on the verge of achieving my wildest dreams. Instead, I was playing out different scenarios in my head of what might happen when the trip was over. I was tired. It had been quite a fight to keep the company afloat during the past year; after all our success and growth in previous years, everything had screeched to a halt.

I lay back, realizing I needed to get up and head to the roof to take a pee. (Before we went to bed, the owner of the hotel had informed us that the doors to the outhouse were frozen. If we need to go during the night, she had suggested, we should make our way to the roof to do our business, and aim over the side of the building. I don't remember thinking this was unusual.)

A minute later, I stood on the roof of our hotel, doing my thing while looking out across the Tibetan plateau. Even though it was dark, the stars stretched out in front of me. I had never seen so many of them in my life. It was impossibly quiet, terrifically cold, and breathtakingly beautiful. I was completely alone. I will never forget that night—under the frozen blanket of stars, my life flashed before my eyes, and my mind whirled with thoughts of what felt like the end of my dream. I was exploring and doing what I loved. But I couldn't explode with happiness—my eyes welled up and my head rang with the words of everyone who said the company would never work, that I couldn't do it. I had to acknowledge that maybe they were right. Maybe I really couldn't do it. I was coming to grips with the possibility that this was the end.

I managed to return my focus to the excitement of entering Tibet the next day. The sensation was overwhelming. I had felt a strong connection with the people of Tibet since I was ten. That was when I asked my teacher where Tibet was on the map.

If you're of a certain age, you'll remember those long encyclopedia sets that schools used to have in their libraries. One day a salesman going door to door showed up on our family's doorstep offering one of those magnificent sets of books, housed in a tall wooden bookcase. There was no way as a family we could afford those books, but I believe my mom was riddled with guilt over having to work full time while raising seven children. In a moment of weakness, she agreed to invest in a set and pay for it in installments, thinking that it would be our key to getting good grades. I have no idea where she found the money.

I spent many nights looking up entries about various far-flung places and being amazed at how other people lived. I was particularly fascinated by the story of Tibet and its spiritual leader, who was in exile. The country was under arrest in a way. At school the next day, looking at the map that was right in the middle of the wall in the front of my class, I noticed that Tibet wasn't on it. I asked my teacher—where was Tibet? She told me that there was no such country, and when I tried to explain, she waved me off and told me to sit down.

Nearly twenty years later, here I was on the verge of seeing Tibet up close. The triumphant feeling I craved was clouded with sadness and a sense of failure. I quietly crept into the communal room and lay back on the hard surface where my sleeping bag was. My mind continued to flash back on my life and the events that got me here. Even though I was only twenty-nine, I had launched three businesses before I turned sixteen and was now on my fourth. I had never really failed before. But this time, I thought, I may have run out of luck.

As I lay there in the cold, I wondered whether I should have just called off the trip entirely, even though I knew it wasn't really an option. The tour I was leading was a paid one, which was both bringing in revenue and which could have cost upwards of $30,000 in refunds to our passengers if I had flaked out. I couldn't just cancel it.

In fact, we didn't even have the money to cover it if I had. Just before I left, I came in the office one morning and there were somber looks on everyone's faces. Apparently, all of the paychecks had bounced. We didn't have enough money in the account to cover the handwritten checks, so the bank had frozen our account. As you might imagine, the uncertainty spread through the office like a plague, and soon we experienced our first wave of resignations. It was an emotional moment; up until that point, no one we had hired had ever left the company. We had become a family, fueled by our desire to create something different in the world of exploration, adventure, and travel. But now it seemed like the dream was over.

I knew sleep wasn't in my immediate future. I tried everything I could, including counting yaks, to distract my mind and get some sleep. The next day, which would dawn in a couple of hours, we'd be moving on in our quest to reach the Tibetan border before March 15. We didn't heed the old saying that we should beware the ides of March—we proceeded at our own risk.


The next morning, everyone was quiet. Even though it was technically spring in Tibet, it was bloody cold. As we sat in our puffy jackets, we looked like a Michelin mascot convention. We finished our breakfast, located our things, and packed up the bus to begin what would be the most difficult part of the journey, driving along winding, snow-covered roads in our final push before the border.

On the way out, I spied a bookshelf in the corner where travelers could trade in a book they no longer wanted for a new one. I had just finished Wired, the John Belushi biography, and was looking for something else. A book with a blue cover called Great Ocean stood out. It was an authorized biography of Tenzin Gyatso, the great fourteenth Dalai Lama, which covered the history of the previous thirteen incarnations of the Dalai Lama, though, according to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, all fourteen were inhabited by the same soul. I grabbed Great Ocean and proceeded to the bus to get ready for the next leg of our journey.

When we started off, our bus had difficulty in the weather. We swerved back and forth up the icy path, making several attempts to gain enough speed to crest over the hill just to make it out of town. Once we got onto those mountain roads, our minds started wandering, and some of us were suffering from altitude sickness.

Along the way, I started reading Great Ocean. It tied together all the little bits and pieces about Tibet that I had read over the years. What fascinated me most at the time was that when the Dalai Lama was still in Tibet—he didn't flee until 1959—it was still a spiritual country run by oracles and religious leaders. Tibetans didn't have much in the way of modern technology, like cars, then. In fact, the Dalai Lama received a car as a gift from Henry Ford and reportedly used to crash it all the time on the grounds of one of his palaces because he hadn't actually learned to drive. He fled the country when he was twenty-three. (Coincidentally, that's how old I was when I started my company.) When you think about how young he was and about what was happening around the world in 1959—and yet here was this country guided by spiritual decisions—it's easy to see how a more industrialized country with modern military technology could sweep in and take it over.

Reading Great Ocean meant so much more to me than the research I had done before my trip. I've always been into exploring different cultures and how people lived their lives in other parts of the world, but as someone who was motivated by entrepreneurship very early, I was pretty logical and based most of my beliefs around empirical evidence.

Yet I was actually in the country now, or about to be, and felt inspired from reading about the spiritual beliefs of the Tibetan people.

Problem was, the book was something I shouldn't have been carrying with me when we got to the border crossing from Nepal into Tibet, a crossing that turned into much more of an ordeal than I had anticipated.


We approached the border during the daytime. With our group visa, we weren't supposed to be searched at all, but I hadn't counted on the reaction of the Chinese border guards when they saw that I was ethnically Chinese. While the others were allowed to go through unmolested, I was pulled to the side for in- depth questioning.

The guards wanted to know about my name and what part of China my relatives were from, and I didn't even know! My parents were born in Trinidad, but their parents were born in China, which wasn't something the border guards in this not-very-heavily-touristed crossing could fathom. Our guide at the time was left to explain in Chinese that I ran a tour company and that I was there to see the region for tourism-related purposes. There was a surreal aspect to it all. I have a funny picture taken when the Chinese guards asked me to pose for a photo with them because I'm tall and they were all very short. And I remember them asking me, What did I eat? Why did I grow so big? What did my mother feed me?

If I had realized the risks, I probably wouldn't have brought the Great Ocean book—which, like anything else to do with the Dalai Lama or Tibetan liberation, was considered contraband there. It was even illegal to have pictures of the Dalai Lama in the country at the time, so I probably shouldn't have bought the stickers either. In Nepal, I had bought twenty round stickers with the Dalai Lama's face on them. I wanted to make sure that the people we met knew that he was still alive. Misinformation of all kinds was then being propagated, some alleging that the Dalai Lama didn't care about his people anymore.

Once they pulled me to the side, I was deathly afraid they were going to go through my bags and discover the book or the stickers. And, of course, they did go through my bags. I remember thinking that if they did find those things, I would be just another casualty and maybe just disappear. I would be arrested and seen as sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and a traitor to China.

But good fortune was with me.

The stickers were in my jacket pocket, while the book was in my day bag; the guards checked my bag but they didn't check my day bag or my jacket.

Whew.

My photo op with the Chinese army completed, we walked across the border and breathed a sigh of relief. When we got to the other side, we came across a group of monks in their distinctive burgundy robes. As they all came up to me, one of them said—in perfect English—"Welcome back."

"I've never been here," I replied.

"You've been here before," he said confidently. I followed up by asking how he learned such flawless English, and he said that he learned it abroad. That was the end of the conversation.

At the time, it just went over my head. I wasn't buying anything to do with karma or being reborn or reincarnation. "Crazy monk," I thought to myself.

We spent the next few days traveling across the Tibetan plateau, meeting Tibetan nomadic people and seeing their way of life. I've been to many countries where people with very little achieve great happiness. I wouldn't describe what I felt from the people in Tibet as happiness; they were so oppressed. They were suspicious and guarded. Some of the younger people even seemed ashamed of certain aspects of their own culture because they'd seen so much violence. But the spirituality in the way the Tibetans carried themselves had a huge impact on me. In the shacks in the little villages where we stayed, the people would come out and give us yak butter tea. We witnessed a Tibetan burial; they don't bury the corpse—they put the body out for vultures to eat because they believe that the body is just a shell. There was such a history of living spiritually there, and I don't think anyone in the modern world understands what that means.

The highlight, for me, was touring the Potala Palace, including the summer palace from which the Dalai Lama fled in 1959. Having read Great Ocean along the way, and seeing where he had sat and meditated overlooking the palace, it was truly most meaningful to me.

As I looked around, I saw an old man walking around the grounds. He was very small, just walking outside near a group of dilapidated buildings that looked like barns. The man disappeared into one of them, and I followed him. He had a kind face, but it was worn and hardened like leather, and very dirty; he had been living in the barn. I found out that he was actually the stableman who had prepared the horses for the Dalai Lama the night he escaped and went into exile in 1959. He had been living in the barn ever since, waiting for the Dalai Lama to come home. I'll never forget the moment when I reached into my pocket and gave this man one of the stickers. When the stableman saw that the Dalai Lama, who had fled at age twenty-three, was now this old man in the picture, he exploded with emotion, and his tears left streams in the dirt on his face.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Looptail by Bruce Poon Tip. Copyright © 2013 Bruce Poon Tip. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    I could not put this book down once I started reading it.  At fi

    I could not put this book down once I started reading it.  At first I thought it was going to be a boring tribute book but I was won over almost immediately by the story of how one company can change the world.  It is not only inspiring but is filled with so many life lessons.  There are so many audiences that would and should read this book.  I gave a copy to my boss and people on my team in hopes we can learn a few things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    great read - really good for both its inspirational take on busi

    great read - really good for both its inspirational take on business done differently, and the fact that its a great page turner. do yourself a favour and grab a copy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Fantastic Book- Everyone should read it- Inspirational

    Fantastic Book- Everyone should read it- Inspirational

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Business books are not supposed to be page turners but I really

    Business books are not supposed to be page turners but I really found it hard to put this book down! Bruce's persistence to see his vision not only become a reality but to thrive and revolutionize the travel industry is a real testament to his character and upbringing. For those who have seen him speak before, this book reads as he talks and is complimented with interesting stories and comedic outbursts that had me cracking a smirk throughout.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    This is a great read for anyone having a desire to start a busin

    This is a great read for anyone having a desire to start a business that is more purpose driven than profit driven. It takes you on the journey of Bruce Poon Tip, who started G.A.P. Adventures with two personal credit cards and turned his bold idea of sharing authentic travel experiences with others, while helping the local people and the economies of the places G.A.P.'s travelers visit, into the largest, privately owned adventure travel company in the world. It's a true example of perseverance for any business leader, as you read Bruce's bumpy ride along the way with a sunken ship, company name change and several other hardships to become G Adventures, the dynamic social enterprise that it is today.
    As you read this inspiring story, you can understand why the Dalai Lama chose to write the forward to Bruce's book. Can one company really change the world? After reading this book, you'll want to become part of the G Nation movement. Can travel create a path to world peace? The Captain of the G Adventures ship thinks so, and he explains how other people can create an environment of Freedom and Happiness that is inspirational to it's employees and customers. I hope business leaders and people that want to make a difference in the world read this guidebook on how real, lasting change is made. I look forward to seeing where Bruce (aka The Honey Badger) takes G Adventures next. Peace!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    In a business world of commonality and structure Looptail offers

    In a business world of commonality and structure Looptail offers a unique spin on how one company, driven by passion & karma, zoomed to the top of their industry.  This tale, written by Poon Tip, reveals his unstoppable motivation to develop a company he envisioned could change the world. Fall in love from the start with his childhood stories and watch as his entrepreneurial instincts grow and later inspire a nation of employees to spread global good. Throughout the book Bruce uncovers his unusual management secrets that energized a global company to change lives and is now the magic that makes G today. 
    If you're looking for a refreshing, inspiring business book that offers new ideas around management be sure to pick up Poon Tip's Looptail. It's a must read for leaders looking to weave purpose into the DNA of their company.

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