Paul Russell, managing director of Luxury Academy, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam tells us what inspired him to start the company.
Luxury Academy specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors.
What do you currently do at Luxury Academy?
I am the managing director of Luxury Academy, a company I co-founded in 2012 to provide training specifically to the luxury market. We have trainers around the world, the majority based in the UK, delivering training on communication, business etiquette, leadership and customer service. For myself personally, I spend around 80% of my time training with the remainder on staff management, product development and general MD functions.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
There are two ways to start a successful business, do something new or do something differently. With Luxury Academy, I wanted to do both. After qualifying as a workplace psychologist, I worked with many of the larger luxury hospitality brands like The Savoy Group, Four Seasons and Marriott.
There were so many suppliers specifically for the luxury industry, but when it came to training staff, the most important ingredient to offering high end customer experience in my view, all that was at my disposal was standard training. It flummoxed me really.
There just wasn’t the type of training out there that I needed and I realised this would be the case for hospitality businesses around the world. Our focus initially was in hospitality, and from there to the wider luxury industry.
Who do you admire?
Behaviourally, I admire Queen Elizabeth for her ability to navigate situations without controversy. It’s a skill which many leaders lack, in fact, they’ll often do all that they can to actually encourage controversy. For someone I admire from a business perspective, it would have to be Bill Gates for his philanthropy.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Given the opportunity to go back, there are certainly things I would change and do differently. Before we jumped into the Indian market, I would have taken more time to appreciate the intricacies of buying behaviour in the country. This would have saved us both time and money. Money too could have been saved with exhibitions. Instead I would put that money into social media advertising. Nowadays, all of our marketing spend is digital, but it would have been beneficial to have come to that decision a little sooner.
What defines your way of doing business?
Discretion certainly, staying true to your business principles, flexibility, all of these are vital to the way I do business both personally and through Luxury Academy. The luxury industry, like most industries, is one where everyone knows each other. Discretion is absolutely vital for us as a company, and through this we are able to build trust and loyalty. Staying true to your business principles might sound easy, but there often comes a point in your business life when you are presented with an opportunity that might be extremely attractive in some ways, usually financially, but goes against everything you set out to achieve with your business. Those are the times when you have to stand firm, and go back to the reasons you started your business in the first place. As for flexibility, with a company operating across a number of time zones, it is imperative to be flexible. The 9-5 just isn’t realistic.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
All of the things you think you need, you probably don’t. The fancy office, the expensive brochure. In most cases, people will be buying into one thing and that is you. Focus instead on your own development; your soft skills such as your ability to build relationships, talk to others, influence and persuade. It is those skills that will help you to win that initial business to get your idea off the ground. The tangibles like the office, brochures and so on can come later, if they are needed at all. Often, people will focus on the tangibles to avoid doing the things they are scared of doing, or perceive as more difficult.