Interview: Why independence pays off

Interview: Why independence pays off

Miles Morgan is owner of Miles Morgan Travel, a southwest agency chain.

Moving out of the corporate world and setting up an independent agency chain was one of the most daunting moments of Miles Morgan’s career.

But as the 11-strong chain celebrated its fifth birthday on December 18, the business was enjoying its third year in profit and Miles is positive about the future.

"When I set up Miles Morgan Travel I always thought there would be a place for an independent agency with knowledgeable staff. What’s most encouraging is I still feel like that five years on. I look at my squad now and I’m proud of the staff we employ."

Miles left Thomson, where he was sales and marketing director, and bought 10 agencies from the multiple to set up Miles Morgan Travel.

Looking back, he did not anticipate just how tough it would be. He says: "It was all quite scary and difficult. When you come from the corporate bubble it’s a shock to the system. No one tells you how tough the first 18 months will be.

"The loss in the first year was bigger than I expected but I still managed to reduce the losses and move up turnover, and now we have completely spun it around."

Early on, Miles had to shut two shops. "One was a bad pick and the landlord of the other one wanted an exorbitant amount for a new lease," recalls Miles.

In its third year, Miles was able to appoint managers to help run the business and bought two more shops, in Taunton and Yeovil, from failed agency Harvey World Travel. And Howard Travel in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, has just come under his full ownership after a lengthy period sorting out paperwork.

Miles also set up weddings specialist Dream Weddings in the first year of Miles Morgan Travel and has chartered two Titanic memorial cruises next year. "It was a multimillion-pound gamble. I can remember when we took our first booking and when we hit £1 million," he says.

His biggest achievement has been creating Miles Morgan Travel in a tough economic climate, but an even bigger one may be yet to come when two ships leave Southampton and New York in April 2012 to mark a century since the Titanic sunk. "It will be the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life," says Miles.

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