The Tourism Academy's Chief Strategist, Stephen Ekstrom recently had a chance to chat with Mike Bainter, the Head of Business Strategy and Global Supply Partnerships for Groupon. As one of the world's largest online platforms, Groupon plays a big part in the supply chain of tourism industry products & services.
Stephen: Mike, you and I have worked together on quite a few different projects over the years for different destinations and venues. Why did you start working in this industry?
Mike: I started working in this industry because it allowed me to combine my love of travel and experiencing new things with my career objective of working with great companies to build growth partnerships. This still rings true today, the travel industry continues to evolve and digitize and the opportunity for growth is enormous.
Stephen: How does your passion still drive your business's growth today?
Mike: I take great pride and satisfaction in helping business owners grow their business and helping Groupon consumers find and discover amazing new things to do with their friends and family.
So at what point did you realize that your business was "taking off" and that you could make a living from it?
There was no one point for me where I realized the business was taking off since I have always worked for a fairly large company... I do remember when it finally seemed to resonate with attraction and tour operators that the internet was a mandatory distribution channel and if your product was not available via e-commerce you were missing out.
There was a lot of skepticism about the internet as a sales channel when I first started and once a few key attractions started seeing significant sales volumes with attractive acquisition costs it became easier and easier.
At what point did you realize you were living the life you wanted to?
I'm very happy that I've been able to work with great people who are passionate about what they do. I have learned a tremendous amount both personally and professionally and feel honored to have shared those experiences... there is so much I do not know and understand yet... I can continue to be inquisitive through my own personal and professional growth.
How would you describe your mentoring/teaching style?
I reflect on how I feel when I am part of the audience. We are all here to learn and there are numerous ways to impart knowledge. The messaging I use will not work for everyone and that's ok. If my experience can help just a few people then it's successful. Stay within yourself and just speak to your experience.
How do you balance the tourism supply chain and earnings with product quality and personal values?
If you build a quality product and are passionate about it the money will follow. Chasing money is a reactive strategy as you are constantly looking for the latest trend or jumping on a fad. It creates too much churn and chaos and makes it difficult to be consistent. Have a plan and a strategy that encompasses your values. Create specific goals and then be able to adjust your plan based on data. This will build quality and authenticity and increase your chances for success.
What advice would you have for those who might be looking to advance their careers?
People become comfortable and complacent and fail to grow or recognize things are changing until it's too late. You can be satisfied with your career but keep in tune with developments in the industry. Talk to peers, read and get involved with industry events.
How does your personal philosophy impact your approach to success and achievement?
I'm a firm believer in the concept of having an open mindset. One of the fundamental beliefs of an open mindset is that you can grow beyond current limitations. This is important as you build business partnerships because it allows you to focus on creating relationships where both parties prosper rather than adopting a win/lose attitude. This can be true for personal goals as well. Don't place limitations on yourself that others will not.
What tool(s) do you use to get the best results from those around you?
Understand what message you are trying to deliver and make it relatable to your audience. Don't be afraid to use humor, emotion, and personal experience to connect with people.
What pearls of wisdom would you give yourself when you first started this work?
It's not always going to be easy but it is going to be fun. Appreciate the journey as much as the destination.
More About Mike: Mike Bainter is the Head of Business Strategy and Global Supply Partnerships for the Groupon Things to Do business. In his role, Mike is responsible for building and maintaining partnerships with operators, creating strategies to grow revenue for different industry segments, and acting as a subject matter expert on external trends and issues in the things to do industry. Mike has worked in the Things to Do industry for 15+ years and enjoys traveling to discover new and exciting things to do with his wife and two sons.
Mike holds degrees in supply chain management and marketing from Arizona State University and his MBA from the University of Washington. Mike currently resides in Kirkland, WA.