Meet the MD: Keith Herman of Inspire

Keith Herman, the man behind the Inspire TravelCard, tells BQ more about his day-to-day job and how he still hangs on to his dream of becoming the Manchester City goalkeeper!

What does your role involve?

Good question – travel products are my speciality, but I have a general eye on all things travel related.

I work very closely with my co-managing director and financial director to plan for future business opportunities on a daily basis.

I also spend one day a week with our marketing and PR department. I love to dabble in the technology aspect of our business, seeking out new products in the market to enhance our offering.


What is it the company does?

Inspire is essentially a travel company that specialises in the field of loyalty and rewards. Some of this is done through specially-adapted loyalty and rewards and travel booking engines.

Our other route to market is our unique Inspire travel card, which enables gifting travel via an e-voucher or gift card.  

We also have an international sales promotion company within the Inspire family, which provides rewards that are high-value at a low cost to large companies that want to incentivise their customers or staff.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started in the travel industry straight from school at 17, as part of the youth training scheme, earning £25 per week – I felt like a millionaire in that first year!

Originally I worked in business travel and then moved throughout all areas of retail, leisure and business travel sectors.

Having built up 7 years’ experience in the travel industry, I set up my own tour operation and travel agency, The Travel Team, which operates across three branches.

I moved into sales promotion 15 years ago, and in 2005 decided to combine my knowledge of travel and sales to create Inspire with my fellow co-managing director, Peter Pantelides.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think a hands-on approach is vital to the success of a business. My motto is ‘never be afraid to get your hands dirty’; get out and understand how your business works day-to-day and know and understand your staff.

I always aim to treat people the way I expect to be treated myself. I also think it’s really important to be prepared to accept you are wrong – sometimes!


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Having expanded from a relatively small business to a company with an annual turnover of 19 million, in the last four years we’ve experienced a lot of growing pains.

One of the main challenges has been finding the right people with the right attitude to join our ever-growing team and commit to making Inspire something special.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I rarely stress about anything at work; I simply refuse to believe anything in my work life is worth worrying about unnecessarily.

I’d rather focus on finding a solution and I believe that if you’re stressed you can’t see the wood for the trees.

In fact, my kids cause me more anxiety and worry than work ever does – I’m still on learning curve with this!


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was 100% determined to become the Manchester City first choice goalkeeper. To be honest I still want to be, and by the looks of it they may need me now!


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

The one thing I really can’t stand is a blame culture. If something goes wrong fix it and try not to fall in the same hole next time.

I have much more respect for someone who’s able to admit they’re wrong or have made a mistake, after all, we all have.

In fact, learning from mistakes often leads to success.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

 I see us as a global force in travel loyalty systems and a UK-wide and European provider of a travel gift card, which can be used to incentivise both staff and customers alike. We make travel incentives as simple, affordable and effective as possible. I would like Inspire to be known for its flexibility and tenacity within the market.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Be patient; good things come to those who wait and rushing things won’t stand you in good stead long-term.

It’s more important to get it right in the first instance, and if that takes a little more time than you’d hoped, so be it.

Likewise, there’s no point in trying to fit square pegs in round holes – I believe adapting and diversifying is crucial in any business.

That said, I also think you shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk (or six!), as stepping out of your comfort zone is often what really drives progress.

I’d also hugely recommend getting a good financial director on board immediately. Ensuring the finances are in order is essential, everything else flows from there.