John Hays has a million ways to thank his dedicated team for pushing Hays Travel past the £1billion turnover mark.
John went back to the firm’s first shop, in Church Street, Seaham, this morning to make a live announcement to the workforce via Facebook.
To celebrate, every one of the company’s 1,500-plus staff is to receive a £100 bonus for every year’s service.
The bumper bonus pay-out is John’s way of acknowledging the debt he owes to his workers.
“As a thank you, we are going to give away a million pounds,” he said.
“We have got a lot of staff who have been with us through the 30 years. There will be a lot of people getting £3,000 in their pay next month.”
It is amazing really, to have reached this figure - it is a milestone.John Hays
He puts looking after his workers at the heart of the business: “If you go into a shop and the staff are miserable, you pick up on that,” he said.
“I really think happy staff means happy customers.”
The business has come a long way since John started it in 1980.
Today, it has a chain of more than 160 shops and employs a large number of people working flexible hours from home to suit themselves.
“The whole thing is really about having the flexibility to allow the customers to do business however they want,” said John.
“If they want to come into the shop, they can, if they prefer to book through the website, they are able to, or they can call out of outside hours and we have got home workers who are available because their job suits their lifestyle.”
John graduated from Oxford and, after gaining an MBA from Manchester, began his career as a merchant banker in the City of London.
He quickly realised the City was not the place for him and decided to start his own business, opting to become a travel agent rather than an undertaker.
The first office was in the back of his mother’s childrenswear shop, with a garden trellis dividing the clothes from the travel agency.
“It is totally different today because the childrenswear shop is not there any more, but it seemed appropriate that we go back and do the announcement there,” said John.
“It is amazing really, to have reached this figure - it is a milestone.
“I started from nothing and they first couple of years were really difficult - we nearly went bust.
“I always wanted us to get bigger but I never imagined anything like this.”
John is now 68 but shows no signs of slowing down: “I still love coming to work,” he said.
“I love the business, I really enjoy it.”