Each year, around three million people travel to Berlin to visit the Reichstag dome and the parliament hall. About one million of them come at the invitation of a member from the parliament. Many voters in Germany want to know what their vote is doing in Berlin and what political life is like the capital. But the trip should not be too expensive and yet be well organized, Susanna and Daniel Wiegand thought in 2005. They both recognized a market potential.
Susanna, then girlfriend and now wife of one of the founders of Hauptstadtreisen.com, works as research assistant to a member of the German parliament. She could convince her boss in 2005 to listen to her and Daniel’s idea – just at the right moment when her boss was about to invite a larger group to come visit him in Berlin. Susanna thus gave Daniel the initial impetus, provided the first business contact and even a start-up loan for Daniel. That way, the graduee of political science studies could focus entirely on the company.
The founding team
It soon dawned to Daniel that he needed a partner as soon as the business gains momentum. He looked for a business partner whom he could fully trust. His first choice was twin brother Dominik, who studied economics and also likes to travel around the world. Dominik initially wanted to work as an employee only to see how things went. But things went well and Daniel faced his brother with a choice: get on or get off the bus. Dominik got on and in 2007 became partner and co-CEO of the company. Ever since, their entrepreneurial voyage is led by twin decisions.
But before the first bus left for Berlin, Daniel and Dominik had to convince the member of the federal parliament. They rolled up their sleeves and openly admited that they had never organized a group trip before, but that they are willing and able to do precisely that. Their price per person was about half the price that another tour group had previously paid for bus and hotel. They organized it all by themselves. A professional tour operator books many coaches and hotel rooms. In volume discounts there is a margin. But not the only key to success.
Thanks to thorough planning beforehand and support along the way, the tour group can enjoy the trip – they only have to express their wishes. The corporate philosophy of Daniel and Dominik is simple: everything the customer wants the customer gets. And what’s more: always one of the brothers or an employee welcomes the tour groups in Berlin to hand over maps and detailed directions personally. Matching the preferences of the group they give advice on where to enjoy a great meal and what to explore in the city. That makes clients happy.
When you call Daniel, Dominik or any of their employees you quickly realize why customers like to book with them. They take great pleasure in talking to people and they radiate professionalism. And what’s more, they keep their promise of a well-organized trip . That turns customers into brand ambassadors who recommend Hauptstadtreisen.com to their friends.
Cash flow is also important. It needs to flow in the right direction. Tour groups pay for their travels in advance. The coach operators and hotel chains bill Hauptstadtreisen.com only after the trip. Daniel and Dominik don’t risk liquidity constraints.
Growing according to customer demands
One day customers asked for further destinations. So Daniel and Dominik added Dresden, Hamburg and Munich to their portfolio. Even for younger groups such as school classes and sports clubs they started to organize trips. And more cities were added: Prague, Vienna and Brussels. In Brussels there are political institutions to be visited and politicians to be met. In the EU capital, Hauptstadtreisen.com became full circle. And to Amsterdam and The Hague Daniel and Dominik now organize coach tours to visit, for example, Europol and the International Criminal Court.
Looking back and forward
The absolute will to fulfill all customer demands results in happy customers. But where growth happens, mistakes happen. When asked about this, Daniel gives some examples. First, the lack of determination to professionalize early on: the first intern was care-intensive and not too much help. An employee would have been more expensive, but also more productive. Software for business processes mapping and automated accounting could have been bought earlier. In marketing the same thing: DIY or hire a professional advertising agency? Daniel sums it up: He worked too much within and not on the company.
Today, Daniel and Dominik focus more on developing the business model and less on the operational business. They have two employees and two trainees. For a long time, each employee shared the office room with Daniel or Dominik, who live and show the company culture instead of prescribe it: being competent and yet binding on the phone, but also humorous and with great joy in talking with people. Around 5500 customers book with Hauptstadtreisen.com every year, and numbers are rising.