Geoff Manchester tells us how Intrepid grew from a team of three to a global business operating in seven continents.

How did you first expand?

It all began in Africa. The year was 1988, and Geoff Manchester and Darrell Wade were touring the continent in an old tipper truck along with 12 other adventurous souls when an idea struck.

“It was while I was driving the truck, with Darrell and his wife Anna sitting in the cabin with me, that we first talked about creating a style of sustainable travel that gave travellers the opportunity to enjoy richer experiences,” says Geoff.

Once back in Australia, they began to plan in earnest. “To make it happen, we spent ages drinking red wine deciding on a company name - then registered the company and went travelling in Thailand to create itineraries for our trips.

Once we’d taught ourselves advertising, created a brochure and visited lots of travel agents, the bookings started rolling in! Not really. We started with a trickle and I went off to lead our trips in Thailand while Darrell grew the trickle into a steady stream.”

“Very early on, we found distribution to be incredibly important - but we couldn’t get enough channels in Australia to grow. So we looked overseas appointing sales agents in other major English-speaking countries. This became the basis for our growth over the following years.”

What advice do you now have for Australian businesses going global?

“Creating a global business involves long-term thinking. It means reinvesting profits to grow the business, rather than reaping short term rewards.

At the start, we appointed General Sales Agents who held the rights to sell Intrepid in their market. But because they were selling Intrepid under their own name, our brand wasn’t being built. Later we took over the sales and marketing in most markets to address this and grow more quickly.

It’s also vital to know your audience. For instance, in Australia we tend to like our language brash and informal - but it’s not for every market. You need local people to make sure your communication is right.

It’s the same story with your products. Because Americans get less holidays than other nationalities, they look for shorter trips. We make sure our tour options are varied enough to suit everyone.”

What about understanding your employees?

“While our values and vision are universal across the business, we do adapt things to suit different religions and cultures. Essentially, hiring people is the same and they react in similar ways when valued, given challenges and encouraged to be more engaged. So you can visit an Intrepid office in Toronto or Lima or Nairobi and you’ll find a similar welcome, a similar feel and a high level of engagement."

How important is purpose when growing your business?

“Entrepreneurs don’t create businesses purely to make money. They identify a niche or gap in the market and want to build a product to satisfy that need. Employees become more engaged when they see the business has a higher purpose.

We have many examples of decisions that have cost us time and money in the short term, but later repaid the company in terms of brand-building social media engagement and growth. Like when we researched the use of elephants in tourism and became the first tour operator in the world to stop offering elephant riding."

Recently you became a Certified B Corp. What can you tell us about the journey to get there?

“The B Corp certification is by no means easy. In fact, it’s hard but that’s its value. For us it sets a guide for what a great company can achieve and things we can be doing to improve. As we undertook the assessment 23 times for each of our overseas businesses, we learnt a huge amount. This allowed us to introduce new policies, measure important factors and create new benefits for our stakeholders.”

What sort of things do you think about at the end of financial year?

"We usually have a good idea of our final results by the 10th or 11th month and we’re finalising plans and budgets for the following year. We’ve paid our staff bonuses for the last three years consecutively, so everyone is focused on delivering a great result!"

You’re celebrating your 30-year anniversary this year. What’s next?

“We launched small ship Adventure Cruises in 2017 and that’s grown from one itinerary in Croatia to more than 20 itineraries throughout Europe and South East Asia. We’ve also launched our first Polar expedition cruises, chartering a ship in Antarctica for the 20/21 season. It means not only will we be taking our style of small group immersive travel to the furthest reaches of the world; it also makes us a seven-continent operator. We might be 30, but we’re still acting like a start-up and that’s worth celebrating.”

Here to help

Operating in 21 countries and in 20 currencies, Intrepid relies on NAB’s global business expertise to answer its complex financial needs. If you’d like advice about growing your business overseas we’re always here to help.

“We’ve been with NAB so long that I can’t remember what it was like beforehand.” -Geoff Manchester, Founder of Intrepid

Important information

The information contained in this article is correct as of 1 June 2019 and is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs.

Before acting on this information, NAB recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. NAB recommends that you seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.

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