When sales executive Adrian Prett decided to take a short career break in his fifties, it initially seemed like a good idea. After busy roles at Eurostar and Teletext holidays, he was ready to draw breath for a few months. But when Adrian looked at returning to work, finding another job at the age of 56 didn’t prove quite as easy as he had hoped.
‘I sent my CV to a several people who had told me to get in touch if I needed employment, but suddenly they seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth,’ he says with feeling. ‘I soon felt that I’d made a big mistake by taking myself out of the job market and wondered if I would ever work again. I wasn’t ready to retire.
‘But luckily one of my former colleagues at Teletext had gone to Travelzoo and he put my name forward. I’d always admired their business and often thought I would like to work for them, so I was delighted to be offered an interview.’
But would Travelzoo like a ‘silver’ employee like Adrian? Although he knew that he could bring a wealth of expertise to the company, Adrian also knew that he could be seen as a big risk, an older employee who had been out of work for six months. But risk it they did and, six years on, neither Adrian nor Travelzoo has looked back. Now 63, Adrian believes he is their oldest employee in the UK, if not the entire operation.
‘I joined Travelzoo as a sales manager, bringing with me a ‘little black book’ of contacts made over many years in travel sales. So as well as gaining my skill set, they also gained an address book of potential new partners that we could work with to bring more great travel offers to our customers.
‘I soon realised that age wasn’t going to be an issue at all. I’ve always tried to look after myself and pride myself on not projecting my age in any shape or form, and it must have worked. When my boss put a big 60 balloon in the office on my birthday, my colleagues were genuinely shocked that I was “so old”!
‘I was mortified at first that they knew, but nobody cared at all. I do get ragged sometimes for talking about music or films from a few years ago. When they were talking about The Sweeney in the office, I started humming the TV theme tune from the 70s and thinking of Denis Waterman and John Thaw. But my younger colleagues had all seen the Ray Winstone movie and hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. It’s all good fun though and there’s never any malice intended.’
Adrian was thoroughly content in his Travelzoo role, so when a vacancy came up for Head of Sales, he admits he thought long and hard about whether he wanted to take on the responsibility of managing a team again.
‘But I decided to go for it, was offered the job, and have never regretted my decision. I’ve had to master a lot of new skills, especially in the field of social media which is an increasingly important part of our business, but it keeps you on your toes. Travelzoo’s demographic is mainly 40+ but you have to be able to speak the language of your whole audience.’
As a member of the Silver Marketing Association, Travelzoo enjoys the insights gleaned about a demographic that love to holiday – a lot. With 4.5 million members in the UK, Travelzoo’s audience have both time and money to spend on seeing more and more of the world. Learning more from like-minded companies within the association is a key benefit for Adrian and his team.
‘You can never get complacent and think you know everything about your market,’ says Adrian. ‘And I think this is where Silver Marketing Association will really help us. The economy may be fragile at the moment but our key target audience still want to take a main holiday every year and a short break or two. Our cruise market is particularly popular at the moment.’
So as retirement age approaches, where does Adrian see himself in five years’ time? ‘Definitely retired and spending more time with my children and grandchildren. I’ve worked since I was 17 and my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me that I have passed on to my own children. I’d also like to get my golf handicap down to something that isn’t so laughable and take a couple of holidays a year.
‘I can’t thank Travelzoo enough for taking the risk on as a new employee in his mid-50s, but it has worked out brilliantly for all of us. So now when I finally do give up work, it will be 100% my decision.’
Interview by Gillian Thornton.