The Faces of Kigo: Meet Ben McGee
We created the Faces of Kigo series to showcase our talented employees, tell their stories, and share why they love being a part of the Kigo team.
Meet Ben McGee, Kigo's U.S. Sales Director based at our corporate headquarters in Richardson, Texas. A native of Yorkshire, Ben caught the travel bug early on and has lived and worked globally. Ben is passionate about helping clients reach their full potential and provide unforgettable experiences for their guests, which inspires him to go above and beyond every day.
Learn more about Ben:
Tell us about yourself!
Yorkshireman / Malaysian / Catalan / Texan
I was born and bred in the often bleak but beautiful Yorkshire Dales. I grew up with two principal interests: rugby and playing electric guitar. This was especially challenging when I had a gig with booked directly after a game with my team (sorry to the folks that heard me play that night, I had two broken fingers).
I got really badly bitten by the travel bug when I was 17. Ever since, I have loved living in, working in and experiencing cultures from all over the world. My fondest memories are from when I lived in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain. Currently I’m loving life here in Dallas, Texas.
Tell us about your role at Kigo. How do you help Kigo customers succeed?
My title says “U.S. Sales Director”, but titles don’t define impact. My principal role and responsibility in Kigo is to help new customers learn more about our solutions and take full advantage of them. I truly believe that partnerships are bonds forged by being straightforward, plainly spoken and throwing yourself into a customer’s world. The good, the bad and the sometimes mind-boggling!
By truly becoming a part of the customer’s team, I find that a problem shared is a problem halved. I didn’t know any of my customers personally before they put in a demo request, but I make it my “modus operandi” to ensure they never forget my contribution to their success. There you go, a little bit of high school Latin for you!
Why do you do your job? What do you love about it?
I didn’t choose this job, I chose the people. I’m inspired by great minds and folks that lead from the front. Jack Webber, Matt Hoffman, Miquel Ferrer, Tom Baron, Hannah Lau Zarley, Matt Willis, Billie-Jean Willis to name but a few of the greatest professionals I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I respect their desire, commitment, tireless work ethic and positivity.
There is an unwritten rule in business that you don’t become close friends with your colleagues – but I can’t help it! There are just so many truly great personalities and energizing spirits around here. My team - Irina, Orrin, Mark M, Tim, Mark F, Jason, Glendon, Sam – they make me look forward to coming to work every day.
Also, have you ever taken a minute to realise how cool our industry is? We literally provide meaningful, lasting memories for people and families. It’s amazing and rewarding to know that our work helps people recharge, reconnect and live life to its most joyous.
What makes Kigo stand out from the competition?
Competition breeds excellence. We wouldn’t be the company and solution we are today without constant innovation in this ever evolving marketplace.
There are however some distinct factors that make Kigo truly unique:
1. Scope and Scale – we offer a Reservation System, Channel Manager, Operations Manager, Mobile Guest App, Revenue Management, Payments, Digital Marketing and Websites… wait for it… ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION! That’s why it takes me so long to do a demo, given the sheer number of cool features and products available.
2. Global Support – we speak ten languages, have clients in every wonderful corner of this planet and help travelers reach property managers in the most amazing locations. I’ve spent time with customers around the globe, from Thailand to Nashville to even Paris. That’s not just cool, it’s truly an honor and a unique privilege to do so.
3. Humans – when dealing with “tech” companies this is often overlooked, but there is an indelible need to have the right people behind your success with any comprehensive tech product. I’m not the kind of guy who has the time or the inclination to set up a suite of software solutions on my own. I love the fact that we are intimately involved every step of the way to ensure property managers can grow their bottom line, save countless hours and reach their full business potential.
What is your favorite feature of Kigo? How does it help VRs do their jobs better?
Easy question, it’s our new 2017 website offering. When you can convert a guest from landing on your homepage in three clicks to paying for their reservation faster, easier and more effectively than the “biggest” platforms, that’s golden.
A few years ago, I used to help clients build their websites. Now, they teach me about the new things they have done with their website every week. The results are really special. Take a look at what Roman & Ronni from Latitude26 did for less than a flight from Dallas to South Padre.
How is the vacation rental industry changing?
Today’s travelers are younger, have more disposal income, have greater desire to travel, and are more fearless.
Kigo is perfectly positioned to help property managers take advantage of this new reality. We connect you to this ever increasing generation of travelers and enable you to give them they kind of experience they will “throwback” on Facebook for years to come. It’s a future-proof solution. I am proud to sell a product that will never be finished and will always adapt to the demands, trends and needs of property managers.
How does your hobby/passion translate into your role at Kigo, or how does it help you understand our Kigo customers?
Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book said “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”
I like this quote because it reminds me that you will find it difficult to always relate to someone from a different place than you unless you have actually been there. Therefore, you have to treat people from different lands and cultures with the utmost respect.
In my life as a serial “pick up and live somewhere else” kinda guy, I am very open minded about every customer’s unique situation. This helps me to listen first and try my very best to see things from their perspective. Often, this results in a more effective solution and recommendation that serves their priorities.
How do you approach finding places to stay when you travel?
Once I’ve settled on a location, I look at pictures. I’m literally a magpie when it comes to pretty images of a property. If you have pictures that look like you had to crouch behind a wooden frame with a black hood over you, then spend hours in a dark room developing the image… then I’m probably not going to stay with you. Invest in photography! A picture is worth a thousand words or a thousand bookings, whichever way you want to look at it.
Next, I look at reviews. I’m a product of my generation and I don’t buy anything unless I feel like someone else has had a positive experience with it first.
Finally, until Rhianna accepts my marriage proposal, pricing is still a factor for me. I usually have a nightly budget and try to find options that fit within that range.
What do you look for in a vacation rental? What do you avoid?
I value the space, comfort and access to the local attractions. A vacation rental is way better than a hotel in my opinion, and hotels sometimes feel too “corporate” for me. I travel a lot for business and when possible stay in client’s vacation rental accommodation. It’s a much better value for a short stay, and provides that “home away from home” experience.
I avoid like the plague vacation rentals that take forever and a day to get back to me with confirmation of availability and price. I don’t have the patience, I need instant book and I need it now! Did you know there’s a software solution that can help with that?
How can property owners make their vacation rentals more appealing to travellers like yourself?
I like initiatives Airbnb’s Business Travel Ready feature:
Some homes have a badge to indicate that they’re Business Travel Ready. These listings meet certain requirements for home type, amenities, check-in, reviews, responsiveness, and host commitment—you’ll see them identified with a briefcase. Airbnb is hoping to benefit from younger professionals' like myself penchant for mixing business with leisure.
So when I travel to a show like the VRMA National Conference, I’ll take a day or two after to hang out with friends in the area. I need accommodation that suits that blend of work and vacation.
As we continue to explore the Faces of Kigo, you will meet more members of our global team working every day to create the best products in travel. Stay tuned!