Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Tamara Lohan, founder of Mr & Mrs Smith

By Andrea Hofman 6 July 2017

These leaders are changing our world for the better. Find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world.

From Level39’s Ben Brabyn, to Time Out’s Julio Bruno and REWIND founder Sol Rogers, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we are chatting with Tamara Lohan, the founder and Chief Financial Officer of boutique hotel booking club Mr & Mrs Smith.

Meet Tamara Lohan

Lohan started Mr & Mrs Smith in 2003 with her husband, James, when the pair launched their first luxury travel hotel guide. Within the first few weeks they sold over 10,000 copies and since then they have continued to grow, with 1.5m users in over 100 countries.

Prior to starting the company, Lohan had a successful background in business, acting as a former marketing executive of Honda, business consultant at Wunderman, and director at dating platform the County Register Limited.

In addition to her work at Mr & Mrs Smith, Lohan is on the advisory board of the Traveltech Lab, and a mentor for startups like Lux Fix and Inkpact. She also frequently speaks at tech, leadership, and business conferences.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked her how she gets it all done…

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

Each day, before I wake up the family, I try to take five minutes to check in with myself. It’s not quite meditation yet but I’m getting there.

If nothing else, it stops me checking my emails first thing – a terrible habit I got into as a result of having offices in different countries.

It’s my daily inspiration, my transition from mum to businesswoman.

The rest of the morning is all about breakfast, getting the kids ready and taking them to school. Once I’ve dropped them off I start running.

I love the two-birds-one-stone efficiency of making my commute my daily exercise: I run to work every morning and listen to podcasts on the way.

If something prevents me running, it can really throw my mood for the rest of the morning.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

Alexa is rapidly becoming my favourite tool by far.

My most-used feature (apart from playing Spotify tunes) is adding events and reminders right into my Google calendar or making an addition to the shopping list in with just a sentence – no more pieces of scrap paper magnet-stuck to the fridge.

For me, voice tech is the next level of efficiency and a productivity game changer.

What smartphone do you have?

A Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, black.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

First, there’s the round of mums at the school gate – that’s about 10 ‘hellos’ and ‘would you like me to pick up…?’s.

Then, once I’m in the office, the daily stand-up with the tech department puts me into contact with all 19 of my team.

The rest of the day will include catch-ups with partners to ensure we’re making the most of our collaboration or exploring the possibilities of new ones, and meetings with new technology suppliers and people who make our lives easier – Salesforce, Amazon Pay and the rest.

That’s around 40 people a day: to be honest, if I could cut it down to just the mums and my team, I’d be happy about it.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

I recently read Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World by Adam Grant.

I’m partial to social science and books that inspire you to think differently – this is certainly one of those.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

First, don’t go into travel because you’re seduced by the glamour of it.

Yes, it’s a privilege, but it’s hard, often exhausting, work; and although you may get to stay in some wonderful places, it will rarely be for more than a night or two at a time and you will never have a pure holiday again.

It’s perhaps an obvious point, but being well travelled to begin with helps a lot, especially if you want to become a travel consultant booking clients’ trips.

Also obvious, but often overlooked, is the fact that to work in any form of hospitality, you have to actively want to serve people.

If you genuinely have a passion for making other people’s holidays unforgettable, you’ll be set – all you have to do is demonstrate that passion to your potential employer.

Travel is a quite a complex business with a huge variety of roles available; from the team who go out and curate hotels to tech folk who manage rates and availability systems.

I do think there is something for everyone and it’s a great industry in which to acquire new skills, so my advice would be to jump in and give it a go.

Do you have a wind down routine?

I run home at 6pm and once I’m back I‘m all-in with the kids.

Recently I’ve been working on being properly present, so that when I’m with them I’m not on my phone or checking emails or thinking about work.

It takes discipline, but I can tell it has already made a huge difference.

I’ll put them to bed, have dinner with my husband and then finish off any remaining work I need to attend to.

We have offices in Singapore and Los Angeles so emails come in all night long – when we first went global I found this difficult to deal with (the relentless pace of the business was draining) but over the years I have learned to cope, to prioritise and to focus on what really needs doing.

Dinner with my husband is what I look forward to the most and helps me wind down. We check in with each other, chat about our day, share the highs and the lows.

Even though we work together we generally don’t see each other much during the day, so it’s a great opportunity to reconnect.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

I have so many people I admire both within our industry and outside it – I love learning how other entrepreneurs cope with the businesses they create and life in general.

One person I haven’t met yet is Ian Schrager – of all people, he’s contributed most to the global boutique hotel movement and, professionally, I would love to quiz him about that.

That’s before steering the conversion round to his Studio 54 days in the hope of uncovering a few untold stories…

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.