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Glampitect's Calum MacLeod on What it Takes to be Successful in the Glamping Industry

Glamping is a huge growth industry. With demand currently far outstripping supply, many people are able to set up a glamping business, whether it’s a glamping site or pod manufacturer, and make decent money. But, as will become clear in this piece, this golden age won’t last forever, and it will only be the exceptional companies that thrive and become mainstays in the market for years to come. One such company is Glampitect, an Edinburgh-based business that have firmly established themselves as the experts of the industry. Watch the short video below if you want a brief introduction to the company.

Last week, we sat down for a Zoom call with Calum MacLeod, co-founder and public face of the business, to discuss what it takes to set yourself apart in the industry. There are some excellent nuggets to be taken from the interview that can be actioned immediately. We hope you find it insightful.

Made Of Bits (MOB): So, Calum, have you taken any particular steps to protect your business during the pandemic, or even to encourage it to thrive?

Calum MacLeod (CM): Yeah, all of them!

We’ve grown the business from having one full-time member of staff at the start of the pandemic and we’ve got to 15 now and still hiring. We’ve been really pushing on right the way through the pandemic. We’re doing a crazy amount of marketing, a crazy amount of everything. We’re introducing new products, one of which is the Glampitect Academy, as well as continuing to help clients with issues such as obtaining planning permission.

I’m out in Dubai to give myself space from the business and the day-to-day nitty gritty running of it, so I can innovate, working on lead gen, creating new products, create new ways of helping people, etc.

MOB: That last part, with you stepping back from the business to innovate, it reminds me of a concept Richard Koch calls ‘The 80/20 Principle’ (the idea that 80% of results or outputs flow from 20% of causes). Koch suggests that those in a company tasked with innovation and generating broader business growth ought to step back from the day-to-day aspects and focus on the bigger picture.

CM: Yep, that’s exactly what I’m doing just now.

MOB: I notice from your LinkedIn that Glampitect have been working with someone called Stevie Kidd, Founder of The Stevie Kidd Pathway. Could you tell me more about that and how he’s helped your business?

CM: Absolutely. Ali [Glampitect’s other co-founder] and I thought it would be wise to bring someone in with more business experience once we could afford it, as Glampitect is the biggest business we’ve run in our careers so far.

The first thing he identified was that we were completely financially illiterate! We could have told you that ourselves but we didn’t realise how important it was, and the first thing he told us was to bring a finance person in, and that’s what we did. The information we’ve got now compared to when we first started speaking to him, certainly financially, is unbelievable.

As for the other aspects of the business, it’s just good to have a mind like his to guide us because we’re still just little old Calum and Ali. The more experienced minds you can get in, the better.

MOB: At Made Of Bits, we serve manufacturers and suppliers of glamping accommodation. As someone who advises site owners on picking the right glamping pod supplier, what would you say pod makers should be offering if they want glamping site owners to buy their pods?

CM: One thing that I’ve identified with a lot of glamping pod manufacturers that we’re trying to fix is they need to bridge the gap between people who want to do a glamping site and people that are actually ready to pay money for glamping pods, because the gap there is so, so big.

I think glamping pod manufacturers right now have the luxury of demand outstripping supply, which means that gap doesn’t matter so much at this moment, but as more manufacturers come in, and as that curve starts to drop off, we’re going to see manufacturers start to struggle because they don’t have that gap bridged.

What we do is bridge the gap. We’re helping prospective site owners with the Academy, planning applications, feasibility studies, etc, and we’re taking them right through the process and hand delivering them to the manufacturers, who they may never have spoken to in their lives but are willing to offer them £200,000 worth of custom there and then. Bridging that gap is so important on the front end.

As for what prospective site owners want to see pod manufacturers offering, I think people want to see higher quality now. We rarely have a client get in touch wanting a low-end pod without toilets or anything like that. Typically, they want that really good quality, high-end finish, with toilet, shower, and all that sort of stuff. Is that a USP? Nope. But it’s a given that needs to be in place. Flexibility is always good in terms of allowing clients to make things bespoke, but what’s crucial is that you should have a standard offering as well, so the customer has something to go off.

MOB: We’re seeing glamping growing in the US and other countries. Do you have any thoughts on the potential for UK glamping business to expand abroad?

CM: Absolutely. We’ve already started. Glampitect Global is a new entity just kicking off now.

Firstly, it’s not very ‘global’, but we’re looking at Ireland as a first step. It has the highest search term per capita for the term ‘glamping’, and we’re really trying to get into that market.

The next step is probably the US. Industry is big there and we feel we could make a pretty big splash.

UAE is the next one, as I’m in Dubai and doing a lot of digging and research. The money over here is ridiculous … they’re charging £350 per night for bell tents, it’s absolutely insane. Glamping hasn’t really got here yet but the stuff that is here is on fire [not literally, we imagine].

After that, worldwide. We’re beginning to think about language-speaking ability when we hire people, with a view to exploring different countries.

MOB: I notice there aren’t many UK-style glamping pods in the US and the rest of the world, and I’m wondering whether it’s a cultural thing and whether they’ll ever embrace the UK model.

CM: Well there’s only one way we’re going to find out!

MOB: Finally, if you could tell someone considering entering the glamping industry to remember just one thing, what would it be?

CM: That’s an interesting one … this is actually quite a negative one, but it’s true. Don’t come in and think you’re going to be able to half-arse it forever. You might end up spending 75% of what you would have if you had done it properly, and you might make money for a couple of years, but sooner or later supply is going to catch up to demand, and you’ll be left in the dark.

You should be doing what we discussed earlier: getting USPs, making things different, getting your marketing right, making sure people have a good stay with you. You’re going to make money without any of that now, but you’ll need it when we start to enter saturation.

End of interview.

Key takeaways

  • It’s possible to push on and grow you glamping business in the midst of the pandemic.

  • It might be an idea for you to step back from the daily running of your business to allow yourself a chance to look at the bigger picture, devoting more time to innovation and business growth.

  • Bringing in an experienced business head can guide you in the right direction, preventing you from making mistakes that could threaten your business.

  • Glamping pod manufacturers should look to bridge the gap between their customers’ initial ideas to implementation.

  • Site owners want high-quality pods, and bespoke options should be offered.

  • The potential for glamping businesses to expand abroad is huge.

  • Don’t rely on the current disparity between supply and demand. Eventually, the market forces will even out, and you’ll have to have been separating yourself from the competition if you want to survive and thrive.

Do you manufacture glamping pods, shepherd huts or any other form of glamping accommodation? Are you interested in speeding up your production process and lowering your costs with CNC-cut timber frames? Click here to find out how we can make your life easier.

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