“Head in Beds & Bums in Bars

Keith Knowle's Inspirational Journey

Career Path: No GCSEs > No A-Levels > Worked hard at Dad's pub > Took over his company > Turned business into one with a focus on backpacking

“For most of my life I have had a little critic saying “are you good enough?” To overcome this I found inspiration in sport. Click here to read some of my links between business and sport"

My Story: 

I was relatively a failure at school. I have no GCSEs, I failed spoken English which I have never really understood when I am British. I’ve got no A-Levels, I went to Saudi Arabia for 6 months to work, putting roofs on airports which was a great reflection of what I could do with my life. I got into the business because my Dad caught one of his managers stealing so I went to run one of his pubs with my partner at the time. It was an interesting pub with Hells Angels and drag queens all in the same environment. We made a lot of money out of that Pub. My dad retired 20 years ago.

We had a chain of pubs that was a complete mish mash. Two gay bars, community bars, cocktail bars, city bars - all with no structure. We would take on any bar to add to our collection! We didn’t have the skill set to run the one eyed monster that we had created and we were not making any money.

I went to see my mentor at the time and he sat me down and said: “Keith you need to think about what you are going to do. Have you thought about Investors in People?

The next thing I know this woman from Investors in People arrived in my office and said: “So how are you going to make money?”

I said: “I’m going to sell beer”.

I didn’t think that she got it and so I was quite rude to her. She was very blunt with her response. She told me I didn’t have a clue and if I carried on I would go bankrupt. It turns out she was right. So with the help of Investors in People we worked together to start investing in ourselves.

I realised it was me who needed to change so I sat all my directors in one room and we had a painful meeting where we decided how we were going to run the operation. We decided everyone would be more visible and accountable. We also decided that we would move the business into backpacking.

At the time I did some research and realised it was all about margins. I wanted to improve our margins. I looked at food and we didn’t have a good skill set in this area - so we looked at accommodation and realised that going into backpacking would be a good move.

We now have 16,000 people a week sleeping with us. We aim to be the best and not the biggest backpackers in the business.









Managing Director - Beds and Bars

“When you get an idea follow it through. Take guidance and advice from people but follow your own instincts through and through"

Countries Worked:
Saudi Arabia
All countries the business is in

The Fun Stuff:

“I coach Rugby and enjoy skiing and sailing, both of which I like to take my team out to do!"

To read our interview with Keith please click here

To see a time line of Beds and Bars c
lick here

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