An accomplished entrepreneur and hospitality executive, Arman Motiwalla founded One Concierge, a global luxury concierge and lifestyle management company based in Utah. One Concierge has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc. magazine. Today, One Concierge, and parent company Aurae Lifestyle, are the producers of the world’s only bespoke solid gold MasterCards. Members are provided access to the world’s most exclusive and sought-after events, elite concierge services, and a dedicated team of global experts that span 115 countries. A recognized leader in the luxury and lifestyle industry, Mr. Motiwalla holds a degree in Aeronautics and Business Aviation Administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Tell me about your early career.
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family in Dubai, innovation and creation were always around me. From an early age, I watched both my father and grandfather build their businesses with tireless dedication, passion, and perseverance, and this had the largest impact on me as I ventured into my professional career. When I was in college, I noticed an advertisement in the mailroom, where an alum of the university was looking for interns for a private jet company. As an aviation geek majoring in aeronautics, this was the perfect internship opportunity. However, I had no idea how much this opportunity would change my life. The company I was interning for at the time was comprised of just two alumni and myself. We had a small office above a bar in Daytona Beach, Florida, and after class, I would head over there in the afternoon and stay until 11:00 PM/12:00 AM at night. As their first intern and hire, I got to watch and help them build their dream, and the lessons I learned stayed with me as I built my own company, years later. Being in that environment, I quickly realized that I was taking away so much more from my ‘internship’ than I was sitting in class each day. Pretty soon, I was working for them full-time and going to college, part-time. I watched as we went from a small office above a bar to a nationwide company with sales representatives in multiple states. Today, they are one of the largest private jet charter companies in North America.
I did eventually leave the company and took on my first ‘corporate’ job working for an aviation company that bought and sold aircrafts, engines, and parts. Going from an entrepreneurial environment to the ‘corporate’ world was a big change! There were rules to follow, nobody took risks, the focus was always on the bottom line, and there was a very rigid corporate hierarchy. The collaborative team environment I thrived in was no longer there. Everyone reported to someone, and orders came from the top down. You weren’t asked for your input or expected to try and solve problems. You were expected to simply do what you were told. I soon realized that working for a corporate outfit was not for me, and that is what spurred me to focus on my own dream.
How did the concept for One Concierge come about?
As you can imagine, with people asking us for private jets each day, the requests we started to receive soon spread to other areas, such as tickets, yachts, VIP experiences, and access to events. Seeing my mentors’ success and growth, I thought I could capitalize on these other requests and started building One Concierge while working for the private jet company. At the time, there was no centralized source that offered clients access to everything in the lifestyle space, on a global level. There were local ticket companies, local errand running companies, yacht charter companies, etc., but no companies that offered a one-stop shop for anything the lifestyle connoisseur was looking for. Hence, the concept of One Concierge was born: one centralized resource for everything you need in the world of luxury.
How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business was exciting and there was so much that we learned about the business world, people, and ourselves. At that time, we were still building the business and I was still working a full-time job. Every spare minute went into building the infrastructure, the website, the phone systems, and building our network of partners. The focus wasn’t so much on making money. We knew the money was there. We were just so focused on building a great service and making sure that we delivered on our promises. As we started to get our first clients and close sales, we knew that all of the work we were putting into building the service was working and that validated that we were on to something!
What was your marketing strategy?
When we first started out, there were many who did not understand our service. The most common question was, “Why would people be interested in a concierge service?” However, having been in the private jet industry, I had seen and experienced firsthand the pain points that some of my clients had, and what constituted value to them. In today’s world, we often find that our most precious commodity is time. Regardless of net worth, we all only have 24 hours in a day. Many of our clients started utilizing concierge and lifestyle services precisely because we are able to give them back their time. We were essentially creating a niche. There was no prior model that we could follow. No other business that we could look to as an example. So to market effectively, our goal was to educate and explain to people what they could accomplish with us. We weren’t trying to sell them anything. We were just pointing out how we could do what they are doing, only better! We became curators, advisers, and knowledge experts. People started coming to us for our expertise and our ability to get things done. We soon established a loyal client base and word started to spread. Our web presence was a very large part of us expanding our reach, especially globally. I cannot tell you how many countless hours we all spent writing content for the website! As we continued to invest in our web presence and expand our website, our business started to grow too.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We were never afraid of growth. One of our biggest goals from the start was to expand our services to as wide of a client base as possible. As the number of requests started to increase, we needed more people behind computers and on the phones, so we were constantly investing in our staff. It worked, and in 2016, we were recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. and #15 in the travel and hospitality space.
How do you define success?
I would often joke with people that entrepreneurship feels a lot like getting punched in the face, repeatedly. As entrepreneurs, we tell ourselves that we will live a few years of our life like most people won’t, so that we can live the rest like most people can’t. It’s that vision, relentless passion, and perseverance that drives us to keep moving forward in the face of adversity. So, success to me is not so much about the outcome, but rather the journey and not giving up on it.
What is the key to success?
Having a belief system and the courage to follow your convictions paves your path to success. Failure is inherently a part of business, but it drives innovation. It makes us stronger and challenges us to not accept defeat. Every entrepreneur faces fear and doubt, but having the guts to follow your beliefs in spite of fear, is the reason why some of the world’s greatest business leaders are where they are, despite their failures. When I had my first corporate job, we were still building One Concierge. I would get to my corporate job at 8:00 AM every day, work until 6:00 PM, and then from 6:00 PM to midnight, I would go to our own small office and continue working on building the business. My corporate job was very steady. I had a great salary, a 401K, health benefits, tuition reimbursement – the whole package. However, as our own businesses started to grow, it became almost impossible for me to continue working my corporate job, and the time had come to dive in head first. I knew I would not be able to match what I was earning with my corporate job. I knew I would lose my 401k and benefits. I had no clue how I was going to make all of my bills and make ends meet. Quitting my corporate job was one of the most terrifying and defining moments in my life. The day that I quit, I walked into our office, minus a paycheck and $1,000 in savings. As terrifying as it was to not know where my next paycheck would come from, I never believed that we would not make it, and true to that, we made ends meet by the end of that month.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Being a business owner has been both the best and worst thing to ever happen to my personal relationships! Like most entrepreneurs, I learned early on that dedication and hard work would end up paying dividends, and like most, I was passionate about my work, emotionally-vested and fully dedicated to its success. In the early years, my work became my life and central focus for a while. Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a lifestyle, and once you start to see results, it becomes an addiction! There is nothing wrong with hard work or passion for your business, but you have to make sure it does not come at a personal cost. I have lost countless relationships, with friends, family, and loved ones, in the pursuit of building my dream, and it would not be unusual to work 16 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. If there is one lesson I have walked away with, it is that business owners do not put enough value on free time, and often we are so focused on our work that we end up burning out. Setting boundaries with yourself, at the office and at home, is useful in helping to maintain a work-life balance. It’s helpful for your health, your sanity, and your business!
What are some quotes that you live by?
Steve Jobs was to me an inspirational visionary and I certainly take some of his words to heart:
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The day that my business partner and I parted ways was a difficult transition. Working with someone for many years, there’s a lot that goes into a business break-up. Honestly, it’s probably the closest to a divorce that I’ve ever had to endure! It’s hard not to let things get personal or allow emotions to get in the way, but the lessons learned from that experience will stay with me forever.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I have met countless people in my life who have told me that they are great at starting things, but not so good at finishing them. My response has always been the same: if you are tired of starting over, stop giving up! It’s ok to feel beaten, and adversity will never go away. There will always be something that stands in the way of your success. However, I know that the things that I regret most in life are the risks I never took. My greatest personal asset is my self-esteem. It’s what pushes me to keep moving forward even when challenged with the impossible.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t complain about the results you didn’t get from the work you never did. Put in the time now, work hard, know what is driving you, and always follow your compass, even in the face of failure.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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