As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Harding.
Charlie Harding is the co-founder and CEO of Let’s Roam, a childhood idea that evolved into the number-one scavenger hunt company in the world. Charlie’s strong background in programming, marketing and business has empowered him to build and grow an epic brand from the ground up. Let’s Roam operates in almost every major city and is rapidly expanding. Charlie and his team are on a mission to help people explore the world and connect with others through fun, interactive experiences.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m Charlie Harding and I started Let’s Roam with my brother about 4 years ago. From a very young age, I was fascinated with the digital world and spent two decades teaching myself how to code. It wasn’t until later in life, while traveling with my brother, that the idea of bringing scavenger hunts from the internet to the outdoors came to me. We thought a scavenger hunt would be the best way to engage with our new environment. We wrote the first scavenger hunt in St. Louis. My brother walked around downtown on one of the hottest days of the year, connecting the best landmarks, crafting games and providing historical perspectives. On each scavenger hunt, questions, facts and photo challenges are tied together with a smartphone app. Everyone works together to answer questions, learn about their surroundings and take quirky team photos. We were able to combine our love for travel, complementary skills and wandering ambition to create a worldwide scavenger hunt company, now in over 400 cities.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I think when we started to grow, my brother and I would sometimes forget that it wasn’t just the two of us anymore. We would often use our airzookas, which are huge plastic air cannons, to get each other’s attention from across the room. This quickly came to end when we started to get strange stares. I think it was then when we started really focusing on what it meant to be a leader and how we can find that fine line between family and business.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I would have to say the book The Art of War really sticks out to me. It’s about how there will always be things you don’t want to do in life, but doing those very things will be the difference between mediocrity and greatness. During this time, I found myself reflecting back on this book a lot. Our company has gone through a very difficult time and I have had to make some really tough decisions. I have to remind myself that life is not only about passion projects and fun tasks…they’re about how you react in hard situations and the will power to get those meticulous tasks done.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our tagline is “Wander With Purpose” and we implement that mission into our work everyday. The idea behind Let’s Roam is to allow people to wander their surroundings with intent and satisfying their curiosity. We focus on connection through exploration, creating new ways for people to see the world, create memorable experiences and meet new people. As we grow, every decision we make begins with our mission.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Persevere. Hard times always come to individuals and people. It would be tough to find some person that hasn’t had some sort of major adversity in the last 5 years. It’s just part of life, and when things get hard you have two options: hide or fight. If you choose to sit back and hide in either social media, your own vices, or binge watching tv you lose control. To stay in control you have to fight — especially when it’s hard. Fight to push the bounds of what’s possible and fight to keep what you already have built. There will always be things that you can’t control, but you can control how you react to them and better prepare for the next 5 year adversity.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
If you were to tell me a year ago that a close family member would die and not a single person would go to his funeral I would’ve called you insane (and likely punched you). Instead that is our new reality and it demonstrates how a pandemic can rip through countries, families, and every aspect of our lives. These challenges are unprecedented, so our response has to be unlike anything we’ve dealt with before. But this challenge is a reality that we can shape to make the best out of it. Part of our mission at Let’s Roam is to connect others. I know that we can have a big impact on people’s lives through our virtual game night and help drive people together even when they’re feeling further apart than ever. This crisis drives me to help more people connect, so they can cherish new memories with the people that are still here with us.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As an outdoor adventure company, we really had to get creative with how our brand was going to adapt. With quick thinking, creative collaborations and daily team meetings, we were able to transform Let’s Roam into both an indoor and outdoor activity company. We introduced a whole new product line of virtual events including Virtual Team Builders, Virtual Game Night, Roam From Home Hunts and more. We listened to what our customers needed, and used available resources to turn that need into a reality.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
There is always opportunity in chaos. Unfortunately, we have learned that during times of crisis, a lot can change very quickly and without notice. It’s hard to see these changes in an optimistic light, but when you do, you will start to see opportunities in everything. Take this time to refocus and go after what you really want in life. Also, it’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to feel afraid…this is an unprecedented time that none of us were prepared for. Reach out to those you love and support each other on any new journeys that might come from this.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think that the Post-Covid economy will allow for more companies to expand on their existing services and product lines. A lot of CEOs have had to adapt to an entirely new niche they might have not been comfortable entering. Bringing your company out of that comfort zone can be an incredible blessing in disguise. I see the Post-Covid economy filled with more adventurous and open minded leaders, ready to take on any challenge or opportunity.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
On a personal level, I hope we enter a world with more empathy. And through that empathy, I hope to see more people wanting to connect and learn new things. I also disagree with the common belief that people will stay isolated and retreat from normal life. Of course, things will not go back to normal right away, but people are adventurous at heart and I don’t see that fire going away forever.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We are going to keep pushing our new at-home activities, especially our Virtual Team Builders and Roam From Home Hunts. I do not see remote work taking an extreme drop in the Post-Covid economy. If anything, even prior to COVID, working from home and virtual offices were trending upwards. I think we were able to establish a great foundation at Let’s Roam to bring into this new economy and new Post-Covid world.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would keep expanding and keep listening to your audience. They will tell you exactly what they need right now and it is up to you to take your tools and reimagine your business to fit the current climate. I also believe that COVID has taught us as leaders that nothing is set in stone, and preparing for future crises is just as important as being able to adapt.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can see further standing on the shoulders of giants”…I know when Isaac Newton wrote that, he was talking about the scientific geniuses before his time…but I relate this quote to my incredible team. If it wasn’t for their amazing vision and creative prowess, Let’s Roam wouldn’t be the company it is today.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can find us at www.letsroam.com and on all social media platforms.