Peter Slowe Interview – The Man Who Made Volunteering Abroad Easy
In the days before the internet, smart phones and budget airlines, an English University Professor and some overseas colleagues had an idea:
What if young people could become international volunteers?
What is more – what if they could learn new skills and contribute to communities at the same time. That was over 25 years ago and that English University Professor – Mr Peter Slowe has never looked back.
Peter Slowe is the founder of Projects Abroad – an international company that these days helps people of all ages (not just young people) to Volunteer Abroad
Peter Slowe – The Man Who Made It Easy To Volunteer Internationally
We are honored to have Peter as an interviewee – as you will note he is a modest man. A modest man who has created a company that is improving the lives of many people around the world. Peter Slowe is one of the finest examples of an entrepreneur who has created a valuable business while helping others. Peter is not your usual entrepreneur – as you will see from some of the answers he has provided.
Thank you Peter for all that you contribute. We appreciate you answering these questions.
1) Firstly Peter – Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
I am the founder of Projects Abroad – the world’s largest international volunteering and internship provider.
We have existed for over 25 years and have sent over 115,000 people on incredible projects throughout the world. On average we help around 5,000 young people a year from developed countries, to work for between a week and six months in developing countries. Our mission is to provide the gold standard of support and safety, so our volunteers and interns so they can fulfill their potential, discover themselves and create positive change in the world.
2) You are currently living what I call the Internet Lifestyle, what does the Internet Lifestyle mean to you?
I’m lucky to have a job which enables me to travel to do interesting and worthwhile work in exciting countries. I’m not sure that my lifestyle is really an Internet Lifestyle. The Internet is an important working tool for me as for most of us nowadays, but that’s about it. We have an IT Department though and they’re developing new things all the time.
3) Ever year your business allows you to travel to dozens of countries around the world, what is it like working on the road?
I usually try and get through several good books when I’m traveling, especially at airports and on long journeys; you go mad if you try to work all the time. Also, you need to sleep a lot because otherwise the jet-lag gets to you. Of course, I do work on the road as well – I’m answering you from India after all, and nowadays in business we just expect to be able to communicate with everyone from everywhere – it’s the single big business change of the last two decades.
The Projects Abroad Team Arrange Volunteering Trips Around the World
4) The Internet Lifestyle allows you to work any hours you like, what’s the biggest benefit of this for you?
I’m not sure about this. You still have to work basically when other people work, and I’m not one for working lots of evenings and weekends unless there’s something major happening.
5) Your business model makes money by helping people, what for you, has been the highlight of building a successful volunteering abroad organization?
It’s desperately difficult to choose one thing. I suppose you’d have to generalize and say something about bringing people and cultures together which I think is massively important in the 21st century. But I’ll also pick our wildlife reserve in the Amazon rain-forest, our clinic in a South Indian village, and our housing project for villagers in rural Ghana.
6) What would you say is the biggest reason for your entrepreneurial success?
We respect our customers, the young people who pay us to work to help others and for their own self-development; they’re brilliant, exciting and interesting people, and we try to meet their requirements for work, try to fit in with the time they have available, and so on . And we respect our partners in the developing world. We really spend our time trying to match the skills, aims and interests of our volunteers to the needs of our partners. We care about what we do and we believe in its value.
You are known as the authority website in the Gap Year niche…
7) What advice would you give new webmasters wishing to dominating their niche?
Think about your customers all the time. Empathize with them!
8) I understand that you have been offered a large amount of money for your company, how come you turned it down and didn’t retire?
What am I going to do? Play golf all day? I think I can double or treble what we’re doing in the next few years.
9) What advice would you give to people just starting out with an online business?
Know your customers. Concentrate on work that you enjoy doing. Make sure you leave enough time to do non-work activity – sport, reading, drinking …
10) You have created a remarkable business by doing good – what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are inspired to follow your example?
I was lucky to have a business which has done good – The really important thing, however, is that you enjoy whatever business you’re setting up. You need to enjoy the work because you’ll inevitably spend an awful lot of time doing it.
11) If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what advice would you give yourself regarding making money online?
Remember that you’ll make mistakes which will cost time and money. It’s a racing certainty! So charge enough money to make sure you have enough reserves to carry on regardless.
12) What is the most important piece of advice you would give someone setting up a new business?
Get other people to help in the areas you don’t know much about. In my case, this was especially about financial matters. For others it might be sales techniques or marketing.
13) Do you have a business book or teacher that you recommend?
This may surprise you, but generally I think a lot of business books and self-improvement books are a waste of time.
My advice: read lots of good novels. This will really help with the inevitably huge amount of content and emails you’ll probably end up having to write. I prefer people who are interested intellectually in history, geography, literature or the arts, rather than business.
14) What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have ever been given?
One fundamental one:
Always remember your mission. Believe!
And one other:
When you start to do well, don’t relax. Innovate!
15) Do you have a Philosophy of life that you would like to share?
My philosophy of life is based on my Old Testament Judaism. We might have some life hereafter – I hope so – but equally this life might well be the only one we get. Plan very carefully so you have time for both business and personal life. The balance won’t happen unless you plan – and occasionally kick back against the relentless demands of business.
I agree with Rabbi Kushner who said that:
No one on their deathbed had ever wished that they’d spent more time at the office
16) Do you have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us?
Sure. We are always doing a lot of new things. This year, we’re starting in Japan, Israel and Sweden for recruiting volunteers and in Tanzania and Fiji as destinations. We’ve opened a community centre in Sri Lanka, a mobile clinic in Mongolia, a human rights centre in Cape Town – and lots of other things. We keep innovating. This afternoon, we’re working on our new online magazine here in India..
My lifetime goal is to have done some things that have improved people’s lives and which I have enjoyed doing. I don’t want to sound sanctimonious but I’ve got enough money. If we make some profit in a good year, that’s great and we’ll re-invest most of it and keep a little back as a reserve.
I like living comfortably but I have absolutely no ambition to own a Ferrari or to swathe my wife in diamonds – though she looks nice in one or two small diamonds …
17) Finally, what is the best way for our readers or potential volunteers to contact you?
For people who wish to consider volunteering abroad then this specific Volunteer Abroad Information Page is probably the best place to start.