Melissa Biggs Bradley might just be living the dream. The founder of Indagare—the New York–based service that has several times been named one of America’s fastest growing companies—turned a passion for travel into a lucrative business when she launched her members-only agency in 2007. But she’s not just planning trips around the world. This globetrotter is building one of the biggest and most successful names in all of travel. (Want proof? Last year, Indagare’s revenue was $21.1 million.) Muse recently caught up with the entrepreneur for a peek inside her life—what makes her tick, what keeps her going, and how she manages the work-life balance.
What time do you wake up in the morning?
How many hours of sleep do you have per night?
Coffee or tea?
First thing you do when you get to the office?
Meetings. I do my thoughtful writing in the morning at home before I leave for work.
What’s the one thing you have to do every day to stay sane?
Meditate—first thing every morning.
What’s your biggest pet peeve at work?
How long should a meeting last?
Email, phone, or text?
Email 90 percent of the time; phone 10 percent of the time, because some things have to be said in person; and text only for my family.
Do you make to-do lists?
Yes—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.
Who was your biggest mentor in your professional career?
My husband has been my biggest mentor in my professional career, which is often a surprising one. But he has given me throughout my career incredibly good advice.
What has been your biggest success?
My biggest success is in building a company where I think everybody should love to work. We have a culture where we have a super-inclusive, collaborative, trusting environment—and that wasn’t easy. That was one of the hardest things. But definitely building a culture where I love to come to work every day, and it really promotes personal and professional growth for everybody who’s here.
Your biggest failure?
My biggest failure is probably feeling that you should be able to master the work-life balance when I know you can’t.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and who was it from?
It was from my husband and that was when we first raised funding and he told me that I had to hire somebody who had all the strengths that were my weaknesses.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
That you have to manage your own career. No one is going to take care of it for you, and the sooner you’re strategic and really make those long-term goals, the better off you are.
The other thing that I would say that’s good advice that I’ve given is that you should find mentors. And the way to find mentors is not necessarily to look in the obvious places at work, but being courageous enough to have vulnerable conversations with people. I’ve gone on hiking trips and happened to tell somebody about what was hard in my life, often professionally, and sometimes personally, and had incredible mentors appear along the trail—literally and figuratively—just because I was willing to say what was difficult for me.