HOW THE GENERATION GAP WORKS FOR US

Vicky is 57, Isabella 26. And somehow it’s a business partnership made in heaven.

Vicky Mayer and Isabella Sullivan are co-founders of railwaytraveller.com, a new travel site that helps holidaymakers find the best train trips in the UK and around the world.

They had previously worked together on World of Cruising magazine, and when Vicky was made redundant from her position as Editor of the magazine in late summer 2020, they decided to work together to launch their business. Using their time in furlough and locked-down days, they worked remotely and launched the site in September 2020.

Though they were close-working colleagues in their previous job, Vicky is 57 and Isabella is 26 which makes their working relationship interesting – and for both of them, rewarding. Here’s their story –

Vicky

‘Since the day I hired Isabella as my deputy in my previous job, we’ve got on famously. Yes, there’s a massive 31-year gap between us but we share a lot in common, including a passion for travel, cocktails and fantastic train journeys.

Our working relationship was always great and we’d always toyed with the idea of setting up a business together that celebrates all that’s great about travelling by train. But at the time we both had demanding full-time jobs so our idea was put on the back burner.

Then the Covid crisis happened and the furlough system suddenly gave us time on our hands. In the first week of furlough in a 10-minute zoom chat, we decided to start our business together – this time not as a boss and deputy but as equal business partners. I was adamant this was the way we had to work together to ensure that things would always be fair and transparent.

Throughout my 35-year career, I had always been a print journalist so moving over to an entirely digital platform where social media is now part of my working day, was a huge leap for me.

Having worked so closely together in our previous job, Isabella knew how little I knew about the digital side of our business, but she was still willing to launch the site with me. I will always be grateful for her for taking such a leap of faith.

To begin with, I relied on her very heavily as she’s a digital native and at home with everything from WordPress to twitter handles. But slowly but surely, she showed me the ropes at a speed that worked for me, and I am learning the (digital) trade every day.

I love the fact that at 57, I am starting over again. A lot of what I’m doing is very familiar – doing interviews/gathering news/building relationships with PRs and CEOs – but the unfamiliar is the fun stuff. At first, I thought I couldn’t do anything digital, but Isabella has been the most patient teacher in the world.

I think it’s worked for us because we already knew each other very well and got on famously as friends as well as colleagues. And by being equal partners right from the beginning, we are very honest with one another about what’s going right (and wrong) with our business.

Working on an equal level with someone so much younger than myself has been brilliant. Because she’s still in her twenties, Isabella brings a lot of energy and a fresh, modern perspective to our business – and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Finding a business partner can be difficult and ours is unusual because of our age-gap, but I think we’re a good example how a great friendship and a common goal can overcome the years between you.

Isabella

‘As we’re laughing, cup of tea (or rather, glass of wine), in hand, it’s quite hard to believe there’s a 31-year age gap between Vicky and I; in fact, she’s older than my mum. In all honesty it’s something I completely forget as we get along famously in both a professional and personal capacity, and I often find myself calling her about work and we end up nattering away for aeons.

From the moment Vicky hired me we clicked, we had the same vision for World of Cruising and working together was a breeze. We became fast friends as well as editor and deputy, and I deeply respected and admired her. So, when Vicky called me, a week into the pandemic and suggested we go full steam ahead with the idea we’d toyed with, I jumped at the chance to work with her in a more personal capacity.

At first, we mapped out the challenges. The main one was immersing Vicky in the world of digital – SEO, keywords, using platforms like Google Trends and SemRush were all going to be a big part of our project. The beauty of it was we were in the middle of a pandemic, and all we had was time on our hands…

What followed were months of WordPress masterclasses (shout out to Zoom share-screening) and tutoring sessions on various aspects of running the site. When we worked together at World of Cruising, Vicky always took the time to teach me new skills, develop me and include me on projects, something I hugely appreciated, so I was delighted to be able to return the favour.

The beauty of working with someone of a different age is you see things differently, you both have your own strengths, weaknesses, outlooks, experiences and expertise and it comes together to create a stronger, more well-rounded team. My career has seen me surrounded by journalists of a similar age, often digital focused and rarely bringing in ideas and formulas from print. Vicky’s incredible career in print magazines gave the gloss the site needed.

Embarking on this new and exciting project with someone of a different generation has been totally refreshing, allowing us to bounce ideas off each other, challenge each other and see a completely different perspective. While I push for SEO-heavy, keyword-inspired features driven by trends and data, Vicky looks far ahead, plans the schedule in a similar way to how she would a print magazine and uses her journalistic instinct to acquire interviews and suss out stories. Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve questioned a story Vicky has filed, wondering if people would read it (not a strong keyword), buy they’ve been like gold, boosted traffic and hiked up our figures for the month – and the same goes for social media. I honestly believe it’s our differences, more than similarities, that make working with someone outside our own generation so rewarding. If we ever get an intern, they’ll have to be in their teens.

For more information go to RailwayTraveller.com.