Meet Georgette Blau, President and founder at On Location Tours, the largest TV and movie tour company in the world. It has the Sex and the City excursion, the Gossip Girl circuit, among others. She is the founder of the Association of Tours for Television and Movies (ATTAM), an organization that represents companies around the world that provide television and movie expeditions.
Who is Georgette? define yourself
How were you as a kid?
I was always very creative and “right brained” as a kid. I loved reading and using my imagination. I had a wonderful childhood.
You are a graduate of Skidmore College in Historic Preservation (with an emphasis on Early American Architecture) why did you choose this course of study?
I went into college to study Creative Writing, which I ended up majoring in, but I became enamored with the early Dutch buildings in Upstate New York near my college. I was fascinated by the idea that you could visit or live in a space where someone lived hundreds of years before you. Of course, this study has helped me a bit with my business!
“The recipe for my success is finishing what I started to do, staying strict to what I do, always pushing forward”
You founded in 1999 On Location Tours, one of the world’s largest TV and movie locations tour companies with tours in Boston and New York City, where did this idea come from?
I was walking up the street one day when I first moved to New York (into the Upper East Side of Manhattan) and passed an apartment building from a famous American TV show. I became obsessed with visiting TV and movie locations, such as the building from Friends.
On-Location Tours is the Concierge Choice Award Winner for Sightseeing and Tours, You sit on the board of the Norwalk, CT Preservation Trust, The company, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, runs the NYC TV & Movie Tour, the Sex and the City Hotspots tour, the Gossip Girl Sites tour, the Sopranos Sites Tour, TCM Classic Film Tour, the When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour along with the Central Park TV & Movie Sites and Boston Movie Mile walking tours, what´s the recipe of your success?
The recipe for my success is finishing what I started to do, staying strict to what I do, always pushing forward, and never sacrificing the quality over quantity.
You offer 2 tours of iconic series for the fashion industry: The Sex and the City Hotspots tour, the Gossip Girl tour, are you a fashionista or were you a fan of the series? any anecdote, or experiences of the tourists that you share with us?
I was a fan of Sex and the City, but it’s not why I started the tours. These tours were started several years after I started the company, and I just thought they were a perfect fit for a location tour (we have a special formula that dictates this). In addition, I especially loved the feeling of being like one of the characters at some of the locations, and this worked great for these shows. On a side note, it’s interesting that these two shows shared the same fashion designer!
One funny anecdote from years ago on our Sex and the City tour was when everyone saw the actor Kyle Maclachlan at one of the locations and instead of being nice to him, were upset at how he (as the character Trey) had treated Charlotte on the show. (And yes, it was about 52 women from the tour surrounding him!) In addition, the Sex and the City tour is one of the most reviewed attractions/tours in the world! We also have a great time with the Gossip Girl and other tours when people seem to know every line from the show (this seems to happen a lot on our Sopranos tour).
“The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is to delegate. The first few years of my business, I was trying to do everything, and it became what was “safe” or what I knew, but didn’t help grow my business”
What does a normal workday look like for you?
A normal workday includes overseeing the Operations of the company, the Marketing (my favorite part!), and the Sales. It’s a combination of dealing with the media, cross promotions, larger deals, seeing who we can research lead generation wise and reach out to, and improving our day-to-day Operations.
What do you love most about your job as president of your own company?
When I first started my company, I decided I wanted to build things toward me someday being able to be home with my kids a couple of times a week. I love having the freedom to do that (but it did take many years and a lot of hard work!).
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is to delegate. The first few years of my business, I was trying to do everything, and it became what was “safe” or what I knew, but didn’t help grow my business. Even if someone cannot afford an employee right away, try to hire a part time worker or an eager intern.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I take time and care with hiring my employees, whether it’s full time, part time, or tour guides. As a result of that, we have the best team around! It takes more time up front, but is worth it long-term.
“ I am a big believer in there being too much emphasis on gender, for example, there shouldn’t be so much importance placed on if a company is owned by a man or a woman, as long as they are running it the best way they can”
What is one strategy that has it helped you grow your business?
I sacrificed getting extra business by 1) staying niche and turning away things like general history tours of New York City, since that’s not what we do, and 2) making sure that we didn’t run tours without the highest quality of tour guides, which took a lot of interviewing time!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love two things that sound just alike—riding my bike, and writing. In general, I love being outside in nature.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you have a husband Yoav, 2 kids: Benjamin and Zoe, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
Being a mother has taught me to work more efficiently with the little time I have to work. I think having it all means half this and half that, but it takes a lot of disciplining and separating things out, even if just in the mind. I do feel like I’m running all of the time, and I am trying to figure out how to lessen that so I can fully enjoy every aspect of life.
How is Georgette as a mom and wife?
I really try to present as a mom and wife and try to leave my cell phone and work, etc. away while I’m spending time with my kids, for example. I try to separate home life and work life.
What situation marked your life in a way that prompted you to be who you are today?
I can’t really say situation, but more my childhood, and how supportive my parents always were, really helped me to feel free to develop a company.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to be in three or so more cities in the next five years. I also have “offshoots” of On Location Tours that I would love to develop.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented with the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I thankfully never had a lot of challenges as a woman owned business. There were a few times where I used to joke that I needed who I called “Mr. Pinstripe” (as in a man in a pinstripe suit) to come in and manage things or negotiate, since it may seem stronger. I am a big believer in there being too much emphasis on gender, for example, there shouldn’t be so much importance placed on if a company is owned by a man or a woman, as long as they are running it the best way they can. In addition, I feel like the opportunities for women owned businesses are much better than they used to be.
What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become an entrepreneur in the entertainment/ tourism sector like you?
As we can see from the current state of things in the world, tourism, as fun as it is, is sometimes a risky field to go into. With entertainment, it depends. The entertainment field is so vast. For entrepreneurship in general, I say to learn all of the hats but not to wear them. I wore all of the hats for so long that I didn’t focus on developing my company and pushing it forward.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are, and what do you (professionally) with this idea in mind, what is being Georgette, and what´s not?
I think as a businesswoman people expect someone who either “acts like a man” or is very strong personality wise and not warm. I would say I’m more on the sensitive side. I am a “driver” in the sense that I can drive business forward, but I try to be on the warmer, more personal side as I am doing it. I am a big believer in liking the people who work for you/with you, since you are generally spending more time with them than you are your own family!
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
I really admire my mother, who is such a survivor on so many levels and such a strong person. She always taught us how to conserve, how to use etiquette, and how to appreciate the smaller things in life. From a business perspective, I admire Sharon Osbourne, who is very much of a go getter, and is able to use a direct, straightforward, but warm style in her management.
Name: Georgette Blau
Sector: Entertainment/ tourism
Company: On Location Tours
Designation: President and founder