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Book Synopsis

Driving With No Brakes is a fascinating, inspirational book about how two courageous leaders built a remarkable company that can thrive in change and succeed in an unpredictable world.

The book offers important lessons for any business leader trying to create value in the 21st century.

In Driving With No Brakes, Alan and Harriet Lewis, owners of Grand Circle Corporation, reflect on the company’s successes and failures and highlight important business strategies that have propelled it to be held by many as the world’s best travel company. Through the lens of Grand Circle, they demonstrate how they were able to achieve sustained business success amidst the tumultuous and highly competitive travel industry by fostering a values-based organization that embraces risk while maintaining focus on people and social mission.

In 1986, shortly after Alan and Harriet Lewis bought Grand Circle Travel, a competitor remarked that there was no way a bunch of hooligans from Boston could run a worldwide travel business. At the time, Grand Circle was a travel company with one office, $27 million in sales, and was losing more than $2 million a year. Twenty-five years later, Grand Circle has grown nearly 20 percent per year into a highly profitable company with annual sales in excess of $600 million. The company owns or charters 60 ships, operates 80 trips in 100 countries, and employs 2,300 people in more than 30 offices worldwide. With social mission tightly woven into Grand Circle’s business strategy, the company has donated or pledged more than $47 million to educational, humanitarian, and cultural organizations worldwide since 1992.

Grand Circle is beloved by its customers (American travelers), more than 125,000 of whom travel with Grand Circle Travel and its affiliate, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), each year. The company has served more than 1.5 million travelers over the years and prospered through more than 300 crises, including the September 11 attacks, the rise of online competitors, and ongoing global political, economic, and environmental challenges. Despite it all, Grand Circle continues to increase its profitability and grow at a rate of nearly 20 percent per year.

It has been a wild ride, and there were times when Alan and Harriet were literally driving with no brakes. This book tells the story of Grand Circle and of a remarkable couple’s dream to build a company that would help change people’s lives—and of the long, hard, and fun-filled journey they took to get there.

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