Chasing Ghosts is Hard Work

Making the hard choice and putting in the work is easier said than done. Every day we are faced with the prospect of cutting corners or taking the easy way out. But eventually, those small decisions, whether good or bad end up having a huge effect on the work we do and the lives we lead. Michael Jensen is a man that doesn’t compromise when it comes to his work. He is the co-owner and operator of Haunted Key West Tours, an award-winning ghost tour in Key West, Florida. And you don’t have to be a paranormal medium to decipher his keys to success

Michael Jensen

Jensen has successfully managed a variety of businesses in his career. He discovered Haunted Key West Tours because he wanted to go on his first ghost tour. The company needed a remote camera installed so he offered to do it for $50 and a free tour. “I’m up there doing the install, and while I’m up on the ladder, the owner is saying they needed another tour guide,” Jensen laughs while remembering that day. “And I’m jumping up and down on the ladder saying pick me, pick me, I want to be a tour guide.”

Eventually, Jensen used his management skills to take over the day-to-day operations. This year he was made a co-owner after overhauling the business and producing tremendous growth. That success comes from putting in the work every day. This includes his most important piece of advice for fellow operators: Become involved in your local community.

“Operators have to remember that the contacts in the town they’re in are more important than anything else,” Jensen explains. “They can get a ton of advertising on the web, but if they aren’t members of the chamber of commerce or business guilds it won’t matter. I go to those meetings religiously every month and pay my dues.”

Competitors as Partners

It may not be glamorous sitting in a chamber of commerce meeting on a Tuesday evening, but those connections forged in a community can be the difference between a successful business or bankruptcy. And the word of mouth garnered from those meetings can mean gaining customers from sources you might not have ever thought of. Jensen explains that he’s become friends with a competing ghost tour, and when they’re sold out or closed they refer customers to their competitor and the other tour does the same. He says that it’s the right way to do business, to help each other out.

Making the right choice has also extended into how he treats his employees. “We pay very well. Most of our employees have been here for years. You have to treat your employees well, you have to be there for them.” Last year Hurricane Irma caused the company to shut down for the entire month of September. He chose to pay the employees how much they would have earned as well as adding in tips. That certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right thing for his employees.

But this dedication to making the right choice has resulted in revenue growth of 142% from four years ago for Haunted Key West Tours. They were also named a top-10 fastest growing ghost tour in the country by Good Morning America and ABC News. It might take a while, but hard work will always pay off. Fortunately for Michael Jensen, he didn’t have to wait until the afterlife to reap those benefits.

Editor’s note: The ghosts were unavailable for comment for this story.

Peter Gietl