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Oshkosh business owner recognized for mentoring, elevating women in business

Chip Juedes awarded Best Male Mentor by the Global Business Travel Association

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November 13, 2023

OSHKOSH – Women continue to make their mark in corporate America – including right here in Northeast Wisconsin.

One area CEO is doing what he can to support women reach whatever heights they aspire to – efforts that were recently recognized.

Chip Juedes, owner and CEO of Oshkosh-based Fox World Travel, was recently awarded the 2023 Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) WINiT Individual Award for Best Male Mentor or Coach – for helping elevate women in business.

Juedes is one of 12 individual and group winners recognized by WINiT by GBTA – a global network of more than 3,000 women and men focused on driving positive change for the career mobility of women in travel-related industries.

Juedes said it is an honor to receive “this prestigious award.”

“(It) is a testament to both my upbringing and watching my father hire many extremely talented women at Fox World Travel, which has led to the success we have seen today,” he said. “I am a firm believer in surrounding myself with those smarter than me, regardless of race, gender or orientation, and I am honored to have some of the best and brightest in the travel industry calling Fox their home as we look ahead to a strong future together.”

What makes a GBTA winner?
According to GBTA, the award – which Juedes was nominated for by Fox Chief Operating Officer Beth Marino – recognizes male mentors or leaders who are making a “determined effort to elevate women through mentorship and coaching.”

“He is devoted to empowering and promoting women at our organization and across the travel industry,” Marino said. “He serves as a strong ally for women, ensuring our voices are heard across the organization and fostering a culture of mutual support and collaboration. His dedication to elevating women is illustrated by the sheer number of women leaders at our organization, as 60% of our executive team and 74% of all leaders at our organization are women.”

Marino said Juedes has created an environment where women can grow and succeed.

“Not just have a seat at the table, but also a voice and, most importantly, are listened to,” she said.

Under Juedes’ leadership, Fox World Travel was honored by WINiT in 2021 for Creating a Company Culture for Women to Advance and Succeed.

Marino, herself, was the 2021 recipient of the Top 50 Women in Travel award at the annual WINiT Gala.  

More than just numbers
Juedes said his passion for elevating his team goes beyond statistics and recognition – actively promoting female team members to key positions.

He said he has also invested significantly in leadership coaching, dedicating several hours weekly to individual and team elevation, with more than a dozen female leaders benefiting from this coaching since 2018.

The 43-year-old Juedes said it was a true honor to be recognized in this way. 

“It’s most appreciated because it was unexpected,” he said. “I knew I’d been nominated, but I didn’t believe that simply doing the right thing – which is my leadership style, and every decision I make is based on what the right thing to do is in any given situation – would lead me to be recognized (this way).”

Chip Juedes is the owner and CEO of Fox World Travel, which is based in Oshkosh. Submitted Photo

Juedes said doing the right thing in business means leading in a way that allows others to rise. 

“I’m not doing anything for the recognition, but rather the true investment in others and their success,” he said. “I was taught early to recognize the value of diverse perspectives and simply to do what is right, which in my case means filling many of our leadership roles at Fox with some remarkable women and providing them the tools and coaching to soar.”

Juedes said he has three basic tenets to his leadership philosophy: vulnerability, authenticity and transparency.

“I’m the same person in one of our board meetings with our executive team as I am on a date with my wife or at home (playing) with my kids,” he said. “There’s not three different versions of Chip,” he said. “That’s the same at all levels of the organization – whether I’m talking to an executive team member or an aspiring manager. They get the same version of me as everyone else.”

Juedes said those leadership tenets are encouraged company-wide and are ever-present in his weekly newsletter to staff and associates.

“That’s the type of leadership we look for here at Fox and promote from within those who are willing to show these qualities as they grow within the organization,” he said.

Humble, grass-roots beginnings
A third-generation, privately-held business, Fox World Travel began as Fox Valley Travel in 1960, by Juedes’ paternal grandfather, Harold Juedes.

Chip Juedes said his grandfather had been a travel agent at a different company, but decided to go out on his own.

David Juedes (Chip’s father) joined his father in the business in 1973. 

Harold died unexpectedly in 1979.

Soon after, 29-year-old David bought the company from his family and served as its president for 35-plus years.  

In 2016, David Juedes went from president to executive chairman – a position he still holds today – and Chip became CEO.

Chip Juedes said he’s in the process of purchasing the company from his father. 

“It’s been my dream to work at Fox since I was a child,” he said. “When we were little, we’d play ‘town’ – my sister would be the grocery store, my brother would be the bike repair shop and I’d be the travel agent. Dad would bring home the old paper tickets that were used back in the day and I’d send my brother and sister on fictitious trips around the world. So, it’s kind of a dream come true to be standing in the office I am today, both as owner and CEO of Fox.”

The name changed from Fox Valley Travel to Fox World Travel in approximately 2000-01.

Juedes said something unique about the company is that he, his father and grandfather all started in the travel industry as frontline agents.

“It wasn’t a situation where we came in as owners of the company and didn’t sit in all the chairs or stand in all the shoes of everyone who has worked in the different positions we have today,” he said.

Juedes said because they have worked in every job at the company, they understand what’s involved in each role and know what it takes to successfully perform each job and the type of individual each job requires.

Fox’s first executive team was created in 2016 – which Juedes said happened around the same time the company began investing time and money in executive coaching.

“It’s now expanded to more than a dozen of our leaders at Fox receiving monthly coaching, which has helped us further our culture, develop a common language and build that trust and transparency as we go forward as an organization and as we continue to grow throughout the country,” he said.

Growth has quadrupled over the years
The business, which Juedes said started with one office and a few agents/associates, has seen significant growth since 1960.

Today, it has six physical locations throughout Wisconsin that primarily sell vacation travel – with a total of 325 to 330 associates in approximately 22 states who work remotely.

Juedes said the company had about 300 pre-pandemic associates – many of whom are in the company’s business travel division, the largest arm of their business.  

“We doubled the size of our business twice already before COVID, from $100 million to $200 million in sales, and then again from $250 million to $500 million,” he said. “We have an active plan which will double the size of our business again by 2030, across all three of our business lines – business travel, vacation travel and meeting and incentives.” 

As any business leader knows, Juedes said success is often accompanied by a few roadblocks along the way.

One of the biggest roadblocks for Fox, he said, came in 2020 in the way of COVID-19.

With travel considered non-essential, Juedes said the industry took a huge hit. 

“Within the first week, we saw an 85% reduction in our sales and that held steady for the better part of about two years,” he said.  

Though Fox World Travel was able to make it through and bounce back, Juedes said “seeing your business disappear like that in essentially just several days” was tough.

“And while the vulnerability, transparency and authenticity were created before, and not because of the pandemic, we leaned into those things even more,” he said. “There’s a trust that comes with those things.”

Throughout it all, Juedes said he remained open and honest with Fox World Travel associates.

“It may not always be the most fun to hear, but the reality is there aren’t going to be surprises at the end of the day where something happens or we suddenly make a decision about something that wasn’t at least discussed openly before it,” he said.

Though maximizing profit and efficiency are critical aspects of a business, Juedes said he’s never been as happy at the helm of the company as he is today because he knows conversations are taking place and people are being mentored and coached to be the best they can be. 

“It’s always about qualitative instead of quantitative decisions,” he said. “As I look at our value proposition, we pride ourselves on being an authentic organization – whether that’s in our relationships with our customers, with each other, our outcomes or our expectations.”

In that respect, Juedes said, “to me the future is bright.”

“I’ve never been more bullish about our future or the industry’s future, and our ability to grow at a better pace than the industry overall, which is what we continue to see year in and year out,” he said. “I believe that’s a result of the decisions we make and the leadership we have and the way we’re leading the organization – and that’s the entire leadership team, not just myself.”

Gaining national recognition
Earlier this year, Fox World Travel was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of America’s Best Small Employers.

Juedes said Fox’s philosophy of putting people first and going above and beyond for its clients and associates has earned the company a spot on the Travel Weekly Power List and a reputation as a top travel company in the country.

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