Written By: Lee Zanello, Flight Centre
It is November, 2021 and as I sit here about to dictate our next five year plan to my iBot I am having a hard time explaining to him exactly why I am so happy. He keeps tapping his foot impatiently, waiting for me to say my next sentences and he is getting frustrated when I tell him to go back and erase the last few sentences. The Apple iBots can be so sensitive… maybe it’s time to buy an Android Android? I better just write this story out the old fashioned way, with my holo-pen.
When I look back on the last five years of this business the main thing that jumps out at me is that I can now recognize how important a year 2016 was. After eight years existing as an individual business within Flight Centre Canada, in 2016 we really started to emerge as our own separate brand in the host agency marketplace, focused on giving our agents the best of both worlds.
The strength of our brand is founded , first and foremost, in our passion and care about delivering amazing travel experiences.
This care rippled through all of our associates as well as our head office support teams as we all came together in service and recognition of the fact that the work we do is important. We help people see the world and experience new cultures. We help broaden their horizons, expand their awareness of the world around them and help them grow. And we connect people.
When you are sitting in the arrivals lounge, waiting for someone you care about, you see reunions happening all around you. Emotional hugs and embraces, tears of joy, of happiness. Families and loved ones reunited. I love the arrivals lounge.
Those people are in that airport because we put them there.
We were the ones who sold them the ticket and the people who ticketed it. We were the ones who helped make that customer experience and transaction a smooth and memorable one. We were the ones who were there for help and support along the way. We were the ones who helped that customer connect with us in the first place, through our marketing and promotions. We were the ones who RAN A BUSINESS that our customers appreciated and gave their hard-earned money to in order to travel.
The work we do is important.
In November of 2016 many of us came together as a team in Los Cabos for our annual conference to celebrate that fact and to celebrate the best in our business at our Annual Gala Awards. As always, Flight Centre’s Preferred Partners were right there with us in full support. This conference was once again proof that an independent agent can take advantage of all of the top tier commissions and benefits of a Global Travel Group, but receive the direct support and attention they need to run their own individual profitable businesses. Truly, the best of both worlds.
In 2016 our technological systems had finally caught up to our dreams and we were set on the path of making the lives of agents easier and more productive. We introduced new software that makes booking flights, hotels and other products simpler, while setting the stage for further integration and simplicity of systems to develop. We had our own “tech revolution” and our Associates now are better off for it.
Flight Centre’s Marketing exploded in the Canadian Marketplace in 2016 with national exposure featuring easy to understand and simple deals. Associates were able to capitalize on being associated with such a strong consumer brand, recognized across the country, by offering their clients FC Marketing collateral that matched the FC brand up with their own business. They were also able to take advantage of the savings they could pass onto their clients that were funded fully by FCA and not out of their own individual business.
I think of the over 750 agents we now have in 2021 and I look back and love that we never lost sight of what made this business so successful in the first place. The flexibility of being an associate has never once been lost or compromised. The same reasons people came to us from the start are the same reasons they come to us now – some come to us to be engaged as their full livelihood and some come to us to have a side business they can devote as little or as much time to as they like.
The core heart of this business and looking after our agents has not ever been forgotten – in fact, with constantly keeping competitive in commissions, offering professional development and support in growing their businesses and offering incentives for preferred product sales and longevity with the program, we have attracted many of our current agents away from competing agencies. The care, love and support that our agents get is second to none and is largely responsible for such growth.
The way our business has handled itself with integrity is also key to our success. We have shied away from the secret handshake deals that are so prevalent in the host agency industry and believe that people should be fairly rewarded for the results they produce. We do not believe in “buying” agents and we are a transparent host to work with, and agents have appreciated that they can easily see what is on offer and they find that the integrity, honesty and transparency with which we act falls in line with their own core beliefs.
The fact that we have always held strong that there is no contract term length in place is one of the key aspects that has made us a better host for our agents. We have never relied on contract fine print to retain our agents, as they only need to give 60 days notice should they ever want to move agencies. Having this in place forces us to work extra hard to ensure we are providing the best host experience for our agents and our retention within the marketplace has been a whopping 95% over the last five years.
Our people are happy and they feel at once independent but also a part of something larger than themselves. Our regular trainings and internal communication systems have allowed people to network and form real bonds and friendships across every province and territory in the country. Back in 2016 we more strictly adopted Flight Centre’s strategy of Family, Village and Tribe with the implementation of regional leaders so that our agents can feel a part of both smaller, local teams as well as part of a larger provincial and national structure. Once again, the best of both worlds.
In 2018 we celebrated our tenth birthday by officially reaching the milestone of having over 400 agents in our family and in the last three years have now brought that number up to over 750. Our FCA dedicated support team has grown so that our Associates still feel loved, supported and listened to and our agents still have the direct access of many of Flight Centre’s other support divisions who help run the nation’s retail stores. Support, as it always has been, is everywhere and our agents never feel alone.
Looking back to 2016 I can’t believe we’ve been able to achieve all of this in just five short years… and now it’s time to dream up what will happen in the next five!
The holo-pen needs to be plugged in now though… I wonder if my iBot is still temperamental and ready to go or if he’s going to just sit there wanting to keep playing Candy Crush. Yep, that’s still a thing in 2021, too. 😉