Interview By : Andy Ogg, Editor for Travel Professional NEWS
Interviewing: Lynn Clark, Vice President and Owner, Travel Leaders / Journeys Travel Group
Lynn, it’s great to catch up with you and thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your business.
Can you share a bit of history on your role in the Travel Industry?
For 24 years I have held marketing leadership roles on various sides of the travel industry including suppliers (Walt Disney Travel Company and The Mark Travel Corporation), distributors (Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Travel Leaders) and technology providers (Trisept Solutions – VAX VacationAccess and Xcelerator).
What led to your decision to depart from your role as VP of Marketing and Business Development from Trisept Solutions?
Business ownership has always been a dream of mine. When the opportunity to buy-into Travel Leaders/Journeys Travel Group presented itself, I knew it was the right path for me. It allowed me to stay in the travel industry and in Milwaukee, both criteria were important to me.
What valuable lessons did you learn at Trisept Solutions that you are finding helpful in your new business?
While at Trisept Solutions I was responsible for the marketing, training and business development of VAX VacationAccess and Xcelerator. That role enabled me to engage with travel agents on a weekly basis. Understanding their needs and challenges put me in the right frame of mind to start leading a mid-sized travel agency.
How has business ownership been for you thus far?
Awesome! It has been six months and I can’t believe how fast it has gone. Every day is different and I’m constantly learning. I feel like a human sponge! It is exciting to brainstorm an idea, execute it and begin seeing the impact to the business.
One example of this is the Switch Program. Like all businesses our goal is to grow but to attain growth we need additional bench strength. There are very few travel agents looking for work so we had to get creative in how to develop a pipeline of new talent. Annette and I developed the idea for a training class that combined our industry experience with resources from The Travel Institute to create a 50-hour curriculum. Knowing that most participants would be switching industries we named the class Switch. Next up, we found participants through job boards. After 20 interviews we offered the class to eight candidates and five accepted. Of the five participants we offered employment to three of them (and they accepted!). We will definitely offer Switch in the future to continue building our team.
Can you share a bit of information about Journeys Travel Group?
In 1976 my business partner, Annette Youngbauer, founded Travel Leaders/Journeys Travel Group since then we have been assisting travelers from SE Wisconsin and all over the U.S. with their vacation, business and group travel needs. Currently, we have four locations and 24 employees including vacation and business travel advisors that have, on average, 20+ years of experience and many of them have been with us their entire career. We also have a handful of Independent Contractors.
What suppliers are you seeing the best success with at Journeys Travel Group as of late?
Globus and Avalon River Cruise – We have amazing support from our local reps and their leadership at Globus and Avalon. Whether it’s training for our agents, marketing support or local events we know that we can count on them. The biggest success has been with the local events. We easily close 2-3 sales per event.
The Mark Travel Corporation – The team at TMTC supports us in many ways but, the latest commitment has been to the six new team members we recently hired. TMTC offered a series of training sessions to get our team members educated on the products and tools that they offer. It is a huge help to have TMTC training on those items vs. me!
With your experience on the supplier side and now running a travel agency, do you have any advice for fellow Travel Professionals?
Like any industry, the travel industry is built on relationships. Invest the time and money to go to events where you can meet your suppliers face-to-face. By having contacts at the suppliers (and having them know who you are) you will get the support that you need whether it is training, marketing, issue resolution, etc. Show them that you are committed to your business and they will be committed to you.
That is fantastic to hear Lynn! Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting their own agency?
There are many options to starting your own agency. You can be independent, hosted, part of a consortia, join a franchise… the options are endless. It all comes down to how you want to spend your time. Do you want to be servicing clients or managing/growing the business? If you’d prefer to be managing/growing the business consider the route that I have taken. Buy into an existing travel agency and structure a deal where you will eventually become the sole owner. There are many agencies out there today who are looking for a succession plan or ‘exit strategy’. You could be the answer!
Thank you so much Lynn and we wish you the absolute best of success in your new venture!