Written By: Jackie Friedman, President – Nexion Travel Group
At the recent Small Business Network Conference, I shared 10 things I wish I knew when I began in the travel industry.
They say with age comes wisdom. But sometimes I think, why do you have to get older to get wiser? Why can’t someone share these secrets of success? Here are a few pearls of wisdom I learned— sometimes through the school of hard knocks—over my 34-year travel industry career.
1. Define what success means to you.
Your definition of success is personal to you and needs to encompass all aspects of your life, both personally and professionally. Do you have a financial target you want to achieve? Are you interested in specializing in a certain travel style or destination? Do you want to grow your group business? Once you know what is important to you, then develop a written plan to help you get there. Having passion for what you do will help you succeed. Oprah Winfrey said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
2. You don’t have to do it alone.
Many of you work from home and may be isolated from time to time. It is important to realize that you don’t have to do it alone. Host agencies, such as Nexion Travel Group, and consortia can help your small business get to the next level with training, coaching, marketing support, back-office support—everything you need to succeed. And when you encounter challenges, we have your back!
3. Don’t try to be all things to all people
The fact is that you will NEVER know it all. Focus on learning more about less rather than less about more. It will help your marketing and your personal development. Pick your passion and go with it. Increasingly, savvy travelers are looking for experts. Developing a niche will help with lead generation, and having special expertise also allows you to book trips at a higher price point. Results from our lead generation tool demonstrate that travel advisors with specialties and reviews get more leads!
4. It’s all about relationships
There is no doubt that this is a relationship business, so take advantages of the opportunities to nurture existing connections and to make new ones. Take the time to exchange ideas with other advisors and suppliers. Pick your partners and focus on growing your business with them. Join important associations such as the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). These relationships benefit you, and they also add value to your clients.
5. You don’t have to know it all
Face the facts; you will never know it all. The important thing is to know where to find it. Ensure that you have the resources available to you for information, someone to call when you need advice. Focus your learning on what is most important for you to service your clients again and the destinations that they want to travel to.
6. Take the time to work ON your business, not just IN it
You need to know the difference between working on your business and not just in it. My best advice is to schedule time on your calendar for planning. The amount of time depends on your growth goals. Put the time into developing a written marketing plan and allocate the appropriate time each week to work on it.
Have a system to stay organized and have the discipline to stay with it. Get good at prioritizing and find the right balance between working on your business and working in your business.
7. You can’t set your business goals in a vacuum
As you set your goals for your business, you also need to consider your personal goals and make sure you find the right balance. If you want to double your income next year, then having a personal goal to spend more time with your family would be a challenge.
8. It’s OK to fire a customer,
Sometimes a client is not a good fit for your business, or their values are not aligned with yours. Sometimes it may be more about declining a booking than firing a customer. This is not only ok to do, but it will help you keep your sanity and focus on the bookings that will make a difference to your business.
9. Don’t be afraid to tell your customers when you don’t know the answer.
Commit to finding out for them and getting back to them within a reasonable time frame. Honesty is always the best policy.
10. Always make it about your customer’s best interest and not your own.
Truly take the time to qualify their needs and recommend options that best meet those needs. Look out for the long-term customer for life value.
11. BONUS TIP:
Give back. Mentor someone; embrace a charitable initiative. You are never too busy to do something for others. For years, I wanted to do something involving veterans, but it seemed I didn’t quite have the time or the concept. And then last year, I decided I was going to stop thinking about it and just do it. One year ago, I was extremely proud to announce our company’s launch of Veterans in Travel. This scholarship and mentoring program helps veterans learn the travel industry and how to succeed as independent business owners. So far, more than 100 veterans have enrolled and more than 30 have completed the training.