Written By: Jesse Morris, Owner – We Book Travel, LLC
As a newer agency owner, I spend quite a bit of time trying to analyze my business and figure out ways to close the gaps in areas that I am not good at. I look at my processes for follow up. I look at my processes for acquiring new clientele. I think about product lines that I am unfamiliar with. The biggest challenge can be summed up with one popular axiom: You don’t know what you don’t know.
There are always going to be gaps in knowledge and to make matters worse, most of us are not very good at identifying those gaps. This can be very scary. How do you fix a problem that you don’t even know is a problem? This question drives me. The answers come from various sources but overall the primary answer is to look outside.
Sometimes I look toward industry sources to see what others in my situation are doing. There is no reason to recreate the wheel. I am surrounded by very successful agents and agencies. I believe firmly that if you want to be successful you have to do what successful people do. I have a wonderful host agency who provides a coach (thanks Tammie!) with industry expertise. I have friends I have made over the last two years who run successful agencies who are willing to share their knowledge. My partnerships with suppliers go beyond asking how I can best sell their product. They share with me thoughts and ideas on how to best run a successful agency. Developing these relationships can make all the difference in the world.
Other times I look toward other industries to see what they are doing. It would be foolish to think that just because a business isn’t travel oriented that there is nothing to be learned from them. The things I have learned over the years prior to starting in travel have served me well thus far but there are so many examples of what to do and what not to do in other industries. I have conversations with leaders about my business model and gain outside perspectives to how I can do it better. I am constantly looking to expand my relationships with smart people who can help guide me to be better.
I invest time and money in expanding my knowledge via live experiences. FAM trips are wonderful but rather than waiting for a FAM trip to be offered, I create my own. I sailed on an upper premium cruise line last year for the first time and my sales skyrocketed afterward. Having personal knowledge and experience in this supplier made me vastly more qualified to assist my clients. I was able to sell the product before but after experiencing it personally, I found that I was far more effective, and my numbers showed the difference.
The biggest key to learning is to admit you don’t know everything already. Not knowing something in business has very little to do with lack of intelligence. It has everything to do with the realities of business. There are far too many variables to be an expert in it all. The best leaders surround themselves with people who know more about subjects then they do. In addition, when you have a “know everything” attitude you risk alienating those who actually know better than you do. These people can help you grow your business.
Process improvement comes from both being analytical about your processes but also through innovation. Process improvement is looking at the way things are done and answering questions like “What don’t I know and how will expanding my knowledge about it make me better?” Innovation is taking those process improvement ideas and turning them into solutions that add value from your client’s perspective. Simon Sinek once said, “Innovation comes from solving ideas like no one else in our industry…but those ideas have to come from somewhere.” Your job is to find the best ways to cultivate ideas.
What you don’t know can absolutely hurt you and so growing, learning, analyzing and innovating are all critical aspects to running a successful business. One thing is for certain. Maintaining status quo means you will fall behind.
What are your thoughts? Please share them with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.