Many travel agents work from home offices today (and ship offices, plane offices, car offices—you get the idea). We can work anywhere there is a computer and an Internet connection, and the freedom that affords us is amazing. The downside, however, is thatit’s easy to become isolated. Increasingly, entrepreneurs report feeling unsupported. It’s a frustrating conflict: agents want to be in control—it’s their business, after all—but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. Companies of all sizes, from Fortune500 to mom-and-pop, struggle with the same question: how can you leverage the power of a business partnership to get ahead without losing control of your business? How do you know which business partner deserves your trust?
Maintaining My Independence
One of the perks of being a travel agent is the independent contractor status. Once agents have enjoyed that, they naturally shy away from the idea of a business partner. What they don’t realize is that a good host agency shouldn’t assume the typical business partner role. It shouldn’t try to share in decision-making. Rather, a good host agency exists to give you more options for better business decisions. Whether you’ve been in business for less than a year, or going strong at 50-plus, a business partner will only make you stronger.
Partners vs. Assistants
It’s important to note different agency hosts differ in quality, and not all would warrant the ‘business partner’ title. Some offer minimal assistance with booking credentials and basic support—they’re simply average assistants to you. Some go a bit further, providing tools like customer relationship managers and websites. However, a host agency that is truly acting as a business partner? It can—and should—do so much more than that. From putting you at the forefront of the competition to rescuing you in a pinch, a real partner is there for you.
As your business partner, a host agency has a buying power that will help give you a competitive edge. Remember, you get the combined sales totals of all the agents that belong to your host. You’re already going to be earning top-tier commissions without an expectation to hit those sales goals on your own. In addition, working with a good host provides access to special sales, special group rates, and additional incentives like bonus commission, discounted travel and more.
Your host business partner also provides products and services that may not be in your niche. Hosts use a diverse list of suppliers, which means you’ll have access to people who know the best supplier to use in almost any situation. Besides the benefit of a wider net of resources, with a host agency you keep the sale instead of passing it on. Isn’t making the sale the main reason to be in this business? Shouldn’t a host agency be helping make that happen?
A good host agency means providing professional marketing, too. Working alone, you could hire a designer, pay for an email client and a publishing house, and manage an entire marketing strategy.
The problem with that plan is that the energy and time spent finding the right team, monitoring their work, and maintaining what they provide takes away from what you need most: time to sell. In addition to that negative is the cost of doing business with an outside marketing team. A good host, on the otherhand, is there to provide you with the marketing materials and packages you need. Some hosts will even automate your marketing for you. And now that you’ve allowed your business partner to take care of that, you’re free to build relationships. You can do what you do best…sell!
Most importantly, you have support for unexpected issues. Have a problem with a supplier? Need advice regarding clients who are proving to be troublesome? Have group trips running into roadblocks? Whether finding work-arounds for obstacles or coming up with creative ways to solve problems, a good host will be in your corner, always.
Building the Partnership
Your host’s potential is extensive, available, and supported by experienced staff, but you’re uncertain how to take advantage of it. The first step is to reach out. Don’t wait until an issue arises. Introduce yourself and let your host know what your business is all about. Share what you hope to achieve. Host agencies want you to be successful, and the internal staff can point youin the right direction to resources that will achieve your goals.
The building of your relationship is a great opportunity to get to know every member of your business partnership. In every respect, the travel industry is about relationships. Fostering astrong one with everyone at your host agency from the beginning works to your advantage. Get to know the people who will be helping you achieve your success. By learning the specialties of each staff member, you’ll know who to ask when problems arise, a time-saver that will help your client relationships.
Utilizing the Knowledge Base
Besides the internal staff of the host agency, you have access to the other business owners who work with them. Find the other independent contractors with your host and bounce ideas off each other. Create Facebook groups to share information, seek advice, and trade anecdotes. Building that relationship with fellow agents gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives and different-minded solutions. A post, comment, or story you read may not be relevant to you in the moment, but there’s no reason to think it won’t be someday. Besides fostering a sense of community, these forums offer invaluable learning opportunities.
Recognizing Partnership Strengths
Remember that although your host provides excellent resources, each may not be of advantage to you. If marketing is a skill you already have and enjoy, use the time-saving options a host delivers to create campaigns. Know and employ the tools your host provides to complement your strengths, instead of doubling your workload.
The Best Host for You
Selecting the right business partner is critical, most notably when you have an established book of business. The host you choose to work with must have the ability to advance your business in the direction you want, and must be dedicated to your continued success. To achieve this, the host must recognize and understand your vision. In other words, a host sees you on a personal level, not as another number. The right host for youshould also provide support when and however you need it. A stellar suite of tools has no value without the guidance needed to use them. Equally valuable is the understanding that by accepting guidance you aren’t giving permission to your host to tell you what you must do. This is your business, and you make the final decisions. Period.
The determination to invest in you and your agency is also a trait that should be on your list of expectations. Your success is your host’s success. Many hosts charge fees for everything; you want one that makes its money when you’re making sales. One way to ensure this is if a host is regularly investing in new initiatives that make an agency more efficient and competitive. A good host provides the tools and knowledge you need, and the best practices to lead you to succeed.
Outside Agents vs the Others
You’ll find many good hosts when you begin your search for a host agency partner, but if your goal is successful business making big sales, then ‘good’ isn’t the standard you need. Outside Agents’ dedication goes beyond good. The dozens of travel industry awards it’s earned puts it in a class above the rest: we’re beyond good or even great. Outside Agents is stellar, and it’s stellar for everyone. Whether you’re selling two trips or two million a year, OA supports you with equal passion and dedication.
Outside Agents’s fees are some of the lowest in the industry, and with commissions splits starting at 85% and going up to 95%, you pay less and get more. At Outside Agents, we want to makemoney, but it doesn’t happen until you’re making money first.
That’s why we invested millions of dollars into our technology and training platforms. You have access to a state-of-the-art technology suite that includes a customer relationship center and free digital marketing center with the ability to send free personal emails to clients. We keep everyone’s needs in mind. If personalized emails aren’t a key part of your marketing plan, we recognize that, and you can utilize our set-it-and-forget-it marketing options. It’s just one more way we support all agents’ styles. Plus, you receive a fully-loaded website including integrated booking engine, blog, and a design that you can customize as much or as little as you want. In every aspect of business, we accommodate your specific needs.
Education is a key to success at our agency. The more you know, the better prepared you are to sell. To this end, we offer a complete learning management system. Our course list is updated regularly, and offers classes for tours, selling groups and luxury trips, marketing, technology, and so much more. Or, if you prefer in-person training, we recently opened an onsite training center. Here, agents can attend live training events on a variety of subjects. With a training event held every month there’s something for every agent!
Plus, you have more access with Outside Agents. Direct contact with all our business development managers is available, so when you need aid, it’s there. We also recognize that it’s not only about travel. Sometimes, the issue is technical, and we’re prepared to service those problems for you. Once again, Outside Agents is prepared to help all agents meet all their needs for success with a promiseof legendary support.
So, the question remains, which is the right host for you? And now that you understand award-winning marketing tools, commission split, education, and legendary support of Outside Agents, there’s no longer any doubt. Outside Agents is the only host choice that will take your success to the next level.