Following is the first in a series of columns by travel agent, entrepreneur and business strategist Tammy Levent
During nearly two decades in the travel industry I – probably like most of you – have experienced setbacks.
The road has not always been easy but it has been, and continues to be, a lifelong education on what it truly takes to be a successful travel entrepreneur.
Here are some of the key things I have learned in my years in the travel business.
1. Always maintain good relationships with your customers, employees and colleagues
The reasons behind my employee retention, repeat customer base, and strong relationships are the same: Care, respect, and honesty.
That means not just telling the truth and doing business with integrity, but being genuine with everyone.
2. Realize what people want and then give it to them
Shortly into the creation of my travel business it seemed as though the odds were stacked against me.
Airlines were cutting commissions then 9/11 and the subsequent recession occurred, public morale regarding travel was down, and luxury vacations took a back seat to the real problems Americans were facing.
So I took a step back and thought about what potential clients were still going to need. I realized that almost everyone would keep getting married so it only made sense to reinvent my company as a destination weddings and honeymoons expert and that’s just what I did.
3. Real service matters more than savings
I’m not saying that you should be charging fees and doing everything you can to make a profit, but people will choose you over your competitors when you step up and offer them real service that shows you actually care about them.
I call and email my clients to check in on them. My company is there and able to answer the phone in the event something goes wrong or they have a concern.
I also offer a price match guarantee that if any price is available to the public before my clients give me final payment I will make sure they get that price too.
It’s helped me in the travel agent war with online travel sites and even helped me earn clients that may have considered working with someone else.
4. You don’t have to spend money to make money
I started my business not only with no money, but with close to $200,000 in debts. How? I am a strong proponent of strategic partnerships!
A strategic partnership is one in which two related businesses choose to support each other by building their brands together. For example, when I needed to promote my honeymoon packages I reached out to a honeymoon resort and convinced them to give me a free honeymoon to give away.
I then created a website honeymoongiveaway.com to capture leads and then not only did I give away that trip, I had an awesome list of people to pitch my services to. This free trip didn’t cost me or the resort anything and got both of us a tremendous amount of promotion.
5. Anything is possible if you just believe
Not to sound like a Disney movie here, but it’s true. If you believe you can make something happen, you can! I always say that first you claim it and once you claim that, you own it and then you go after it to make it yours.
My grandparents arrived in this country with little more than the hope of a new life and the willingness to work to make it possible. They never complained or gave up when life didn’t go as easily as planned, and they never stopped chasing their dreams.
In fact, my early vision for entrepreneurship was imprinted on me in early childhood by my family, because they are living proof that ideals like honesty, hard work, and faith give life meaning and purpose.
My mother and my grandmother especially impressed upon me that the confidence that comes from self-reliance would help me take the steps necessary to make my dreams happen, regardless of hardship or sorrow. They taught me to follow my heart against odds and adversity.
6. You have to have passion to create your dream job
If you are doing what you love then you will never work a day in your life and the money will follow with ease.
I’m very passionate about my work as a travel entrepreneur. I’ll never forget how I found my calling to be a travel entrepreneur either. My kids had been in a horrific car accident that took my grandmother’s life and as they lay in their hospital beds in the ICU a nurse asked me what I would do if money weren’t an issue. I told her I would travel the world and now that is what my business is built around.
So now I want to pose that same question to you that I was asked: What would you do if money weren’t an issue?
Once you have your answer you can then turn it into a job and voila. You have created your dream career.
Tammy Levent is the CEO of Elite Travel, an award winning full-service travel agency that has been in business for 20 years. She is also the founder of the Travel Agent’s Success Kit that teaches the agents of today how to succeed in being travel entrepreneurs. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org