A travel agency seeking new employees or independent contractors with a passion for travel and an aptitude for the job might want to look to its own customer base for prospects.
Brownell Travel, an Alabama-based agency that has been doing just that for several years, now has “more resumes than we can shake a stick at right now,” according to Troy Haas, president and CEO.
“When we’re looking for people who can help us grow our business and help us find other prospective clients, there’s no better place to go than the people who already work with us and value us now,” he said “It’s a natural extension for our business.”
Haas said he looks to his clients both for new independent contractors and for inside sales assistants. The former tend to be friends or acquaintances of clients, while the latter are often children of clients.
When reaching out to clients about hiring their friends or kids, an indirect approach is best, Haas said.
First, it’s important to establish a solid relationship with clients.
Second, clients should be made aware, through evidence of positive publicity or personal experience, that the agency is successful and a good place to work.
“They like those success stories and, because you’ve got personal relationships with clients, somewhere in the conversation you work in that you’re continuing to look for fresh talent. Ask if they know of anyone who would make a good prospect,” Haas said.
If there is an existing job description, give it to clients to pass along to their friends and family, he added.
“When you share those with good clients they often will know candidates and they are great advocates for us because they’re been pleased with what we’ve done.”
Whom to approach
Not all clients are right to approach, Haas added. Not only is it essential to have a good relationship with the client, it needs to be one built on respect.
It’s also important to consider whether the clients are people whose children you’d want to hire.
“You don’t want a high-maintenance child coming in as an employee,” Haas said.
“You want someone who has worked part-time. Think about the clients who are the sort of people you like to be around and do business with, and the odds are pretty good that their kids are going to be in that same mode.”
The right match
Brownell Travel brings new talent into the company to fill two different types of roles. One is for full-time advisors, primarily independent contractors, who are looking to grow their business. The other is for sales assistants who may eventually grow into an advisor or sales support role.
Each role is best filled by different types of prospects, Haas said.
“The [advisor] candidate is often a second- or third-career person who has been successful in sales; they have a sphere of influence of people who are likely good travelers and they’re passionate about travel,” he explained.
One of Brownell’s most successful advisors, now in her third year as a top producer, is both the child of a current client and a former client herself.
“The sales assistant role tends to fit better for someone who is coming out of college or is early in a career pattern. And it tends to be someone who’s had time to travel and they’ve gotten the bug for our business,” Haas said.
Sales assistants often “graduate” to advisor, like Grier Donald, the child of a client, did last month at Brownell.
Despite the fact that the line between advisor and client is somewhat blurred when an agency hires the child or friend of a client, Haas said it not need be a “weird” situation. But agency owners should take a few steps to ensure that lines are not crossed.
Before hiring a client’s son or daughter, it’s imperative to have a candid conversation with the client about separating the advisor-client relationship from the employer-employee relationship.
“It’s always best to be open and upfront and ask the questions: How will this affect our working relationship, and how do we do this in a way that doesn’t affect our relationship?” Haas said.
He added another important bit of advice: don’t have a client’s child work on the client’s trips.