It's said that being in the military prepares people for all kinds of jobs. For Alexisa (Lexy) Humphrey, 16 years of experience as an Air Force nurse has been instrumental in setting her up for success as a travel advisor.
"I've been all over the world. I traveled a lot of places and I know a lot of things," Humphrey told Travel Market Report.
More than her extensive travel experience, however, Humphrey said two skills she picked in the military are the most essential to her new career.
Organizational and people skills
"Being organized is number one," she said. "If you're not paying attention to detail in the Air Force or any military service, it can actually cost you your life... If you make one mistake, that could mean life or death."
As a travel advisor, it might not be a client's life she's in charge of, but it's something almost as important.
"I am dealing with someone's money. I don't like when somebody messes with my money," she said.
The second skill she told TMR she's been able to make use of is dealing with multiple types of people.
"When you join the military, you encounter so many different people," she said, which helped her learn how to understand and communicate with different personalities and people from different cultures.
Humphrey has also benefitted from the many connections she made throughout her time in the Air Force.
"Most of my bookings have come from family members and friends from throughout the military that have become my customers," she said.
Other ways she's brought in clients included a referral service called Thumbtack, which she quickly discarded, and leads from her Host's consortium.
"I think I have gotten six true actual leads from there and actually converted two or three of those six," she said.
Fitting business into her lifestyle
Right now Humphrey is working as an advisor part time – she's a single mom of three kids and says she can't risk unsteady pay. But, she has plans to go all in as soon as it's financially feasible.
Despite her desire to go fulltime, Humphrey is growing her business on her terms. She has set hours – 5pm to 9pm four weekdays and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays – and charges fees.
She didn't start out charging fees, however. Afraid of losing business to online services that don't cost extra, she started without fees.
"I wanted it to be more cost effective, more comparable to those prices," but it didn't take long for her to notice how many people called for quotes, then quibbled over a few dollars or simply decided not to book with her.
"I got tired of people nickel and diming me or canceling or deciding not to book. If you pay a fee for me to even send you a quote that means either you're going to lose out on that fee and I still got at least something for my time, or you actually become one of my clients."
Her standard fee is a $25 retainer ($50 to $100 for groups), plus she charges for pre-travel changes, mid-travel changes, and cancellations.
Asked about her hours, Humphrey told TMR, they fit her lifestyle and, she believes, the lifestyle of her clients.
"During the day, most people are working, so I was getting messages in the middle of the night anyway. Why not just make my hours strictly five to nine because I don't go to bed 'til 11… I did Saturday morning because me and the kids don't usually go out and do things until the afternoon anyway."
Wednesdays and Sundays, for Humphrey, are dedicated to church, bible study, and rest.
What's been a little bit less in her control is what she's selling. She wants to specialize in destination weddings and romance travel but so far the bulk of her bookings have been for Asia trips.
"Asia has been my number one seller for most clients… I was stationed out there right before I got out of the military. I was in Korea for a year and I was all over," she said, adding that despite that most of her bookings have been for Thailand – a country she's never been to.
"It's not me. It's what the clients want."
Humphrey also sells a lot of cruises and is growing her all-inclusive business.
One thing she won't sell? Disney.
"I told people do not ask me. That's not my thing."
When she does get a request for Disney, she passes it on to her "travel bestie," a woman she was in the military with, who is also now a travel advisor, albeit with a different Host agency. In return, her friend will pass along Asia and FIT requests.
"You always have to have that person that you work with and bounce ideas off of," Humphrey said.
Another thing Humphrey won't do is ever tell a prospective client, I can't help you. If her friend isn't interested in the lead, Humphrey will reach out to others at her Host.
"I never want to say, sorry, I can't assist you. I'll always find somebody."