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Linda Schuller Sets a High Standard

March 26, 2007 By: Erin Sternthal Travel Agent

From novice to building an agency she sold to Protravel

When Linda Schuller decided to go back to work in 1978, she
couldn't have predicted that starting a travel agency business would lead her
to the success she has achieved 29 years later. With two young children in
school in the late '70s, Schuller met an outside commission agent who lived in
her home town of Livingston,
NJ. Though she didn't know anything about the travel industry, Schuller agreed
to go into a partnership, as she was well traveled and knew how to manage an
office environment. That was the beginning of The Great Escape. "I was
thrown into the business and learned it by being totally hands on," she
says. "We started trying to do our friends' business, and I learned who to
call." Linda Schuller

After separating from her business partner in 1982, Schuller
went out on her own and opened Travel in Style in Livingston.
She headed to Dallas
to familiarize herself with Sabre and dove into the world of fam trips. Prior to
starting her agency, though, Schuller had traveled extensively, which she said
helped her tremendously.

As for the employees who helped get Travel in Style off the
ground, Schuller says many are still with her today. "Aside from taking
care of your clients, in this business, when you're the boss, it's all about
the personnel and handling your employees. If you can't do that, no one will
want to work for you."

It wasn't until Schuller turned 60 and became a grandmother
that she contemplated selling the business. "I met Priscilla Alexander and
we talked for about a year and a half," she says. "I was reluctant to
give up what I had built, but I decided I wanted to work less."

So after selling the business to Protravel in 2001, Schuller
retained a contract as managing director. "I don't see myself quitting,
because I'm having a good time. I am still selling travel, but I now have more
flexibility and freedom."

While Schuller primarily sells upscale travel, one rule of
thumb she has is to never turn business away. "One of the most important
things I've realized is that you never know what the client of today is going
to turn into. Years ago, I had an older lady come into my office in a
housedress wearing little tied shoes with a heel. She wanted to go to California with her
husband, but didn't want to spend a lot of money. So I sent them to California, and it turns
out her husband was the president of a pharmaceutical company. They didn't take
the very best, but they traveled extensively. You name it, they went there. You
never know how people are going to spend their money."

Though Schuller herself primarily sells leisure travel, with
a strong focus on Europe, South Africa
and Asia, Protravel has helped her garner more
corporate business. Her current mix is now about 65 percent leisure, 35 percent

Today, Schuller says she looks for employees who are
intelligent, detail oriented, computer savvy and speak well on the phone. New
employees—who start out as assistants and sell all properties—learn about the
hotels and take lessons on the computer. "They don't have to have
experience if they want to learn."

Schuller is still traveling the world, whether she's taking
a group of agents to Tahiti to visit new
hotels or attending the Virtuoso Travel Mart, of which she's been a member for
12 years. Australia, New Zealand and Israel top her list of destinations
she still has not visited.

As for Schuller's favorite travel memories, she recalls a
"beyond memorable" dinner at the Great Wall when she was on the
advisory board of The Luxury Collection. "Traveling with my children has
also been wonderful. I took them to East Africa
when they were in their early teens. Seeing travel through the eyes of your
children is great experience."

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