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Tzell is a Home Away From HomeJuly 2, 2007 By: Debbie Strong Travel Agent
Barry Liben, president of Tzell, believes in working hard and having fun
This fall marks two special occasions in the life of Barry
Liben, president and CEO of Tzell Travel Group in
wedding anniversary with his wife Sindy, and the 30th anniversary of his career
Clearly, 1977 was a big year for Liben. "I got married
in September, came back from my honeymoon and started at Tzell the very next
day," recalls Liben. As a teen, Liben dropped out of high school as a
sophomore and entered the working world. By age 25, he had worked his way up to
director of a Jewish children's summer camp in
which was next door to a travel agency. Liben had gotten to know his neighbors
well, and when he learned that one of the partners was about to sell his share
of the small travel business, Liben was extremely interested. Coincidentally,
an uncle had just passed away and had left him a large sum of money, and he
decided to use $20,000 of this windfall to purchase a part of the travel
"Who knows?" he says jokingly of his accidental introduction
into the travel industry. "If my neighbors had been in the plumbing
business, I might be selling faucets these days."
It's clear, though, that Liben had a knack for travel from
almost the very beginning of his time at Tzell. He has grown the company from a
tiny agency with three employees who mainly sold trips to
branch offices in nine states:
headquarters alone contains three floors with 300 employees. A leader in
corporate and leisure travel, Tzell Travel Group does more than $700 million in
Liben says his company also handles the travel of several
big names in the entertainment industry—Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Billy
Joel, to name a few. And Tzell is always expanding; they recently acquired All
Star, a large prestigious travel entertainment company in
Liben doesn't believe his lack of formal education has
negatively affected his chances for success. "Some of it is luck; you've
got to have luck. But I have a passion for dealing with people. I've always
believed in treating people fairly and with respect. I gave them a voice in
their own future," he says.
"And we make it fun here. People spend a great deal of
their time at work, and we recognize that. We've made this office a home away
from home." A tour of the office proves this is true: Tzell's headquarters
have a gym with showers and a rooftop sundeck, where employees gather for
occasional barbecues during the summer. Liben also describes having
company-wide games of bingo over the intercom system, as well as theme days
where the staff can bring their kids in to visit the office.
Work Hard, Play Hard
"I believe in working hard, but you can still have
fun," he says. Indeed, Liben is often first to arrive at the office every
day, normally arriving by around 6:30 a.m. and never leaving before 7 p.m. He
describes a busy staff of employees that arrive for weekly early-morning
meetings and regularly stay at work well into the evening to get things done.
The rewards for the hard work are rich: Liben also takes
dozens of his employees on a trip each year to celebrate his birthday. The
30-year anniversary celebration of Tzell will include taking his employees on a
vacation to somewhere sunny. Also along for the trip will be his Livingston,
NJ-based wife and three children Daniella, Michael and Rebecca. To Liben,
that's a dream vacation come true.
"My dream trip is to go anywhere in the world, as long
as I have my family with me. That's what's important."