Sue Ratliff admits that selling travel was something that she just "kind of fell into." The Indiana native began her career when a member of her church, impressed by Ratliff's bubbly personality, invited her to join the staff of a travel agency in South Texas. While there, she specialized in cruises and learned the nuts-and-bolts of the travel business and how to satisfy and retain clients. Agent Bio
Well-traveled since childhood, Ratliff describes family vacations as a haze of car trips wherein the destination was the primary goal. "Dad's focus was on getting where we needed to go and not really stopping along the way," Ratliff recalls. "I remember walking by the base of the Empire State Building and not stopping. Part of traveling is stopping to see the sights." This attitude made her decision to enter the travel business an easy one.
Fast-forward to the present: Ratliff has been an agent for nearly a decade, and owner of Sea the World Cruises and Tours—a company she started when her husband, Ernie, decided to retire—for more than five years.
The pair have a good working dynamic—Ernie is a diligent assistant who helps with the background work, which includes doing e-mail follow-ups, making sure Sue's calendar is current and, most importantly, getting her coffee in the morning.
Host Agency Relationship
Although Sue and Ernie work well as a team—advertising placements range the monthly newsletter for their subdivision to the local yellow pages—Sue attributes most of their success to the support of their host agency, America's Vacation Center.
To stay abreast of the industry, Ratliff participates in AVC's web seminars and recently attended the host agency's roundtable—an open forum of questions and ideas with other AVC independent affiliates—on Azamara Quest.
Sharing Her Knowledge
Sue is a mentor in the My AVC Mentor program, which helps agents grow their own businesses with the help of coaching and mentoring by their peers.
Similar to her entry into the travel business, AVC approached her to help out with this program. "I had personal experience working with Van and Brad Anderson," Ratliff says. "They were looking at a business model to put together, and I was successful at what I was doing and wanted to share." So far, she has helped agents learn to use the AVC program so it works for them, instead of the other way around.
This agent has a busy year ahead. She is starting off 2008 by participating in a bridal show for the first time. Also on the books are at least three cruises. "You have to be able to tell people with confidence what a place is like," she says. This is a far cry from the kid who remembers zipping by the Empire State Building. —Mackenzie Allison