I was recently rereading a column I wrote for travel advisors just starting out in the business. In it, I stressed that this is an entrepreneurial business, where talented and passionate individuals can rise to the top.
I realized that some of the information would be valuable for agents in mid-career, especially those who have achieved the status of being excellent travel advisors but want to fully own their own business some day.
So here’s a fine-tuned column for anyone thinking of taking his or her awesome career to the next step.
It will take hard work: Rising stars put in long hours to learn the ropes and now that you want to recalibrate your career, you’ve got to do the same thing, again. Pretend you’ve gone back to school and all the rules have changed. Step out of your comfort zone and start reading about other successful advisors and how they made certain decisions at turning points in their careers. Sign up for education courses that suit your higher level of knowledge and adhere to the curriculum diligently.
Revamp your attitude: At this point, you’ve probably witnessed every crazy client scenario and possible mistake. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes permanently to the top of your head. But try to rediscover the joy of the business, which will fuel you with the energy you need to elevate yourself.
Learn the business side of what you’re doing: Some of the most successful people I know in travel love spreadsheets more than life itself. They thrill over determining profit margins, forecasting commissions and making sure every day that their business is making money.
If you recoil at the thought of delving deep into the accounting aspect of running a travel agency, take a deep breath. You’ve already got an incredibly disciplined mind. You’re able to work the logistics of moving people around the world in airplanes, trains and automobiles, and in style. You have your own micro-business within your agency and you make money from it. You can do this. Sign up for a program on how to operate a business and watch the world open up to you as you realize you can become an agency owner calling the shots.
Find a mentor: Even if you’re all grown up and have adult children, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be getting advice from someone who’s a few years ahead of you. Ask your agency’s network for suggestions; they’re usually tuned in to who’s open to such relationships. There are some wonderful teachers in this industry who are keen to share what they know. Consider providing your mentor with some sort of give-back in terms of services or networking connections for their time.
While you’re at it, become a mentor yourself. If you’re thinking of branching out, wouldn’t it be great to have a group of others whom you’ve helped, who will want to stay in touch with you? You might even gain access to their networks, helping you source talent in the future.
Don’t hide your goals: If you have an agency owner or manager you’ve been loyal to, tell them you want to do more. If you’re doing good work for them, they won’t be surprised. And they may have their own expansion plans, of which you can be a part.