Michelle Morgan, CTC, Signature Travel Network's president, is a tough woman to score an interview with. It's not because she isn't willing to spare time to chat with a reporter, but rather because the travel industry executive with 28 years of experience is overwhelmingly shy when talking about her personal success.
Morgan, who was selected as a Leader in Luxury for the Travel Partner of the Year category, was willing to face her fears and agreed to an interview with Travel Agent so long as one thing was understood: "This story shouldn't be about me; it should be about the success of the company," she says. "I don't usually do these things, because I hate talking about me. It's not about me, it's a team effort."
Morgan joined Signature Travel Network (formerly Leisure Travel Group) in 1991. With a relatively small management staff, Morgan helped take Signature from 35 locations to its current number of nearly 300. In the past two years, Signature has seen its gross sales nearly double, from $1.2 billion to $2.2 billion.
She gives credit to her staff of more than 20 employees and the five senior executives: Ellie Knight, director of training and agency automation; Gina Weyer, vice president of member services; Filomena Andre, vice president of sales and marketing; Karen Yeates, vice president of Internet business solutions; and Morgan's friend of 10 years, Ignacio Mazza, executive vice president.
"It's all about finding the right people," she says. "We have a dedicated group focused on all individual members," she says. "They all have a personal commitment to the company, as well as a professional commitment."
Under Mazza, Signature's hotel guide has gone from including about 100 hotels to its current 400 hotels in less than two years.
Other factors in Signature's growing success under Morgan include the company's new products and services, expanded marketing programs, the rolling out of new technology enhancements and the launching of new training initiatives.
Perhaps the company's most intriguing online tool is its newly designed centralized database, in which nearly 1.5 million customer profiles are available for all of Signature's members to view. The profiles are segmented, that is, separated into specific categories of travel. For example, Signature members can tell which clients are prime targets for luxury travel by viewing their profiles. Signature is also working on adding every client's complete transaction data to their profiles.
"We know there are some things [when operating a network] we can influence and others we can't," Morgan says, "It all starts with having a thorough knowledge of a client, their likes, their dislikes and their dreams."
Morgan has been instrumental in framing the organization's strategic direction, partnership development, marketing, technology and member services programs, and especially takes pride in the fact that her company has the lowest attrition rate of any network.
Prior to joining Signature, Morgan was a marketing executive for Carlson Travel Network (Carlson Wagonlit Travel). She began her career in the industry working for Ask Mr. Foster Travel Service, which was acquired by Carlson in 1979.
Now, Morgan is celebrating her 15th year at Signature the same year as Signature celebrates its 50th anniversary.
"We tell our members, 'It's not about us, it's about you,'" Morgan says. "It's not about our brand, Signature, it's about your brand, about helping you. We are all a team.'"
When asked how she felt about winning the honor, Morgan
says, "I wish I could get up there [on stage] and accept the award with
everyone I work with."