I started in the travel industry as an independent agent, joined a consortia, bought a franchise and now am a host agency who owns a franchise, I've seen agency ownership opportunities from many angles. Lots of paths, lots of hats to wear!
So here's my travel life.....
I was an Independent Agent working with a host -
My story starts with an ad in the Minneapolis Star & Trib advertising in the business section in 1994 "Become a Travel Agent for $99". I registered for a "informational week-end", and was hooked. I stayed with my original host for only about 6 months. They were out of state and in 1994 getting information was slow and labored.
I found and joined a local host in Minneapolis. Unfortunately for me after a couple years that host agency stopped paying commissions to many of their agents. I was one of those agents.
I was on my own joined a Cosortium -
At that point the choice was simple because I had no other options. I joined a consortium and began booking travel with a CLIA number, moving to an IATAN number and then an ARC number.
So now I was getting paid, but the commissions I was earning were so much lower than I was used to. I became my own little host agency. Other agents who, like me were out money from the same host agency began to work with TQ Our commission levels began to climb with our volumn.
I was on my own bought a Franchise -
The commissions were better, but I needed more for the agents who had put their trust in me and TQ, so the next natural step was to buy a Travel Leaders Franchise right? Well at the time Travel Leaders was Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
Opening a franchise required that I move the buisiness out of my home and you know what that means RENT, a lease, and franchise fees all due monthly. Super stressful and scary for a woman with no education beyond high school, but for TQ to advance it was necessary.
So we signed the papers, moved TQ out of our home and as they say, "The rest is history."
With the new franchise, Travel Leaders and the volume of TQ, we now earn top commissions, have the best technology programs for TQ agents, our own annual meeting, exclusive commission and bonus opportunities and so much more.
Working with a host, the right host offers all the tools you need to operate a successful agency. That's the key, YOU spend YOUR time planning advertising campaigns, booking clients, delivering documents, learnng new suppliers and new destinations spend your time building YOUR business!
Without hesitation I recommend working with a host as an independent agent.
Choosing the b.est travel agency model for your business has several options available to you. Host Agency Reviews has a great article on just that Benefits of Using a Host. The article lays out 8 different benefits so I thought what makes more sense than writing this article on what Travel Quest has for each of those 8 points. So here we go.
1. Bookeeping - Full Commission and business management from our online site. All your open and paid invoices show neatly in one area and they are easily searchable and downloaded if needed.
Want to run a report on invoices generated in February for Funejet Vacations? It's all at your fingertips run the way you want, PDF, EXCEL...you name it, the choice is yours, Or...maybe it's all Funjet invoices generated in February traveling in July with the last name of Johnson. If you entered it, it's all there!
In 2017 we also added a weekly report for our agents. The report is emailed showing all invoices they have generated for the last several weeks. An added benefit from TQ to keep everyone on track.
How about a text or an email to alert you when commissions have been received at TQ and are now on your monthly statement? It's there, just for our agents.
Our Commission manager was built for our agents and it is complimentary to agents.
2. Commission - One of the biggest advantages to being with a host is the commission levels. Most suppliers start new agencies out at around 10%. Choosing a larger host allows agents to earn much larger commissions with their first booking. Larger commissions of course lead to more profits in your pocket.
I might be strong in selling say Norwegian Cruise but weak in Delta Vacations, By going with a host I earn strong commissions on both.
My success isn't specific to just my sales efforts but to the efforts of the whole.
3. Access to BDM's - At TQ our agents have full access to all our BDM's if needed along with for some vendors specific inside contacts just for them. Being an independent agent and being a host agency model have changed so dramatically over the years in very positive ways. Our BDM's want to meet you, they want to help you grow YOUR business.
Most of our vendors also attend Travel Quest National Meeting held the week-end after labor day. It's a great way to meet the BDM's and other TQ agents. Education and networking is around every corner along with our Saturday evening social event. Prizes in 2017 were valued over $45,000, including airline tickets, a 7 night cruise, a river cruise, resort stays, VISA gift cards, IPads and MORE!
4. Technology - In 2017 TQ rolled out our complimentary CRM called AgentMate. The program is internet based and complimentary to all our agents it connects to our complimentary email marketing program and our cruisebooking engine. A great way to start your business off on the right foot is to have a CRM in place from day 1.
If you are looking for a website we have several models available from free to paid. It's your choice which works best for you.
Another great option we have that is complimenary is our online agent profiles. These profiles generate leads directly to our agents. Take a quick look at mine to see how ROBUST your profile can be. Bonnie Lee - Agent Profiler
5. Education - A blog on our education opportunities if done truly right would be about 5,000 words, so I am gonna work to cut this down a bit.
Education at TQ comes in lots of different ways because people learn differently and pleople have lives!
6. Networking - Our agent network is very strong and active. We have a great Facebook closed group. I often wonder if agents sleep when I see what times "conversations" happen. We also have an internal chat area. Lots of questions get posted in both places along with lots of success stories !
Of course TQ National Meeting is a great place to network. It's fun to see agents develop relationships that last from that first meeting..
Agents might be working at home, but there is no way they are alone. The TQ family is just a click or a call away.
7. Lower Start Up Costs - Not only lower start up costs, but quicker start up. When you join TQ, all the suppliers are immediately open for business to you with high commissions. Trainings are right there for you immediately. Our social network is available to you immediately. All the tools you will need are there for you...IMMEDIATELY.
Your time, energy and focus are on building your business.
8. GDS & Air Tickets - We do have GDS available for experienced corporate agents. We vet our agents very carefully requesting GDS access For all other agents needing air tickets we have several vendors we recommend who do exactly that with ticketing 24/7.
Ok...that's it TQ and our benefits in a very small nut shell. Give us a call to learn even MORE about what we offer our agents!
How to find the BEST credit card for your business? My friend GOOGLE will be really happy to help. There are tons of cards to choose from, with the promotions from each changing quite often, so when you are ready, do your research, and have a spread sheet at your finger tips, you might just need it. One thing might be free, but what did the card cost?
OHHHHH....before you go one step farther, make a comittment to paying off your card/cards monthly. Credit card debt, can be deadly to any business.
Look for cards that offer a % back in cash at the end of the year. This is like FREE MONEY! Money in your pocket on money that left your pocket so to speak.
There are great bloggers on line dedicted specifically to just this topic, and great articles written by financial magazines laying out the different opportunities like free miles, cash back, no yearly fee etc. read up to find the perfect card for your business.
Now, on to the checking account. Why do you need a checking account? Oh goodness, where are all those commission checkings you earn going to be deposited if you don't have a checking account! Same advice here as with finding the right credit card, call on your friend GOOGLE to see who offers free checking with as many frills as you can get.
This part of businness financials can be a "fun hunt for free" stuff. If you are visiting us through Host Agency Review 7-Day Set Up, WELCOME! #7daysetup
,Congrats, if you are reading this blog, you more than likely are on Day 4 of the Host Agency Reviews 7-Day Set Up.
Registering your business is easy and quick. It might take some cash (depending on your state), but it's easy and quick. You've done all the heavy lifting already, like choosing your name and deciding how to structure your business. With that out of the way, registering your business is just a couple clicks and a credit card, until you cross the finish line.
What you need is to register your business with your state. In Minnesota, we register through the Secretary of State's office. You will also be getting an FEIN Number from the Federal Government. A couple boxes to fill out and a couple clicks and you are done.
You have been guided more than likely by a lawyer or an accountant this far. Registering might seem so easy (because it is) that you find yourself tempted to skip it. Don't. It is terribly important for the success and protection of the business and you.
If you are unsure. this is the place where you don't take advice from a friend or a blog writer, ask a professional so the choices you make are informed choices.
Now you are OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Congratulations on a job well done!
Planning for success takes PLANNING. In the beginning time is so precious and your enthusiasm is off the charts, so it it make sense to get those first sales and then figure out the business and plan later, right?
If you are only planning on making a couple sales, I guess that might be a good plan, BUT if you are yearning for success, success takes PLANNING. Think of your business like a giant set of cogwheels. The wheels are different sizes and colors. A well planned business works the same. Lots of different elements, where when each is set up property everything works perfectly inconjunction with the other.
Planned advertising leads to sales, sales lead to profits, profit (or loss) lead to accounting, accounting leads to taxes Image just one of those was pulled out or only have completed. The cogwheel stahls, your business stahls until the element is added or completed. and that, that leads to wasted time, lost monies. Ouch!
There are places when setting up business where the advice a professional is an absolute must. Among these I would include, legal, taxes and accounting. Ask the advice some someone who knows you and your full financial situation, From there you will be able to make informed decisions on best practices for your business set up.
Some things to think about. If you are choosing to go with a host agency model, and they have E&O insurance where you bookings are covered, should you get your own policy as well? Why would you get your own policy? Do you need a business policy? Can you easily get commission reports through out the year to supply your accountant with? What information on your business set up does the host agency need from you?
Take the time to set your business up right and profits will follow!
If you are following this blog through Host Agency Reviews 7-Day Setup, CONGRATULATIONS on your accomplishment and starting DAY 3
If there's one thing that is super true when it comes to a career in travel it's that you will never get bored and that choosing a niche is exciting and ever evolving.
Choosing your niche is more about following your love. What is your love when it comes to travel? If you follow your love, you will find your passion, and when you find your passion, you will find your niche. The trouble with travel is that there are so many wonderful places to fall in love with. Remember I said you will not get bored!
For starters, when most people think about a career in travel, selling cruises comes to mind. Not necessarily a simple option but a great place to start. The topic of cruising has many opportunities for specialization. For instance, specific destinations like Alaskan, European, or Exotic come to mind or particular types of cruises such as adventure, luxury, family or even a combination of those present a plethora of options to choose from.
I had been in travel for over 20 years before I journeyed to Europe. I honestly could not understand what the whole "Europe" thing was about. Then I took my first river cruise with Avalon. Oh boy, instantly I found a new love, a new passion, a new niche. Not only river cruising, but all of Europe.
Escorted tours? Oh YES! Independent travel with trains, hotels, museum passes? For certain! The whole works. The whole 9 yards. The whole everything. I fell in love and I was hooked. What a change from my many years of selling trips to Mexico and the Caribbean.
The great experiences that all-inclusive vacations offer families, couples, luxury and budget minded clients were incredibly rewarding for me and a natural fit living in Minnesota. The beaches, the warm weather and great flights were the perfect place to start and build my business.
From there I moved into romantic travel, specializing in honeymoons, and the natural progression was moving into destination weddings. Mexico and the Caribbean for me are like going home. Then, just for good measure, throw in Alaska. The wonders of cruising the inside passage and exploring the Yukon are incomparable. With that, you pretty much have Bonnie Lee and how she developed her "niche.”
Did all of this happen at once? Nope. It happened over time. I pretty much have fallen in love with every place I have traveled. Come to think about it, I might not be the best person to write on how to choose your niche!
When it comes to finding your travel niche, the opportunities are endless and each one has its own unique benefits. Feel free to take time to explore your options and figure out what you love!
When choosing a name for your new travel company, everything might just be in the name, not just for today, but for the life of your company, Here's a place you want to spend time debating what names you like and why you like them.
If your plan today is to specialize in cheap vacations to Mexico, the name "Cheapo Travel to Mexico" might be perfect. But what about 4 months or 4 years from now. will "cheapo" still be relevant It's a delicate balancing act between when choose a name. A balancing act between too specific and too generic. Take time to think your name through.
Once you have found a couple names that meet your criteria, the next step is research the names you like. Think along these lines...
With all this done, it's time to think about your email. Once you've purchased the URL next step, set up your email. Even if your site isn't up, an email based on a domain name looks and feels very professional. Think about it which looks more professional to you, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org?
Another benefit to setting up your email right as your company begin, is that vendors often use your email as a login. Great way to simplify your business life today and in the future.
With the right name and email address, you will indeed stand out in a crowd. You are one step closer to success!
Thinking about a new career? Host Agency Reviews "7-Day Set Up" is the perfect place to get a quick look at a rewarding homebased career in travel.
Whether you are new to travel, wanting to take a peek under the hood, or coming with a bit of experience hoping to brush up on your techniques, HAR's 7-Day Set Up program is guaranteed to start you off on the right foot. To the newbies I say, "If I can do it, anyone can,” and to the experienced agents I say, "Always be open to new ideas.”
Put on your hiking boots and take a walk with me down my path to success in travel.
I started in travel in 1994 with 4 kids, a husband and absolutely NO travel experience (by this I mean actually getting on a plane and traveling) so when I say "If I can do it, anyone can," I speak from experience. I had no college education, no travel job skill, no travel experience, but what I did have was a desire to learn about an incredibly exciting career and that desire trumped everything I didn’t have.
Those looking to brush up...start here...
Nearly 25 years into my career, I learn something new each day. Not just something new about places to travel, because in our profession new destinations are a given. I learn something new about the way a supplier does business, about a new program or CRM that will help grow my business and the businesses of our agents.
Without an open mind, success is limited to what you know, instead of what you can learn.
Never in my wildest dreams did I for one moment think Travel Quest would become one of the largest and most respected host agencies in the United States. Never. All I ever did and continue to do is go to work and try my best. My advice....do your best...and the best will follow.
Let's celebrate you and YOUR New Career!
Whether it’s July 20 or the cusp of a new year, what is the value of setting goals? Do you set goals? How do you set goals if you are new to travel? How do you set goals if you’ve been in travel for several years? Do you follow up on your goals? Do you reward yourself if you meet your goals? Do you adjust your plan if you fall short of your goals or reach them early?
One of the most important aspects that sales goals are based upon is data.
This could be data collected from past sales or from projected future sales. If you are using past data, and the data was entered correctly, your ability to project future growth will have a great foundation to stand on. On the other hand, if you are using data entered incorrectly, the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” might come into play. When information isn’t recorded accurately, it may prevent your business from constantly growing and improving.
Therefore, make sure to enter all your data correctly and in a timely manner. That way when you do need data, it will be right at your fingertips.
Here are some example questions one could answer using collected data:
• How many cruises did you book in December?
o Knowing what's behind you helps plan for the road ahead.
• What is your busiest day of the week for sales in Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4
o When might you need to hire help either permanent or part time?
• How many tours did you book Q4?
o When is the best month to promote tours?.
• Is there a better month for selling luxury cruises?
o Planning a cruise night takes time, know when the best time is.
• How much commission did you make in Q1?
o How does the operating year ahead look?
• What month do you collect the most commissions?
o How do you budget your income over the course of a year?
• What month do you make the most sales?
o This might be the month you need to hire help.
• Did the advertising budget spent in Q1 pay off?
o What worked? What didn't work?
• What advertising campaign resulted in the highest $ sales?
o Where were you able to work smarter, not harder?
In the end, time spent entering data easily translates into additional income and more successful sales and advertising campaigns.
Advertising campaigns without follow-up sales data are.... Up, Up and Away.
You may find launching marketing campaigns with no relevant sales data follow-up to be counterproductive to your business. Think of the campaigns like balloons, floating off, landing somewhere, but where? Wedding shows, email marketing, hard mail marketing, community events and more, all of these were part of my marketing strategy but because I did not have accurate records of the campaigns or the contact and sales that followed, the data simply floated off, up, up and away.
What balloons went higher than others? I didn’t know. What color balloon did people like better than another color? I didn’t know. I knew nothing about my marketing efforts once they left my desk, because I had no exact process. This is why it is so crucial to record these results as much as possible in order to better your business and reach the goals you have set.
Ready to get started? It’s YOUR plan, YOUR process.
Make it work for you and your personality type. Be realistic when setting goals and creating your plan and don't forget to CELEBRATE successes along the way. You deserve it!
You might be asking yourself right now- Which host agency is the best for me? If you are new or experienced choosing the right host agency makes a difference for your business. A good host agency should be helping your business succeed. Maybe you have read about Travel Quest and wondered what really sets us apart from the rest. Well, we don’t like to gloat (ok sometimes we do), but here are the top 10 reasons why we are different!
These are just a few items that set Travel Quest apart as a 5-star host agency. We look forward to chatting with you soon!
The whole TQ team is excited to write posts on our blog. We'll add their photos as they write their first posts - stay tuned!