Our recent Shocking and yet, Not Shocking experience
Written By: Jenn Lee, Vice President of Sales and Marketing – Travel Planners International
Recently, we conducted a three-day in-person event for 50 of our travel advisors with one goal in mind; help them answer one question, “Where do I want my business to be in three to five years?” The event sold out quickly, which told us that the question we posed must have been on many of our advisor’s minds, yet, still unanswered.
In attendance, advisors and agency owners ranged from newly launched, within a few years ago, to veteran agency owners with 30 plus years in the business. Both multimillion-dollar producers and those whose sales have been climbing, even during this “odd time,” were anxious to attend.
Our goal was to help these business-minded advisors and agency owners slow down for a few days and work ON their business. We felt confident they would have figure out the answer to this legacy question and be equipped with the tools and resources to achieve their goal by the end of the three days.
We partnered with several of our Preferred Travel Partners and even challenged them to utilize their speaking time to not talk about their product. Instead, we asked them to share business strategies they and/or their companies use to elevate and differentiate themselves.
Princess Cruises shared how they went from “Posterchild of COVID (in the media’s eyes) to Darling Princess of Loyalty.” Celebrity Cruises BDM, Dave Meihoefer, shared how to “Stand Out in the Sea of Sameness.” Royal Caribbean walked us through “How Leveraging Your SAM Will Help You Grow Your Business, Beyond RCL,” and ALG Vacations, Sandals, and Carnival Cruise Line used storytelling techniques to show off where their respective companies SHINE.
I share this to help highlight that everyone came to the table with a business mindset. We started the day by asking them to identify with one of the following scenarios.
- “I am building my agency to sell in the next five years or the distant future.”
- “I am looking to acquire other agencies as a way to scale my business.”
- “I am looking to build an empire within my agency by adding Associate Advisors and/or hiring staff.”
Except for about half a dozen, most of the advisors did not resonate with any of these statements. That’s when we knew that our three days together were going to be a HUGE eye-opener.
So, why was this so shocking?
Well, with the caliber of advisor and agency owner in the room, one would presume each knew the answer to this question. How could they have achieved what they had without knowing where they were going? #curious
Why was it not shocking?
This group perfectly represents the masses of advisors and agency owners we encounter, passionately working hard, making good decisions on behalf of their clients’ needs, marketing with intention (most of the time), and building key relationships to serve their clients. We find that most advisors (if you’re honest) do not have a crystal-clear focus on what they want their BUSINESS to grow into—setting sales goals, financial goals, crafting smart marketing plans, yes… but not a clear focus or plan for the future of their business.
We got to work immediately and broke things down into bite sizes. Working together, all advisors came out of the three days able to answer with confidence, “Where do I want my business to be in three to five years?”
We wanted to share one of the eye-opening exercises we conducted that highlighted where work needed to be done on their business foundation and set them up for future success. We have a “don’t be boring” rule here at TPI, so this exercise involved arts and crafts
Each advisor received a blank 20-piece puzzle set and a handful of vibrant sharpies. We asked them to pull the puzzle pieces apart and mix them up. As we read from a list of foundational needs, they wrote each on one of the puzzle pieces. Understanding that we could have listed so many points to a business foundation, we focused just on the 20 below.
- Business Structure Established (LLC, DBA, S Corp)
- Business License (local and state)
- E&O Insurance and/or Liability Insurance
- Seller of Travel
- ASTA or CLIA Association Membership
- Business Domain Purchased and Branded Email Addresses
- Website (even if it’s just a basic one)
- Consistent Branding Established
- Process Manual Established and Updated
- CPA/Accountant Resource
- Attorney Resource
- Agreements (reviewed by an attorney) for Associates and/or Employees
- Terms and Conditions for Clients (reviewed by an attorney)
- Long Term Succession Plan
- “Hit By a Bus” Plan
- Business and Profitability Plan
- Data Analysis Process (slicing and dicing your data)
- Bookkeeping Program
- CRM Technology
- IT Security Plan (got to be careful out there
Once they filled each piece with the above list, we told them to pull out the pieces that represented items they already had in place in their business. With the pieces they had pulled, we then challenged them to put the puzzle back together. Now, honestly, this wasn’t designed to make anyone feel bad but to develop a visual of what a travel agency business foundation should represent.
As you can imagine, most had incomplete puzzles.
If you followed along and checked off the items (from above) you have in place already… what would your puzzle look like?
Don’t let this scare you. We’ve got your back.
We recently recorded a webinar talking about this subject and diving into how to achieve these benchmarks and what it means when you have them; freedom to grow your business with confidence and clarity.
At TPI, our desire and passion are 100% centered around helping each advisor see themselves as not just running a business but also launching and growing an agency – Building a Legacy.
You’ve got this, Rockstar! We’re with you every step of the way.