This is a series of live posts from Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld 2012. Due to the short time frame from which we hear the sessions to when we publish them, please excuse any errors!
Jennifer Doncsecz, Owner and President of VIP Vacations, discusses with agents how to stay professional in a non-traditional work environment. Doncsecz been in travel for over 18 years and is located in Allentown,PA. She found that when travel agents went from storefront to a home based travel agent people knew how to sell travel but not how to run a business. She now has 5 FT employees and still works from home. She works with 12 outside agents in 4 states and VIP Vacations generates over $5 million in sales.
Small Business = Many Hats
A ring of her phone (with the memorable I’m a Barbie girl ringtone to boot) results in Doncsecz acting out of the whirlwind of characters small businesses owners need to play while talking to fictional sales people. Accounting, marketing, HR, sales, etc. It’s all you. Few people understand that when you start a travel agency, you are going to need to know accounting, marketing, public relations, and more beyond your travel skill set. “If you don’t know it [parts of business] you have to get training,” says Doncsecz. She highlighted CLIA’s business classes as a great option. Doncsecz gave the example she didn’t know accounting and as a result, she had to learn QuickBooks. She still doesn’t like accounting, but she can do it. Doncsecz reminded attendees that their home business is their vision. Doncsecz brings up managing your time wisely. Home based travel agents need to learn how to juggle their time. It’s very easy to get distracted without a boss.
Don’t get Distracted
To combat getting distracted, she recommends setting daily goals and post-it notes to remind you. Stressing the importance of daily goals. Beyond daily goals, she sets monthly goals and future goals. For monthly goals, she writes them down and tells others about them. Her first goal was to make enough money to take her kids to Disney.
Are you better off hiring?
She states she makes a lot more money on the phone than she does anything else. Even if you decide to delegate she states an important message most overlook – learn every system/tool, even if you delegated the tasks.
Smoke & Mirrors
Even when she was home based she’d get up every morning get dressed in a business suit, have a business card in her pocket. Would drop her daughter off at school and pick her back up. Every one of the moms that would drop off their kids at the school had booked something with her by the end of her first year. She was what they wanted to see, a professional. She urged the audience to stop calling themselves home based travel agents. Her lawyer that works from home isn’t a home based lawyer. She says you own your own business, you are a business person. You’re not a travel agent. You are in the consultation business.
Doncsecz, wearing a bright pink shirt, talks about how she branded herself with pink and consistency. To her, pink stands out. She’s carefully branded her logo, website, business cards, your email signature and more to match what she wanted her agency to represent. She wears pink enough that she’s been told people barely recognize her when she wears black. The audience is asked if they have a message, if they have a look. If they do and need to update, it’s not too late to rebrand. It’s okay to change things up. Use it to your advantage and advertise the new changes.
Branding in Real Life
The brand goes beyond marketing. Answer your phone with your agency name. Wear your company shirt, wear your name tag everywhere. You don’t even have to say anything to get clients.
Home Business is still a Business
Doncsecz urged agents to set aside space in your home for your business/office that is only for you. It’s your space. Her kids aren’t allowed in the area, it’s her place to do business. About 10 years ago, her Sandals rep made a sales call. The rep didn’t realize she was home based and was surprised to end up at a house. Despite the unexpected visit, she was already in her suit and her office was ready for visitors. She is now #4 in the world for Sandals sale. Why? She dresses the part. She watches her business.
Quick Tips from Doncsecz
- Establish business hours
- Sets boundaries with friend and family. Also ensures you don’t work 24/7. Dress the part during your business hours.
- Use an email signature
- Get a professional email address with your domain
- firstname.lastname@example.org (yay) vs. email@example.com(no)
- Get accreditations (ex: CTA, CTC, CTIE)
- Answer your phone with your business name every time
- Schedule networking, strategy, and sales calls times
- Buy a name tag
- Know your 60 second elevator speech
- Be business proactive
- Study and read about successful business leaders or new technology. It’s not just about knowing travel.
- Chart a direction that you want your business to be headed
- Find someone to inspire you