DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler

DeJuan Shorter may have started his career as in the advertising world but he found his home in the travel industry. As the owner of the $2M agency, The Timely Traveler, DeJuan does things a little bit differently than most agents.

This 10 year veteran of the industry is a firm believer that sharing your knowledge and itineraries with clients via social and your website is the way to build trust and showcase your expertise. Tune in to find out some tips on how you can use social proof to build relationships with potential clients.

We also discuss how DeJuan discovered booking sabbatical travel is a great way to get a constant flow of clients, his new project, and how he won a big for a large corporate client. As a boutique agency up against a large, established TMC, it's a bit of a David and Goliath story. :)

So get those headphones adjusted, grab a spot in a cozy chair, and get ready to learn some new ways to build your travel agency's book of business!

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Show Notes

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1. Fee Webinar: An excellent guide to how and why to charge fees.

2. Example of DeJuan's Itineraries: Take a look at the fee structure he has in place and published on his website.

3. TAC Vol. 5: Another David and Goliath story about how a boutique agency won over a large corporate client.

4. HAR's Fee Survey Results: Everything you've ever wanted to know about who charges fees, how much, and what for.

5. Travel Joy: The software DeJuan uses to send invoices for his consultation fee.

6. Upwork: An online platform connecting you to ICs for all sorts of tasks. DeJuan has used this to find travel agent ICs.

7. A new fam trip provider specializing in small group Jamaican FAMs.

8. A new fam trip provider specializing in small group FAMs to Mexico.

9. DeJuan's new site connecting advisors to all things FAMs.

10. HAR's Friday 15: Our new project where we answer your travel industry ?s every Friday at 12pm CT. Watch all of our episodes and submit your questions!


Steph Lee: [00:00:11] You're listening to Travel Agent Chatter, volume 18. Travel Agent Chatter is an audio series produced quarterly by the team here at Host Agency Reviews. I am Steph Lee the founder of Host Agency Reviews and your host for today's show.

Today we're sitting down with an agency owner who does things a little bit differently. He shares his most valuable FIT itineraries free on his site. He's used Upwork to find IC advisors to work with his team. And he's launching a new fam trip review site for agents. So tune in to hear how this ex- ad agency agent won a bid for a large corporate client that was previously with an established TMC, or travel management company, and find out how he stumbled into booking sabbatical travel.

And a quick announcement for all you HAR fans out there. We've launched a new project! It's a YouTube series called the Friday 15. So join us every Friday at 12:00 PM central standard time on Host Agency Reviews, YouTube channel. We'll take 15 minutes of your lunch hour to answer your questions. You can submit your questions and find out more about the Friday 15 at

Now let's get on to the show.


Well, kiddos, it is mid-March.

And do you know what that means? It means we made it! One year ago, everything shut down and knock on wood— and that's, if you have any wood left after you started burning all of it in sight because of the apocalypse of the past year. So one year ago, our industry ground to a complete halt. And we're all still here.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler Chicago

So if you're listening to this, you are a survivor. Yay! We made it!

It is great to be here with all of you today. And we have got a fabulous show today. I have an old friend on and DeJuan Shorter is the owner of the $2 million agency, The Timely Traveler based out of Chicago, Illinois. He is full of all sorts of inspiring and distinctive ideas that will help you grow your agency.

So go ahead, grab a seat, but those feet up and get ready to get motivated as you hear some of his philosophies and what he's been doing.

Just a quick reminder before we get started, that you can, let's see, you can watch, you can listen, or you can read this episode. We put it in all sorts of different formats! And you can also find the show notes by visiting Host Agency and clicking on episode 18.

So for today's schedule, we're going to be breaking things down into five segments. So the first is Beginnings. Next up is Mr. Popularity. Unique Aspects, Beyond Bookings, and then we'll finish it up with our warm fuzzy segment. So it is time to get this party started!


DeJuan, welcome to Travel Agent Chatter!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:03:16] Hey Steph, thanks. Thanks for having me on.

Steph Lee: [00:03:19] We are so glad to have you on the show today. My, my absolute favorite thing when I worked for a host agency was seeing people starting their agency and having them take off. And you DeJuan, have one of those success stories! Cause we met when we were at the same host agency and you were just starting out. So how long ago was that? I don't remember.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:03:45] Yeah, it was a little over 10 years ago, I think. Gosh, August of 2010.

Steph Lee: [00:03:50] We're like decades!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:03:51] Yeah, yeah!

Steph Lee: [00:03:53] We can say decades now.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:03:54] That's true. Yeah. It's been over a decade. Believe it or not. But yeah, I was just starting off, I think, before you made your transition.

But yeah, early on.

Steph Lee: [00:04:03] That's awesome. And now you're an experienced agent with $2 million— this is pre pandemic, of course. But it's amazing to see and it's so inspirational. Yay, congrats!

So let's dive into your background because you and I have similar backgrounds in that we didn't travel a lot growing up.

For me personally, we were a family of four kids and I went on an airplane once in third grade. And then the next time I set foot on a plane was when I was 21. And, that was when I got hooked on traveling.

So tell us a little bit about when the travel bug bit you and how that evolved into a career in travel.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:04:46] Yeah, yeah. Good point. I think similar, as you mentioned, I know growing up we traveled a bit around the the U S and some places here. We specialize a lot in international travel and loaner plane rides and exotic trips. I didn't do a lot of that growing up to be honest.

Really when I started getting the travel blood right after college for me. I finally had a working job. My background was in the marketing/ advertising industry. So I started working that field. And finally a little bit of money in the pocket kinda makes it your own decision, what you want to do.

I started to take a few trips early on. A lot of places that were easy on the budget. So a lot of various places in Central America...

Steph Lee: [00:05:23] Were you a backpacker?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:05:26] I ... won't say quite the backpacker, but definitely—

Steph Lee: [00:05:34] I was the backpacker that everybody hates in the airport!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:05:38] —definitely making money stretch. So staying at a great locations, but not breaking the bank where we were staying.

For me, it was more about the experience trying to get local or trying to enjoy culture. So yeah, a lot of when I really dove, in a lot of Central America, Mexico, some of the areas that we really started traveled to. One of the first few trips for us was like Honduras, Belize... actually Peru, South America Peru was a big trip that I went early on.

Where my wife and I went— and I was trying to think way back and we were fiancés when we went, husband, wife— but the two of us went on a trip, a bigger trip with a group. And first time in South America, but for me, just was fascinated by the culture, the people, just the change of scenery. And actually the bigger group trip that we were on.

And, What even got me in thinking more about even starting my own travel agency that group, we had 10 of us or so on the trip and there's a lot of issues with flight. Other people needed help calling the airlines. Issues with hotels and some various things that we didn't plan on. I wasn't an agent at that point.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler

We were along the trip. My wife and I were really helping people navigate the tense situations. And we got back from a trip, I was like, you know what, everyone else was pretty tensed up about that and stressful, but I'm like, Ashley, we didn't mind helping everybody out.

So for me I was like, okay, potentially one day I can make this into... how do I make that into a career? That experience that I had, helping people resolve issues and taking the work off their plate on a trip. Again, we were nowhere near a travel agency at that point. Just two of us just helping out some friends and colleagues.

But for me, that was one of those the initial times where I thought, okay, 1) the experience I had just traveling, loved it, but then 2) in the business side of it, helping people navigate. I started to fall in love with that part of the business.

So, yeah, that was early I guess travel bug, if you say

Steph Lee: [00:07:23] That's cool. Yeah. I don't know a lot of people that would be like, yeah, I want to help you wait online with the airlines and figure out the canceled flights and delayed flights. But that's what a travel agent does. That was really cool.

So tell us a little bit about where the name of The Timely Traveler came from.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:07:44] I think for us, as a business, as a service, the biggest thing that we preach— and I'm pretty sure our ICs as well— is service, right? Being timely. And it goes with that, with the name timely.

And I think it's being there for your customers, being there for your clients. I won't say 24-7, but when they need you, you need to be there, or responding back in a timely manner. Someone reaches out to us for a trip or requests, let's make sure we get back to them same day, within 24 hours. Or usually for me, it's within six to eight hours. Let's get back to them right away with a response, if it's a question, if it's an emergency, let's get back to them right away. But if it's an inquiry or just something more general at the time, let's make sure we're getting back to them in a timely manner.

So for me, it's about the service first. Where every client we touch, every prospect every phone call, let's make sure we're handling in the right way. So, yeah, that's where timely sort of ties into the name.

Steph Lee: [00:08:35] Yeah. DeJuan was even— right before we started recording this— texting with his client, making sure they were getting their COVID tests on their way to Hawaii.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:08:45] Yeah, that's it, being there for them.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (6)

Steph Lee: [00:08:48] Exactly. Well, you followed a pretty typical path in that you started out part-time. So you kept your job at the ad agency, and then as the business grew, you were able to go full-time at your agency. And I found that advisors that are working both their regular job in addition to starting their agency, like number one, I think it's inspiring that they're able to start an agency while doing full-time work, in addition to just life. But that B) the people that do that— that are straddling two different jobs— they find that their regular job, their full-time job, really gives them a steady source of leads from their coworkers, the clients that heard about them starting their agency.

And so you were in the ad world and my extent of knowledge about the ad world is Mad Men. So lots of hob-knobbing, going out wining and dining, tons of networking, lots of smoking. Is that still the case? Like, how did, that play out for you in terms of leads?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:09:54] Yeah. I think that's a good point you brought up. I think a Mad Men-ish at times, to be honest, yes. We enjoyed ourselves.

Steph Lee: [00:10:06] [Laughter] I don't know vodka on the rocks. I don't know anything about drinks!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:10:09] Probably not on the smoking stuff. Not on the smoking side but maybe enjoyed an adult beverage or two. But what you're getting at, it's a very social, it's a very social industry. And yeah, for me, it was—you're right, a lot of the leads were initially— think any agent it starts off a lot of leads are your family and friends first.

So for me, same way. Especially doing it part-time, a lot of our friends and family initially and then colleagues through to work. And a lot of that was social, being out at events, someone comes back from a trip that we booked and you're at a bar, a restaurant, a team dinner, and someone mentioned, "Just got back from Kenya. Oh, DeJuan actually helped book that trip for us."

And then obviously it will start to spread that way. So a lot of our business was initially from the industry, just social, people being out very, again, a very a very, social industry. So if you're doing it right, things could go well for you.

If we weren't doing a great job, the business could've ended that quickly, too. Fortunately we've got some great trips for a lot of colleagues and just folks within the industry. And then it started to just spread out through that industry.

So yeah, a lot of our initial clients were through colleagues and friends through the advertising industry and then it really helped get our business started.

Mr. Popularity

Steph Lee: [00:11:18] Well, speaking of being the ultimate social butterfly, DeJuan, I want to switch topics and chat more on your like online presence on social and your website. So let's jump into the next segment which I've named—and I'm sure you love this—Mr. Popularity.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:11:37] I heard that... I was like, I know what's coming!

Steph Lee: [00:11:41] You were like, Oh God Steph, what is she doing?

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (5)
You heard it here first: Steph Lee bestowed the highest title on DeJuan, "Mr. Popularity."

Okay. So the thing I've come to understand since we've been talking more in depth about your business, is that you're super understated and very modest about your business. Has anyone ever told you that?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:11:57] No. No. [laughing]

Steph Lee: [00:11:58] Okay. Well, let me give you an example. So before every interview, like I spent hours poking around on the interwebs and seeing what, like my latest victim has been up to.

So I checked the website. I check out the social media profiles. I look at the posts from clients. So I'm stalking DeJuan online and I see that he's mainly active on Facebook and Instagram. He's got about 2000 followers on each, which is impressive. Yeah, it's super impressive.

And then I look at the posts and man alive, like the first post has sixty something likes and I scroll down, I think, well, maybe that was an anomaly.

And then the next one is 30 and the next one is 60. And then I go over to Instagram and I'm like, does his magic work over here? And then it worked even better! What had 60 posts or 60 likes on Facebook had nearly 200 on Instagram. And so after that, I was like, Well, I'm feeling really bad about HAR's social stats. Like, we have triple the number of followers and we get three likes.

What's great about you is like, when I asked you about it— and I'm asking you about your social during our call— you're super chill. And you're like, "Oh yeah, I spent some time writing those posts" and I'm like, "Well, we spent some time writing our social too DeJuan..."

And so, what I'd like is can you share with us some of the things that you do on social? What's your process because your audience is so engaged, what are you doing? What's your thought process?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:13:35] Yeah. For me, some of it's similar to other agents, I'm sure. I'm trying to stay out there, pretty active daily, if not a couple of times a day, just for general posts.

But I think for me—I think I mentioned to you too—being engaged in a various groups. So various travel groups, travel segments that I'm part of, even various Facebook groups. So even if it's a group about people who are looking for travel tips in Kenya.

It doesn't have to be a travel agent specific group, just maybe a general travel. You're a fan of travel, right? So you're in these groups. I still try to comment and interact. I don't often say I'm an agent, but I think you start to become a voice or speak more in some of those groups—and they're more consumer facing groups—people are gonna look and see, "Okay, that guys, this is the 5th time he just responded to something about Kenya. Okay, look, he owns The Timely Traveler. Let me follow The Timely Traveler now."

So I think trying to be involved in areas where your travelers are, it works for us. Again, I'm not selling to those groups. So the groups are just purely because I'm passionate about a certain travel niche or an area. But I think it's your expertise starts to carry over and people are gonna start checking out your profile. What do you do? Where are you? And then he's a voice of reason in this group. I should follow their their social page.

So I'd say we've got a good amount of followers that way. And I think for content— and we talked about this a little bit, too— just try to be a little bit different from the content we post. We don't do a lot of price points. We don't do a lot of sales and things like that. It really is more, let's try to share things that are going to help our clients.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (8)

So I know one thing we talked about, the one thing we share a lot of client itineraries. Itineraries that clients have traveled on. And I think we've talked about before where some people, some agents or some professionals, choose not to let the cat out of the bag first. Try to keep it, keep some of those concealed. And when a client reaches out to you, then maybe let them know certain destination or certain hotels. For us, we put a lot of that out there. I think it's been successful for us in regards to engagement. And then also to get new leads. I think for us, well, we'll show them exactly where people stayed what, they did, what tours they took. And that's worked for us.

We've seen a lot of new client bookings out of just being open and sharing some of those itineraries and work that we did. It's almost given away for free at that point. But people actually booked that. I find that people aren't going out and booking on their own.

So just more and more content like that. I think that's more of you're giving something to your client. I try to make sure we posted some, that's gonna benefit the client or a benefit Facebook follower, Instagram follower.

Steph Lee: [00:16:01] Yeah. Well, you do a lot of pictures of your travelers' travel. Do you ask them for pictures or do they send them automatically?

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (4)

DeJuan Shorter: [00:16:09] Yeah, we have on our form before, when they initially fill out the form to get all the travel details prior to the trip, one thing we ask is, are you okay with us sharing your social media picture?

So what we'll try to do, literally they say, yes, I'll go follow them on Instagram or Facebook. That way they usually follow us right back. And a lot of times they're already following us, but not every client thinks to go follow you.

So we'll follow them before their trip. Then once they click, 'yes, okay. we're okay with you sharing our photos' then obviously we'll grab some off Instagram or Facebook. And then also, when they come home, we also ask, 'Hey, do you mind sharing a handful of pictures from your trip?' in our followup feedback form. And usually everyone sends over a couple of pictures for us to use to there. So on the front end we ask and then the back end, we asked again for it.

I think out of one of those two times, we were able to catch some good pictures of images and videos of their other travels.

Steph Lee: [00:16:54] Yeah, that's super smart, like asking beforehand too and following them because part of the problem is people are so busy. They of course want to send pictures and help out in these things, but they, they're just coming back from vacation.

Yeah. So that's really, I love that idea.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:17:10] Yeah. We'll do that and grab a screenshot while they're traveling. Grab a screenshot. "Hey, are you okay with us posting this?" Cause the biggest thing for us too is privacy when people are traveling. Sometimes people don't want the world to know you're out of country, out of town, out traveling somewhere. So that's why we ask it up front. I love posting while they're traveling and tagging the hotel, tagging the resort, tagging the tour company who they're with because then right away too, we find that if you're doing, again, a tour in Kenya, and staying in a nice resort, we'll tag the resort and tag the tour companies they're going on Safari with, they'll then respond back and engage as well, the tour company and the hotel.

So it's giving everybody a little bit of credit, a little bit of visibility while they're traveling. So yeah, we try to do as much of again,

Steph Lee: [00:17:44] Yeah, I noticed you're really great at tagging and I feel like that has something to do with the interactions that you're getting.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:17:52] Yeah. And it's good because a lot of times too— and again, before we move on, you had asked about gaining followers— a lot of times those the resorts, the tours, they'll then share what we tag them in. So when they share that, it's tagging The Timely Traveler back. So if they have 10,000 followers for the resort, they're sharing a picture from The Timely Traveler. They'll then see The Timely Traveler linked on there and a handful of people will then start to like us from that as well. So it goes full circle with that.

Steph Lee: [00:18:16] Yeah. Super smart. Yeah. Cause you're really like doing two things. You're building up your following and you're also getting great engagement because you're bringing in all sorts of other parties into the post.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:18:28] Exactly. Exactly.

Steph Lee: [00:18:30] Yeah. So, tell us what these— you, named a few places, but what are the Facebook groups that you're hanging out in that you found have been really helpful for your business? The consumer facing ones.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:18:41] Yeah, there's quite a bit. I think we've really branched out to the kind of areas that we cover. So to me, to be honest, there's a ton of groups: travelers interested in Key West; travelers interested in Florida. And these aren't the specific names, right now there's so many groups on Facebook travel. So there's one called all things Kauai, all things Maui, a ton of them. So for us it's being involved in all those, all the destination that we serve for our clients.

Obviously there's travel agent specific ones. We're not getting followers from there. It's more going to these consumer—not consumer, but just the general public and just being engaged in there.

So like I said, the all things Kauai, all things Maui, resorts of Key West, whatever it might be, just being involved in these special kind of Facebook groups. It'll help us get some traction from a traveler.

Every once in a while, someone's like "Hey, I need a travel agent" and guess what? You're there then to, if someone does solicit it, you're there to help. We won't mention it unless someone does say, "Hey, can a travel agent, or does anybody know a travel agent who travel to help plan this trip?" And then we're there to help .

Once you put your name out there, you usually get a ton of leads as well from that group.

So, yeah that's, the way we interact. It's one way we interact with and really grow our leads and grow our presence.

Steph Lee: [00:19:52] And, do you— I feel like I remember you saying, you also follow and interact with a bunch of travel-related profiles, like Nat Geo and...

DeJuan Shorter: [00:20:02] Yeah, certainly. I think tourism board, for sure. Just interacting, commenting. I think same with the publications: Nat Geo, Travel + Leisure. I guess any one of those are kind of niche to what you're offering. They're bigger travel companies, but I think still the people that are following Nat Geo or Travel + Leisure, they're obviously travel enthusiasts, people who like to travel. As long as you're interacting and engaging, you're still reaching those same type of consumers that you would actually hope to attract to your business. So yeah, the same idea there.

Whether it's an Instagram page, Facebook even LinkedIn, Twitter, or sometimes to, venture over to, I think just trying to find those like-minded audiences who you're really trying to attract.

Steph Lee: [00:20:36] Yeah. Well, well, one thing's for certain, and that is that you have a great following on social. And it's not just the post interactions. You have, I think 50+ glowing Facebook reviews. You've got maybe 20ish on Google and you've got a handful on Travel Leaders agent site. So walk us through, because I know this is a challenge for a lot of advisors is getting the travelers to review the agency afterwards.

So walk us through your process for getting reviews.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:21:10] Yeah. You know what I think for us, it is— I'm sure most agents do some sort of welcome home, welcome back—for us, it's initially where I ask you for the review, it's as they're getting back home, "Hey first of all, I want to see if any issues, major concerns. I know we check in a few times during your trip, but first of all, anything I'm gonna need to address right away?" Usually I know the answer's no, but it's a kind of a soft way to at least lead into what I'm going to ask for. And then after that, honestly, a couple of check-ins. We have a form that we ask them to fill out for reviews and then we'll also send a link.

So that's more reviews, like we do some write-ups in our newsletter. What were three of your favorite places that you ate? What was the most amazing thing about the trip? We do a little form that has three or four questions and I just repurpose that for our blog and our newsletter and some other stuff.

But then also the last thing I'll include is a link to our Google and Facebook, and sometimes Travel Leaders we'll put in there as well. But basically put a link in for the reviews, right? " Hey again, I know you're slammed, but would will you help grow our business? I know you had a great experience with us. The best thing you can help us do is leave a positive review.

So we'll ask it once. I'll usually do one more follow-up to be honest. And then that's it. There's not a ton... of, I wish I had a secret recipe that I could say that works, but I think just having that follow up email really timely, well, they're just still enthusiastic about the trip just got home from. Capturing them at that moment. I think you wait for a week, you wait for three or four days, they probably haven't lost the magic yet, but it may not still be as fresh. For me, it's trying to get them right when they're getting back, maybe that first day home asking for, and then again, a follow up about a week later if they don't respond to that.

And it seemed to have worked for pretty well for people even review. So, yeah that's, been our strategy.

Steph Lee: [00:22:43] Yeah. I feel like, cause people usually send out those [welcome home emails]. I'm guessing what it is with you is, it seems like you're really in close contact with your travelers throughout the booking process. Texting and emailing and checking in throughout the year. So you have built these really strong relationships and maybe that's coming into play too.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:23:04] I think you're right. The touch points. It's that pre travel being there for them during travel with maybe one checkup. I don't wanna bother them on the trip, but "Hey, we're thinking about you what do you need?"

Usually we do something small while they're traveling. So whether it's a birthday or if it's a celebration we may do some a little bit bigger, but if it's just a trip or maybe the first time traveling with us, I always make sure we have something in the room waiting for them: a thank you, this and that. And then I think, yeah, when they come home, we've talked to them a lot of times and we've been there for them the whole time.

So my mind is almost okay, I don't mind leaving them review. They've actually gone above and beyond to make sure I had a great trip. Yeah.

Steph Lee: [00:23:37] Yeah. So the Travel Leaders site that features their agents Agent Profiler. So when I was checking out your profile, it's flush with pictures and testimonials and your travels.

It's a lot more filled out than some of the other profiles I've seen. Does that mean that you're getting leads from it? What's your experience been with kind of the Agent Profiler system?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:24:03] Yeah it's been good for us. I think to your point, the. initially, we didn't have a lot of it filled out. It's bare bones a couple of places that we've traveled. And then more and more, Travel Leaders has been great and Travel have been great about pushing the importance of having your profiles updated in that. So we finally went in and took their advice and really went in there and beefed up our profiles.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler Disney

And yeah, it's worked. We see—obviously COVID is a whole different situation, but even during COVID we've had a few great leads come through here for trips. So yeah, for us it's been, good.

 For us specifically, a lot of Kenya travel. I think I mentioned to you a lot of Africa travels come through Travel Leaders, through the profile. Belize, Cayman Islands, and some other areas that pop really well for us. So yeah, honestly we need to add a lot more to it even still. There's a lot more destinations and specialties that we haven't fully fleshed out, but I think we've got a good job with some destination. We're seeing leads come in and legit leads that are booking and refer us to other people. So it's been a good it's been a good source of leads for us.

Steph Lee: [00:25:02] Yeah, that's fantastic to hear. Cause sometimes I feel like it's hot or cold. Like for some advisors they say they, it doesn't work for them, but it's great to hear your story. and So people know that it does work and that you've gotten some really big ticket bookings from that.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:25:18] Yeah. We have. It'll heat up at times and in a a few months I'm like, "okay, maybe we need to go through a refresher" but yeah, it gets you to look at it over a year and it gives us a decent amount of bookings. And again, some of the higher ticket bookings when you're talking about luxury safaris in Kenya, really really, nice resorts and in Caymans or villa rentals and things like that. Multi-generational family trips. So some big trips come out of the profile.

Steph Lee: [00:25:44] Yeah, that's super cool. Well I also want to mention, and let everyone know that on your website, you do a great job with listing your client testimonials. So instead of—because oftentimes what I see is there's a testimonial page and it will list all of the testimonials. But you do it a little differently so that you have the types of travel you book, so like corporate or family and on that page, below it after you explain what you do, there's the testimonials from that specific subset of clients. The corporate clients are seeing corporate client testimonials and the family travel, they read up on what other families have been doing.

So the, yeah was there a thought process behind that?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:26:31] I think the thought was if you're a family traveler, how can we make it easier for them to go read about three or four family reviews. "DeJuan took care of the kids." "They had a—whatever it might be—make sure there's enough room for the crib" and things like that. I think you wanna hear about, let's find another family that's traveled with them, versus searching for—if I'm an adventure travel, but I probably don't care so much about reading about family travel testimonial so let's just make it easier, segment it out.

Also we, put some testimonies as well in the itinerary. For example I had a gentlemen reach out to me on Monday, actually yesterday, in regards to a Korea and Japan trip. And really he found that through an itinerary that we had built from a client that came back.

So we wrote it up. We had real images from a client's trip and their thing at the bottom. We had testimony from the client in that itinerary too.

So I was like, how'd you find us?

He was like, "Actually, somehow I was googling South Korea and Japan and your blog popped up. I read it, saw the pictures and it looked like these people are having a good time and there was a testimony right at the bottom as well. So I was like, okay, real life people. I read about their experience. Okay. Let me give you a call."

So I think also those testimonials and the mix with real itineraries that people have actually gone on and pictures, it helps from a new prospective client. It helps bring their guard down right away. Okay. Here's real people. Here's a real itinerary, here's a testimonial. And then I'll go to the Facebook page and wherever else and read a couple of good reviews. Okay. I'm ready to, I'm ready to work with them.

That's, kind of purpose there, those testimonials, and then just like as much real imagery and trip examples that we can put on the website to show people that we can help you, how we operate and how we do business.

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (7)

Steph Lee: [00:28:04] Yeah, you do a great job with social proof and making it so people feel really comfortable when they're stalking you online. Like when I was—

DeJuan Shorter: [00:28:13] [Laughter] Is that because you did?

Steph Lee: [00:28:15] Yeah, I felt very comfortable. Just FYI. You're a great person to stalk.

Well, let's see. So I think I have one last question. When I was perusing the site, you had an email newsletter sign up that popped up and I'm wondering if you can share like how often you send it out and what you put in there.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:28:37] Yeah. Yeah. So we have the pop-up there as you mentioned on the site that collect addresses. But yeah we send it out monthly—I won't say monthly, actually more of a quarterly now. The idea is to get to monthly. Sometime it's monthly. We're still gonna have the schedule as tight as I would like it, but at least try to get it out quarterly with clients and sending updates.

But yeah, for us it's, just a new train of thought. I think usually our kind of format of the newsletter is the first section of the newsletter usually covers a few things that are more topical, right? So if it's talking about now obviously COVID. Maybe new measures that are in place. Such as now, things like travel overseas, you need to get testing coming back to us.

So I have a few links and read ups and just current topics for our users, for our customers and our clients to read up on. But then two, we'd like to highlight a destination. So for right now, during COVID specifically, highlighting a destination, that's available to travel to for most citizens.

So I think the last one we had Hawaii in there and we talked a little about the different islands and nuances. Then why, what island makes the most sense for you as a as a traveler. So little bit about Hawaii.

And then and that it gets more into kind of images of people traveling, we usually do a recap of here's whose traveled with us the last month, or here's whose traveled over the last quarter. Here's six or eight images or maybe 10 images of travelers actually enjoying their vacation.

Typically we'll have a link as well as an itinerary written for that picture. If it's an image of Iceland or Hawaii or wherever it might be, here's the experience they had in Hawaiian and Iceland. So it's not just the picture. A client can go— a potential client can go click on that itinerary and view it.

And then at the end, also we do just a wrap up like here's the trip of the month or trip of the quarter. And we'll highlight a client's trip. And when I mentioned to you earlier about we do a form where we ask a few questions about a client's trip, usually we'll repurpose it at the bottom there. So it's almost a copy and paste at that point. Here were three must-eat restaurants. Here were two tours they absolutely loved. Here's their favorite hotel from the trip. And then maybe just a little bit of a testimonial at the bottom. DeJuan and team put together an amazing trip for us. Or whatever it might be.

So still trying to capture that same theme that we have on the website. Really just showing people out there traveling and experiences that our clients were having. So that's it. And again, I think ideally we'd get it out monthly. It's more of a quarterly basis. Every once and awhile we make it two months in a quarter, we still have yet to do three months straight. So—

Steph Lee: [00:30:50] It's tough!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:30:52] I know we'll get there. We'll get there.

Steph Lee: [00:30:54] I liked that you that you do it quarterly cause sometimes if you don't have something to say, like for us, we do our monthly newsletter. But so many people do multiple times a week, like the bigger organizations, or they'll do it every week. And we were like, that's just too much. We don't have that much to say and it lowers our open rates.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:31:16] Yeah, certainly. Yeah. I agree. To push it out, to push it out, after a while it'll become tone deaf, right? You know open rates will drop.

Just want the people looking forward to it and to hit their inbox and give them some inspiration to travel. So...

Steph Lee: [00:31:30] What's your open rates like?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:31:32] So we're at—I think I mentioned to you last time and I knew you'd ask that again—and I got to go back and look at it again. I think we're in the thirties, Steph. I can't remember. I know we looked at it even last time, but I said, I think we're the thirties, mid thirties.

Steph Lee: [00:31:44] I think you're like mid thirties, forties. So mid 30, 40 .

DeJuan Shorter: [00:31:48] We hit 40 a few times too. Yeah. So maybe 30 to 40, I think we're coming in at. So again, I think when we do it more than that quarter, [inaudible] alluded to earlier, we do see the rates drop off. Every once I will send out kind of a random, just one-off here is a, not really a promotion, but here's a destination. Here's some that happened. And I'll see those, newsletters don't do as well as the quarterly ones that have a little more bulk to them, a little more information in them. Now the quarterly is probably the sweet spot for us.

Steph Lee: [00:32:13] Yeah. Well, 40... 35 to 40% is an amazing open rate. So you're again, putting me to shame. I've got a little bit to go to get up to 35 to 40.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:32:24] Steph, that was the last few! I won't say every one is like that. That we've had some that haven't been up there. I've been going up the last couple that I can speak highly about.

Steph Lee: [00:32:33] Well, well, while we're on the subject of emails, I know I said that was my last question on that, but I know you're a big believer in maintaining relationships through checking in with friends and clients. So can you expand a little more on how you do quick emails throughout the year, how those have helped you grow your agency?

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler Disney World

DeJuan Shorter: [00:32:53] Yeah, Good question. Yeah. For us, obviously I mentioned the newsletter we send out, but yeah, for us also, I think it's important to a little bit more personal with the email too.

I love having our team and we'll do some outreach. Really we'll go through our CRM, our database, our CRM right? And grab our email list and really start to reach out to all of our clients. I'll try to go through everyone, through the list.

But we'll do something like, Hey (in January or even in a year) Hey it's been a year or it's been six months since you went to X, Y, and Z. We're just thinking about you. We're here if you need anything and really enjoy working with ya on that last trip. So we'll send out those kind of emails, those kind of touches. And to be honest those open rate, response rates are— we're not tracking them as we would a newsletter— but the responses are great.

We truly do care about the customers, the clients. If someone had a baby we know in the last year or something different happens in their life... a lot of the clients we're friends with on Facebook now through booking their travels. We'll comment on that as well. And just really show that we do, care about them as the client. Sometimes people are just Hey, thanks for checking in. We'll talk to you when we're ready."

And then there was a lot of times where it's like, "Hey actually I'm glad you reached out. I've been meaning to talk to you about a trip to Paris we're thinking about in 2022. Can we set some time up to talk?"

 So those kind of touches, maybe two to three times a year. Also along with our newsletters and and a few other communication pieces. But the direct emails, taking your time—it takes, a lot of time to write a personal letter to each person. It's worked well for our business. I think our clients really appreciate it. It's a good way to... when you're like, "You know what? Okay. I've tried social media is not working for me. Instagram, Facebook. I'm not getting—

Steph Lee: [00:34:22] Okay. You know what you're doing really great on Facebook and Instagram, DeJuan.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:34:27] Thank you. And some of those likes, those don't always turn in to a response.

Steph Lee: [00:34:32] They're not sales.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:34:33] Email's an easy way for someone to respond back. My gosh, thank you. Here's here are five things I was actually wanting to talk to you about for a trip coming up. So it gives them kind of that platform to really just respond right back to you.

Steph Lee: [00:34:43] Yeah. And I suppose too, if you put out the database and you have—I don't know, 300 clients or something— and you just have the list on your desk and do one or two a week, or one or two a day, and it it takes a minute to write it up and send it off. That's really effective.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:35:03] Really affective.

You think about the time spent and I mentioned before a good--not a good portion, but a percent even 15 and 20% of those turn into be new leads and that's time well spent. And I'm not, and I'm not sure where our percentage is. It's been alright.

But even if it's 10%. You have a list of 500, 600 clients. You get 50 responses back with potential trips coming up. That's, huge, right? So even if — they may not have the details yet, but "Hey I'm thinking about traveling towards the end of the year. I'll be in touch with you soon.

 Mark it on your calendar. Do a follow up again with them in March or April to check in with them, see where they are. To get you another potential lead.

Unique Aspects

Steph Lee: [00:35:39] Well, let's move along and jump into the next segment where I want to hear about some of the unique things that you do.

So there are two things I noticed right away when I was on your website that I don't often see. The first is those really in-depth itineraries that you had talked about.

And the second was the sabbatical travel. So let's start with the in-depth itineraries. We chatted about this, some FIT advisors and just advisors in general, really guard the specific details of an itinerary until the client is closer to booking with them. But you you take the opposite approach.

So tell us about your thought process on putting out such detailed itineraries.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:36:23] Yeah, no. I think I hit on some of this earlier, but I think mine entire intent for putting those out is to just be visible, to be transparent with those trips. For me it's we're finding that we're getting so many leads that are coming in through— that are not even on referral— coming in through social media, things that we're pushing out. Or either it might not be a referral, but someone who doesn't really know who we are. When they first go to our site, that's what you did, it helps legitimize us.

I think just seeing that here's an actual person who has an actual itinerary. And for me I'm pretty confident that the trip we will put together— again, someone wants to try to replicate that, they can try to go do it, right? To do it at the level that we do, with the service that we put behind it I think it's—we put a lot of value there.

So I think for us, knowing about our strengths with customer service and being there for the client, they still won't have the same experience if somebody went to book a couple of hotels and maybe a random tour or two. So I'm pretty confident that if someone is price hunting or just trying to find that out, that's a client we're not really in the realm for. We really want to be there to provide you a service, to provide as a business.

So we find that honestly as I mentioned earlier, the other day client came in. Found the blog on my itinerary and then went through it. Saw a testimonial that we had included with it and he was like "okay, this is an itinerary that I love. I'm glad you laid everything out. I love the hotel, I love some of the tours."

And that was easy work done. Really, he wanted the similar itinerary except for maybe a couple of tweaks, right? So for me, it's almost repurposing that work that we've already done. And we don't put price points on it, we don't put any of that. It's more like here's day one, here's day six, here's day seven.

We don't get specific on dates or pricing, but we get a lot of people who are just like, oh, I want that similar itinerary, maybe just making one change. So that work that we've done, we're using that to almost make multiple sales or stuff that same itinerary that we put together.

So it's been good for us. I think it served a couple purposes. I think one legitimizes for a new potential client. I think two, we find it saves us, instead of redoing work, we have those itineraries posted. And a lot of times people just want to grab and replicate a similar itinerary.

Yeah, I think those are two kind, or two areas or two trains of thought to help us with those itineraries.

Steph Lee: [00:38:23] Yeah. Yeah. And I think, too, cause when I was looking at them, if I were like, "Oh, I want to go to South Korea in Japan" and was looking at the itinerary...

 I was like, well, I don't want to work with a travel agent or pay a travel agent or whatever my deal is. If I went to try to book every one of those pieces, I'd be like, this is exhausting because there are so many pieces that you're pulling together. So I think it also, in some ways dissuades people from booking on their own because they are so complex and so much time has been put into them.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:38:54] Yeah. And I think to your point, we might've talked a little bit briefly before, but I think, yeah, when you start to get the logistics of a European trip, Asian trip, even Kenya, when we start talking on multiple connections and what tour company I use to pick me up from the airport, who's going to get me to this tour, how do I get to the the train station? Those are the details I think once you start to read about all that, you're like, "okay let's work with someone who actually has done this and knows what they're doing there. Help me connect those dots."

If it's just a hotel or two, I think they can maybe just book that on their own. But a lot of these itineraries are pretty detailed with getting transfers, pick up and excursions and all that. So it's— we find, to your point, people come to to us it's like "okay, just make it easy for me, please. Just what you did for them. We want very similar experience. You might tweak a thing or two for the most part we want that."

Steph Lee: [00:39:36] Yeah, no, exactly. And we're big believers at of that philosophy over at HAR. We've, had people copy our ideas and the site and... but I always feel really secure that while someone can copy our site layout and our content, they can't really copy our personalities and knowledge that kind of come with it.

And, just to note for those listening, if you are interested in hearing some inspiration from some agencies that also give away the keys to the kingdom, but have booming businesses because they do that. You can listen to episode it's the episode 12 with Andres Zuleta who's of Boutique Japan, and then episode 8 with Madeline Jhawar with with Italy Beyond the Obvious, both do an amazing job. And I'll link to those in the show notes, as well as linked to one of the pages with DeJuan's itinerary. I'll link to his website.

Well, let's move on to this sabbatical travel. Cause that is something that I don't think I've ever seen an agent say they do on their website. So tell us a little more about sabbatical travel and how in the world you fell into this.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:40:51] Yeah. Yeah. Good question. Good question. For us sabbatical travel actually probably goes back to my agency days. Meaning working in media advertising. You know one of the companies that I worked for, at a previous employer, when this was still a side business, they offer employees sabbaticals. About a month long sabbatical —a month long, three weeks, I can't remember the exact timing but pretty much a good amount of time off after about three years of work.

At that point I had the travel business still on the side and everyone knew, I was transparent with the company, not hiding it, we have company on the side. So at that time at the company, a lot of people were going on sabbatical were like, "Hey can I talk to you about my trip, my travels?" So initially that was how the idea sparked.

And then from there, we started doing some research. For me, sabbaticals were unheard of — three months off just go travel and do whatever you want. I hadn't heard of other companies but then I was like there has to be other companies out here who do this, right? So we started really researching and looking at other companies that offer this. And there's quite a few .

We had a list going on a spreadsheet, a list of companies that offer these sabbaticals. And when we started just doing some outreach to all these HR departments, different teams, and the whole idea and purpose was— and we're still, trying to get there—, but we would love to almost be the agency, the travel agency for these employees that are able to take their sabbaticals.

 Because the sabbaticals are always listed in their perks to working here. You get a month sabbatical, three weeks, four weeks. So our whole goal is really trying to get into some of these companies and be the "look you're getting a sabbatical anyway. Why not mention The Timely Traveler along with that as a you you get your sabbatical, if you want to take a trip, then reach out to The Timely Traveler to help plan that trip for you."

So we started to just make some headway there. We were planning a lot of sabbaticals foractuallya couple of companies. We weren't the official— we didn't get on the HR, the website or that, but we were planning a lot of trips for their employees. And again, these are usually people are going two to three weeks, if not the full month they had off for a sabbatical. So they are bigger ticket trips fun trips to put together and work with.

So it's an angle we're still going after. Things have slowed with COVID but when things pick back up, we definitely want to get back in there and approach some more companies for that sabbatical sort of travel.

Steph Lee: [00:42:55] Well I imagine, even if you don't get in officially with the HR departments, which might be difficult, is once you get in with a couple of the travelers, word would spread like wildfire since this is something that everybody gets after five years, you'll get this continual flow of new leads.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:43:14] And that's what happened. To your point someone got, somebody would get back, we had a lady get back, a couple get back from Australia and Thailand. They talk about it, they get back to work. Where'd you use? How'd you plan that? DeJuan and team planned the trip for me.

And then yeah, it started to take off. More and more sabbatical travelers would just come to us and want to work with us. Yeah, you're right. Word started to spread that way unofficial sabbatical planner with the company, right?

Steph Lee: [00:43:37] Yeah. Yeah. Well, so you also got a decent sized corporate client that came to you after they were with a much larger corporate-focused travel management company, or TMC.

How do you, how did you manage to close that deal as a smaller agency that doesn't necessarily focus on corporate? Like you were up against a TMC, what changed things?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:44:02] Fortunately, I had an introduction through a friend. This company—and I won't mention this here now but they're listed still on the site. The truth: our team's small, but we're pretty nimble. So I think our advantage, our play there was really... The, larger corporate travel company they were using before had a lot of forms, a lot of process in place. A lot of really fine particulars as far as you want to reach us during certain times you got to fill this form out.

I remember listening to all their pain points at the time. Okay, some of those will need to be in place. There needs to be a good process in place to keep track of what they're doing. They're doing a large volume of first class or business class travel and hotels and conventions that they do. So they do a lot of travel every year. So we had to have a process in place, but I think with our team being nimble, really being a smaller boutique type agency, if someone hopped on the phone at nine o'clock, we're not going to charge you a fee to talk to you at nine o'clock. What do you need? How can we help you? How can we be of service to you?

So our whole thing, really that customer service.

Steph Lee: [00:44:59] [Laughter] Sorry! My chair just went down!,

DeJuan Shorter: [00:45:03] I think, I know I said something really good there, right Steph?

Steph Lee: [00:45:07] Poor DeJuan. He's talking and I just disappear!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:45:08] It's that whole customer service thing, where we really do care about them as a company, as a partner with them. So I think our strengths, flexibility, customization, being there for you when you need us. Again, all these forms and links, you don't have to worry about all that with us.

We'll be detailed and organized, just as organized they were, but we're not going to nickel and dime you over if you want to chat at nine, if you want to talk at six in the morning, seven in the morning, we'll be there for you and your travelers. So really just playing that smaller boutique kind of agency card.

And to be truthful we've been a good partnership with them for a couple of years now. We've been there to service them and they travel everywhere. They send clients anywhere from... they're in India to Mexico to Australia to where you name it.

So they do a lot of great international travel and high-class business travel. We're able to handle it. We've done a good job servicing them so far. So, yeah.

Steph Lee: [00:45:59] Yeah. I love hearing the stories of how advisors find these really great corporate clients. It's like a David and Goliath, like in Volume 5 [Karen Hurlbut, Hurlbut Travel]. I talk with an advisor who had a very similar story of how she landed a really big corporate account because the previous TMC was way too rigid for them.

So I'll put a link to volume 5 in the show notes, if anyone's interested in hearing David and Goliath story again.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:46:27] And I just, I need to listen to that one too. And one thing I'll say before you move on, I do remember being in the meeting the final meeting with going in with [inaudible] the pitch, right?

And they were showing me the volume of traveling. I'm like, "Okay, can we actually do all this travel?" You're like, "okay, I feel confident in our service. And you're like, okay, they're really doing a lot of travel..."

But yeah we've done a great job with them. They've been happy with us, but it was to your point, is that David— I'm like, will they really go with us versus the big guy they're working with? But they made the change.

I think they've all been happy for it.

Steph Lee: [00:46:56] Yay!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:46:56] So, yeah, it's been good. It's been good for us.

Steph Lee: [00:46:59] Well, I saw it on your site that you charge a service fee. So I have a couple of questions because I'm always curious on the different ways that advisors structure their fees. In our latest survey fee survey, which I'll link to in the show notes, we had 52% of hosted advisors and 75% of independently accredited advisors charge some type of fees.

So did you—first question is, did you start out charging a fee 10 years ago?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:47:30] So we did not right away. Yeah. We didn't start off right away. We started—I don't wanna jump the gun to your question— we started about about three, three to four years ago we started charging fees.

Steph Lee: [00:47:39] Okay. And then, so that's... it's totally normal and I think on par with what we see in our surveys, is that as someone becomes more experienced, the likelihood to charge fees goes up and in the surveys that we'll link to, there's some really cool charts showing, like through the years, the percentage going up.

So the next question on fees is your fee structure is somewhat unusual in that you charge clients a fee once but never again. And, you also let them know that if they don't like working with you, it's refundable. So walk us through your thinking on that.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:48:19] Yeah, that's a good question.

I think our first thing again we charge a first-time traveler. So for us, it is your first time reaching out to us for a trip we do charge a fee. It varies depending on if we're talking about a FIT Asia trip versus an all-inclusive to to Mexico or somewhere.

Obviously the Mexico is a little bit lower fee than the larger more intensive FIT Asia trip. But we charged per adult. So per adult a standard fee. For us it's first time travelers. I think what it does for us, it helps us, I think what all agents are trying to do, make sure that you're getting a—I don't want to say verified, but a—

Steph Lee: [00:48:56] Like a qualified lead.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:48:58] Right. Exactly. To make sure we're not—they're not just in it to price match. You're not just in it to take an itinerary and leave.

So for us, that's the purpose of it. To make sure we're getting like a customer that fits our service that we provide. So yep. One time fee. We tell them that first time fee, you come back with this— which most clients we retain the business, they come back and work with for multiple trips—you're a client for life, we're your partner for life. We'll help you with any trip that you need after this.

So that's kinda our selling point. Our whole thing is we've done a good job. We're just trying to build clients for life. And maybe we could do that still by charging a little bit more every time. I'm sure some people have [inaudible], but for us it's one time fee and we'll take care of you for life no matter what happens.

So that's how we built our good book of business, I think. And it's worked for us. We do offer the refundable piece. We fly that in, I don't make it so vocal, but it is almost at the end of the page.It says, " Hey, if for some reason you really are not happy that the initial itinerary that we sent to you after the concept, after their initial consultation, we would give you your money back. We were way off base. That we were off budget by— the budget was 20,000 and we gave you back like $35,000 plan— then yes, take your itinerary back and do what we want to do with it." But we haven't had that happen to be honest at all. We never had any one ask for a refund back.

I think maybe one because some body could not travel after we talked and they paid. But that wasn't because an itinerary, it was just cause their plans changed. But other than that, we haven't had that happen where someone's you know what? This itinerary was way off mark. I want my money back." So I feel pretty confident that we're gonna put together a strong itinerary for them based on our conversation or consultation. We do offer it up knowing that the likelihood of it happening is extremely low or them asking for a refund.

Steph Lee: [00:50:30] Yeah. I think like what it does is just add like an ease of mind for people that have never worked with an advisor before that they know it's refundable. Because you're so confident that you're going to provide what they need. That you're not going to be giving the money back.

It's not really a risk and it helps ease their mind.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:50:48] That's it. That's it. I think one thing I think in private agent are probably listen now . I think during the current pandemic, I know more people are charging fees or fees structured a little bit different.

We have worked on some other things on the back end now, as far as cancellations and things too close to travel to help at least help protect some of our work during COVID. A destination could change on a dime right now. And unfortunately just can't get there because of a spike or something that happens somewhere.

So we do have some things work in the back end there, but we still don't charge. We're still not charging any additional fees upfront for a returning client or existing clients.

Steph Lee: [00:51:23] You do like the first call with them, the initial call is free, correct?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:51:27] Yeah. We do the free consultation for the first call.

So yeah, an email or a form will come through, we'll set up the first initial call. And then after that we'll send them the form. We use Travel Joy for our tools. So we'll send them the invoice through there before we start building the itinerary. Once we get the money in hand from them, then we'll start working on the itinerary. And, from there, they're in. They're set essentially from then on to work with us.

Beyond Booking

Steph Lee: [00:51:49] Cool. Yeah. And I'll put a link to Travel Joy if anyone's interested in learning more about that in the show notes.

So, we'll switch gears a little, but still on some unique things about your agency. So you have a few, how ICs, how many do you have now?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:52:06] Yeah, we have four, about four ICs now. We always range from around three to four. About four now.

Steph Lee: [00:52:11] Okay. So you've posted on Upwork to find them, which is a really unique way of finding independent contractors like that are travel agents. So for those of you that haven't used Upwork before, it's an online platform that kind of pairs up freelancers with people looking for ICs, but it's not typically used in the travel space. So I'll link to Upwork in the show notes.

But now DeJuan, I think that the idea of hiring an IC from an online platform may sound really scary or maybe like a huge time suck to other advisers. Has it been successful for you?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:52:50] Yeah, we found great. Yeah. We do some other postings sometimes, but for the most part we found some great—fortunately some great ICs that we love to join our team through Upwork. And it's been for us, we've had great leads. Like with any source, you get some interviews that just don't work out for whatever reason— skills don't match, skill set, timing may not match up.

But for us even one of our best ICs—I won't say best, we love them all, right? One who's been with us maybe one of the longest, I should say, it's probably the best way to put it. A lady, Jane Lencia, who's part of the team, found her on Upwork fortunately, and she's been a great asset to the team. Along the way again. Yeah. Upwork, found her, great interview. Everything obviously worked out for her and then us as well.

But yeah, we found her through Upwork and it's been a way for us to find some great talent to be honest. And Jane's case she didn't have, she didn't have necessarily travel agency experience. She had a passion for travel. She had worked at the customer service areas.

So for us you're looking for some of those other maybe not necessarily that you're a travel agent in the past, but looking for some of those skillsets that are going to translate well to be to be a good travel agent, right? Organization, customer service experience, client-facing sort of positions that you've been in, where you've dealt with clients and dealt with people on a day-to-day basis.

So those are some things that we look for that I feel transmit well over to to being a successful travel agent.

Steph Lee: [00:54:07] Yeah. So two things that pop up in my mind here, the first is that another episode that would be great, a companion one to this is again, volume 12 with Andres Zuleta, who has a complete remote team and what it's like to be working with a remote team.

But then my second question is, so you've given us some tips on how you filter through all the applicants to see what kind of transferable skills they have. But what—I imagine there's a lot of people who think the idea of being a travel agent sounds so dreamy, but they may not want to put in the work.

So what's the process like when you've narrowed down your applicants then what do you do? Like how do you interview them and figure out who you're gonna bring on to the team?

DeJuan Shorter: [00:54:55] I think at that point if you can say the final set, it is really talking to them about the kind of day to day. I think to your point, the big picture, the beautiful piece, you think about a travel agent going on trips and discounted trips and traveling the world.

And then seeing new things, which—

Steph Lee: [00:55:12] It's like Mad Men. You just sit and drink all day!

DeJuan Shorter: [00:55:16] let's say drinking margaritas by the beach and enjoying nice resorts. But it's—obviously some of that is included—but I think that final stage is really talking to them about the day-to-day. Like there's gonna be times you're going to be helping somebody on a flight at 10 o'clock at night and you're exhausted, but guess what? That's your client, they're stuck in wherever because their flight got canceled. You need to help them get home.

So I think it's starting to really show them real world examples. I really tried to walk through like an example like that. I talked to them about a few travel insurance examples that I've had where people have been hurt or injured, and you're trying to help them find a—obviously if they have the insurance to call—but go above and beyond to help them find them a doctor or somewhere close by they can go get help with late at night if they got hurt on their trip.

So just little things like that. We try to show them like, look, I'm passionate about it. I love it. That's why we're in it, but there's actually times where you're putting in a lot of hard work. Even day to day, doing the research. I talk to them a little bit about the research that comes involved and you may put together four or five various itineraries before your client is happy.

So it's, just really opening their eyes before they sign on that it's a struggle some days. And also the new agent, it's gonna take a little while before you start to build up your—that's one thing that also is eye opening to some people at first, like it's going to be a little while for a commission starts to come in for you.

You know, friend of the family maybe book with you first. We send our ICs leads as well as they come through. It's going to be a while to build their business and their own network as well. So just making sure people are aware of some of those things.

I think at that point, you either find people are like, okay, I'm still on. I'm okay. If it takes me four or five months for commission start to come in and whatever else might be. And you'll get some people are like, Oh, that's a little bit more than, a little bit more than I thought it would be. Actually I might pass. Or, I may reach back out to you in the future if that's okay.

So I think that's the point where we see people come either come with us or they may decide that you know what? It is a lot different, a little bit tougher, not exactly what I thought you guys did day to day as a travel agent, right?

Steph Lee: [00:57:05] Yeah. Yeah. I think the income expectations is really important. Setting that up, that the repeat and referrals don't start happening until year two and year three. And so your first year is really slow and money does not come in right away. So.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:57:21] and that's the piece. I think the income part, to your point, that's why I'm always trying to be transparent with everyone. You may be very social and know a million people, but it's still gonna take a while for— initially it will be some of your friends and family who probably will book from you first and then obviously you'll grow. But even that, if someone books with you tomorrow and they're not traveling for six months, most suppliers and most partners don't pay until you travel or till you get back. So it's when the client gets back. So you're still sitting awhile before that money starts to come in.

So yeah, I think it's having those— that income piece is just, is probably the most important part to level set a potential IC to join you.

Steph Lee: [00:57:52] Yeah. Well, I want to ask one quick question. Before we move into the warm fuzzy segment and that's, you're working on a side project called and yeah, first of all, love the name! We're like twinsie sites. YAY!

So secondly, tell us about this like fun sounding site. What is it? Yeah, tell us about it.

DeJuan Shorter: [00:58:13] Yeah. So we're in the process. It's coming along. The site's up, but we need to flush it out a little bit more before we fully release it. But you know the whole idea for us in that fam trip space, I think you've even done a few gift segments and you've been part of your depth different podcast I've heard over the over time about fam trips would come up between different agents. How do I find them? Where are they? Are they for me? Do I need to be qualified as the agent to go? Do I need to sell a certain amount of a destination, right?

So there's so many nuances to fam trips. Each one's a little bit different.

I think our whole idea is really to build this site and have it be almost a resource, a guide for you as a travel professional. So I think one arming you with information about fam trip, basic things. How do I sign up? Where do I find them? who are travel suppliers and providers who are out there?

And we'll talk about that in a second, who are out there for me to even take a fam trip with? And I think too, also as a professional, we're trying to arm professionals with a... almost a tool belt. So the site we created, for example, whole idea is for travel agents tobe able to come on and leave reviews on fam trips that they've gone on.

So we've created a— almost a review site where you can just literally go on a fam trip, you can come back and talk about it, create your profile, leave a review in a few different areas and your rating and how you felt about the fam trip, and leave that there for professionals to be able to read and engage with.

But then also too, things such as digital site inspection form that could live on your dashboard, which I know we talked to you about a little bit more about that. They can also save reviews from other users that have written on the site and save that to their dashboard.

So almost just to make it easy for travel professionals to write, create and review— have everything there in their back pocket for the fam trip reviews, right? everything you would need from a fam trip: going on a fam trip, leaving reviews all live within this dashboard.

Steph Lee: [00:59:55] Yeah. Because instead of having to dig through emails or find the word document that you wrote it on. It's all stored in fam trip reviews.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:00:02] That's it. Our hope would be to get other agents to join it.  It'd be a free site for us, for agents to join. But just a social site fam trips.

 And then also another element of it would be for agents to leave reviews on fam trips, suppliers and providers. Whether it's a Sandals, whether it's— a cause we talked about a lot of new providers coming out now who providing —

Steph Lee: [01:00:24] Yeah, so talk to us about that! Because yeah, these FAM trip providers.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:00:27] Yeah. So we found is I think, we've been seeing more and more of not the big suppliers who also have their fam trips. Anyone from Europe Express to Avanti to Sandals to whatever, right? The bigger, a bigger players that you traditionally expect a fam trip from. They're still there of course.

But we're also seeing... for example, I've talked to a lady who runs this site Jamaica fam trips, and she's working with, I think she's an agent. Actually, I talked to her a little bit the other day. She's an agent. She decided, you know what, there's not a lot of fam trip offerings for Jamaica. Well, there's some very limited fam trips. Some are through the tourism board and some are through a few other areas, but there's not a lot that encompass, that are available for all agents, from novice beginners to experienced.

So her whole idea was, you know what, I'm going to work with the tourism board, work with some, the resorts directly and start to build out some fam trips on our own. So she created the site, created the company. I think they just took their first fam trip for agents. I think she had four or five agents who went on her first fam trip.

Well, there's more though. Mexico fam trips is another site that popped up recently. And I know their fam trips are—again, again, I think a lady or maybe one or two, again, I gotta look at all the details specifically on it, but basically I believe a previous travel agent was still maybe current.

But whole idea was to create more fam trips within Mexico, and more of a hands-on, kind of boutique-y style fam trip for agents. So there's been more and more these, outside your big players, popping up there are providing fam trip experiences for agents.

So and there's some other ones I know as well, some other countries and other destinations as well trying to pop up. So it's a little bit of a different take. We're calling them fam trip providers versus—

Steph Lee: [01:01:59] Yeah, I love that name.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:02:01] So, yeah. Yeah. It's an interesting space. You asked for the purpose. I think the whole purpose of the site is to provide some clarity to the space a little bit more.

And I think to just provide almost a tool belt for, agents to again, create one place that fam trips could live, reviews could live, they could save bookmarked reviews of other agents. A lot of times we're in these various groups, I'll see someone say, "Oh someone posted a fam trip about a Mexico resort, this Mexican resort last week and I can't find it."

Whole idea about this would be, it will live within that site. You can then bookmark it , it would live your dashboard. That review would be there for you to reference any time you needed to. Yeah, trying to really provide that kind of experience for agents.

Steph Lee: [01:02:40] And then you do, you list some fam trip options within the site too? I thought I remembered seeing some.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:02:46] Yeah. So yeah. So even for example right now I"m talking with the Jamaica fam trips, the lady who runs that. We have a couple of her upcoming fams listed on the site. Croatia fam trip coming up, we have that kind of listed there.

So the whole idea will be also to provide a fam trip offerings. I think there are other sites they do offer those fam trip offerings. So for us that won't be our main focus, but I think we can shed some light, especially on some of these boutique, even some of the smaller— I'm not going to say smaller, but just the providers. We can help shine a light on some of their offerings that may not be on some of the other sites. Some of these boutique newer, style fam trips that are coming up, help provide some insight and and, visibility for them too. So...

Steph Lee: [01:03:30] well, congrats on the new site , new project.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:03:33] Thank you. Yeah. It's a project! We're almost there, but there's still some, fine tuning, but we're excited about it. So...

DeJuan Shorter, The Timely Traveler (3)

Warm Fuzzies!

Steph Lee: [01:03:39] we'll put a link in the show notes to both your site, as well as the Mexico fam trips and Jamaica fam trips, so people can find those. And, with that, it's time to sashay into our last segment.

This is our warm fuzzy segment. And if who can't use a warm fuzzy after 2020 in the beginning of 2021 if you haven't heard spiel for this oddball segment, those of you listening in, it's essentially our way of acknowledging that being a travel agent is really darn tough. Sometimes you work long hours and you put up with a lot and sometimes that can end up wearing you down.

The idea behind the warm fuzzy segment is it's a way to remind you that when you're ready to throw in the towel, we're here to remind you exactly why you love this business. That for every stressful moment there are many memories that are being made. And for every horrible client that you have to work with, there are plenty more clients that appreciate the work that you do.

So DeJuan, can you share with us a cute little story about something, a client or a supplier or someone else in the industry, did that really made your day brighter?

DeJuan Shorter: [01:04:50] Yeah, I'll give you an example. For my example, I mean what they did was amazing, it was nice. But it was more about I guess the timing that it happened. It was early, early in my career to your point where those first couple years are, rough starting off for the agent. The income was slow, building up clients and referrals and things like that. But we had worked in itinerary for a European trip.

Actually it was France and a couple of countries, but for a two week trip for a client. It was an intense itinerary put together a lot of back and forth, a lot of feedback, a lot of changes. So a lot of work went into it upfront. And it was was one of those days where you like okay, did the client truly appreciate that? Were they happy? Are they, you know, were they satisfied what we did for them?

So finally went on the trip. We did our normal check-in. We didn't hear much from him. Oh my  gosh. Okay. I haven't heard from in a few days are they having a good trip? Are they not? But you don't wanna bother them too much.

So I waited two days til they came home again. One more check in, just, "Hey, making sure nothing went on the trip, are you guys and everything okay?" Still nothing. So at that point I'm like, Oh gosh, what is going on with this trip?

It was an expensive trip, a luxury trip. So I'm like "God, are things not— are they just upset? So came home, sent our form out that we send out, we talked about earlier, the welcome home, how was it?

Still no response for a few days, right?

Steph Lee: [01:06:04] Oh you're getting the cold shoulder...

DeJuan Shorter: [01:06:06] Yeah, getting the cold shoulder. So I'm like, gosh, are they even okay at this point? In the mail that next day. So two days go past. Go to the mail, go in the porch to grab it. Nice big box of chocolates, a thank you card, handwritten from the client. But basically the whole idea they put together this nice little bouquet package that was "thanks for all the work you do. We appreciate it. Sorry we didn't respond sooner, but just want to send this to you as a handwritten thank you." and then they reached out and on the same day.

So for me early in industry, I was like, "Oh gosh, that's awesome." That's not why you do it, but it's nice to know that it's appreciated.

Steph Lee: [01:06:37] Chocolates! We all do it for chocolate DeJuan. That's what drives me in life.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:06:44] [Laughter] It was that, the satisfaction that we put out there for them. The work we put in was appreciated. So early on I was like okay, that helps get you back on track as agent when you have those down days, right?

Steph Lee: [01:06:54] Yeah. It's just so thoughtful. Yeah. Heart! Yay!,

DeJuan Shorter: [01:06:58] So that's it. Yeah, that was one early on . So we've had things happen since then, but early on, that was one of the first few big things that our client had done back and I'm like, okay, this is awesome. Let's let's carry on. Let's get, let's keep doing this.

Steph Lee: [01:07:10] Yeah, well, that is a beautiful way to wrap up another episode of TAC. So DeJuan, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your story.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:07:21] Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Steph Lee: [01:07:23] Yeah. And you all made my day by tuning in, so thank you for listening in if you're up for it, join us for a new project. We're doing the Friday 15, and that is every Friday at 12:00 PM central standard time on YouTube, I take 15 minutes over your lunch break to go over any questions you've submitted. So you can submit your questions and learn a little bit more about the Friday 15 at /Friday15.

So we will see you cats soon! Until then, be well, stay safe and eat lots of chocolate chip cookies or boxes of chocolate.

DeJuan Shorter: [01:08:01] Bye Steph, thank you!

Steph Lee: [01:08:02] Thanks so much DeJuan.


You can watch a video, read a transcript and view the show notes of today's episode by visiting and clicking on episode 18.

And because I've been listening to a few podcasts lately that have a credits roll at the end, I couldn't help, but feel a little bit jealous and want one for TAC.

So here we go.

Travel Agent Chatter is a production of Host Agency Reviews it's developed, created and written by me, Stephanie Lee, the executive producer is Ryan Gosling. Our associate producer is Neil Armstrong. Fact checking by Serena Williams. Editorial support by Mary Stein, J K Rowling, and Maya Angelou.

Our theme song is chocolate chip cookies are nummy. Sound design and additional music by BTS and *N'Sync. Our consulting producers are top secret.

Thanks for sticking around for our fake credit roll! We'll see you guys next time.

About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry, helping on and off with her mom's homebased travel agency. She has worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (her fav) and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 You can also catch her on her Substack, Bumblin' Around, where she writes on things outside the world of HAR.