A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Erica Carr stumbled into travel in 2019, booking a jaw-dropping 100 trips her first year … just in time for the worldwide pandemic. But ain’t no pandemic stopping this lady. Nope, Erica and her team of three employees are on track to bring in $2.2M in sales for 2022!
Bookitbox TRAVEL is a luxury travel agency with a spin. Every client gets a box pre-departure with travel info and gifts personalized to their unique itinerary. As they say at Bookitbox, “All boxed up and TSA approved.” Join us as we take a peek inside her boxes and Erica shares why she thinks the boxes have been so instrumental in helping her agency grow.
Oh, and copy cats. Most of us face them at one time or another. As you’ll find out, Erica is entirely transparent in what she does with the boxes and how it’s helped. So how does she deal with other businesses taking pages from her playbook? It might surprise you! 😊
We’ll chat with Erica on how she made the transition from never having really traveled in the high-end luxury space ended up opening a successful agency that has a $10k minimum spend for clients. She’ll share with us her approach of ‘loving on her clients’ and how she surprises clients throughout their journey with small gifts and unexpected touchpoints.
We’ll also touch on how she used the pandemic to systematize her agency so that coming out of the pandemic, she saw hockey stick growth in her sales. Through all this, she grew her team of employees throughout the US. If you’re wondering how to manage a remote team and hire the right people for your agency without being able to be in the same office, Erica has some tips for you on that too.
Settle in and get ready as we take a deep dive into yet another successful agency owner’s story!
Special thanks to our sponsor for today's show: Levarte Travel.
We ❤️ reviews!
- Host Week: Free! Fun! Educational! Deals! What more can you ask for. Register today for our January 23-27th, 2023 event of the CENTURY!
- Levarte Travel: Special thanks to this episode's sponsor, Levarte Travel!
- Thanks for Asking Podcast: Sorry kiddos. It's for Virtuoso members only and we couldn't find a darn link.
- Cat Studio: A fav of Erica's for gifts.
- Giftology: The book and theory by John Ruhlin about gifting tangible, non-consumable items to clients to increase referrals.
- Erica's Start Planning page, Custom Planning Guide, and Welcome Guide: Check out Erica's process for clients that helps streamline the experience.
- Debsado: The CRM Erica uses.
- Calendly: A appointment scheduling software Erica likes.
- Sign up for e-mail reminders when the next HAR survey comes out!
- HAR's Guide to Charging Fees: You'll find verbiage from 60+ advisors on how to communicate fees to clients as well as advice for people hesitant to charge fees.
- HAR's Reports on TA Fees: Get the data you need about fees. What are advisors charging for, how much, and how many charge fees.
- bookitbox TRAVEL's evergreen blog: Erica links back to these in her workflow. Get ideas on evergreen posts for your blog!
- RingCentral,Travefy, TravelJoy, Loom, Boomerang, Canary: Some of Erica's favorite technologies to power her biz. (Except Canary, she hasn't tried but TA friends have used.)
- VIrtuoso Travel Week and ILTM (America and Cannes): These are Erica's top conferences for learning and networking. You can find them on HAR's event calendar which lists over 75+ events. If you've got one, list it free of charge!
- Enneagram: Are you a 1 like Erica? Find your strengths and weaknesses with this personality test.
- Remarkable Tablet: Magical. Simply magical! Erica's very favorite tool to help her stay organized and grow her biz!
[00:00:14] Steph: You're listening to Travel Agent Chatter Volume 24. Travel Agent Chatter is an audio series produced by the team here at Host Agency Reviews each and every quarter. Today's guest is the original creator of the bookitbox. What's that you ask? Well, it's just this awesome box of custom goodies that our guests send to our clients before travel that they absolutely loved.
[00:00:40] And I'm sure I've piqued your interest because it piqued mine. We'll be diving into specifics about the box and discuss how the thoughtful systemization of our guest business during the pandemic allowed her to create a really solid base that she could scale when travel pick. And scale she did because our guest now has three remote employees to support and grow the bookitbox brand!
[00:01:05] So find out how she finds the right people for the role and her strategy to keep the remote team that she has on the same page and functioning smoothly. Sounds pretty fabulous, doesn't it?
[00:01:17] So a quick note before we dive in. HARs annual Host Week is coming up soon if you've never been. It's our annual event we put on every year the last week in January, and it's a blast!
[00:01:29] So mark your calendars for January 23rd through 27th. I'm gonna put a link in the show notes to more information on Host Week and you can register. It is absolutely free. We will have keynotes from across the industry. We have tons of host agency interviews so you can get to know them better.
[00:01:46] And then this year we'll also be doing consortia reviews! So we'll get to know the people at the consortia and what makes them different. And if you're a person that loves deals, we have special discounts every year. They're from host agencies, they're from associations and other industry partners that are exclusive to Host Week attendees.
[00:02:06] So lots of fun events to get your free spot at hostagencyreviews.com /HostWeek, and if you are interested in trying out your presentation skills and feel like you have something of value to teach. I want you to apply to speak at Host Week! Applications close November 18th. We would love to see what you've got cooking and going on, so visit hostagencyreviews.com/speaker to apply.
[00:02:37] Now, without further ado, let's get on the show.
[00:02:42] Steph: Well, hello everybody. It is fancy meeting you again here!
[00:02:46] I am Steph Lee, I'm the founder of Host Agency Reviews and your host for today's interview, and today is a really, really good one, folks. So Erica Carr, the founder of bookitbox TRAVEL, has found a really, truly unique differentiator to help her agency stand out.
[00:03:02] And it just so happens that that differentiator is also an amazing marketing piece. So we're gonna find out what's in that box. We're gonna get a peek at the bookitboxes that she sends all of her clients. So if you are tuning in right now and you are on the podcast version and you wanna see what these boxes look like, cause I'll tell you they're super cute and might give you some ideas, you might wanna jump over to our YouTube channel, which is youtube.com/hostagencyreviews with an S. And then you can watch the video version where you can see these boxes of beauty.
[00:03:33] So we are gonna be covering a whole host of things. So if you're thinking of hiring a team or you're kind of feeling stuck in your agency's growth Erica's story may give you some ideas on how to supercharge your sales.
[00:03:46] And if you've experienced, like Erica has and like I have, another business owner, like borrowing your idea, stick around to hear our guest's approach on what she did when she ran across imitators. And we'll also chat with Erica, how she made the transition from having never really traveled in the high end luxury space to opening a successful agency that has a minimum spend of $10,000 for clients.
[00:04:12] So she'll share with us her approach of loving on her clients, how she surprises the clients. Different touch points throughout their journey that are kind of unexpected. And any of the links or resources that we talk about today in our show can be found in the show notes, which you can find either in the description of this or you can find by visiting HostAgencyReviews.com/tac. And this is episode 24, so click on that.
[00:04:38] So a quick map for today's walk so you know what to expect. We're gonna be covering a variety of topics in the segment in our different segments. So we'll start with beginnings, then we'll talk about the book at boxes. We're gonna talk about her hockey stick growth, what kind of systems she uses. We're gonna pick her head for some wisdom. We're going to talk about hiring and remote teams, and then we'll finish it up with our new indispensable segment.
[00:05:02] So I am ready to make this happen. Are you?!
[00:05:05] Steph: Erica! Welcome to Travel Agent Chatter. Thank you. This is, this is so exciting because I have had you on my list to interview since before the pandemic, and if you're listening to this later, that was a couple years ago.
[00:05:17] So it is a treat to have finally made this happen. I'd heard about this unique twist that you put on your agency and I loved it. I can't wait to dig into things more, but before we do, I always like to get our guest take on how in the world they ended up as a travel advisor because there's, it's just like fun for me to hear how people get into it.
[00:05:35] So how'd you get into travel?
[00:05:37] Erica: So many different ways, right, that we hear it in the industry. It's so fun. So mine was completely accidental. I spent about 20 years in the orthodontic space. So I worked for small startup software companies and had a great career. I worked from home, covered great territories, absolutely adored our clients, worked for great companies.
[00:05:59] But I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But you know, over the years I had different ideas and nothing ever kind of stuck. And so, we had friends that travel every March. They have five kiddos, so they're of course, insanely busy and,
[00:06:17] Steph: And they're insane to travel with five children. But yes...
[00:06:19] Erica: They actually travel without the children. And so every March they go, they leave the kids behind and they travel.
[00:06:26] Steph: That makes more sense.
[00:06:27] Erica: Yes. So in 2018, they purchased tickets to go to Barcelona, Spain, and it was for like 10, 10 nights. It was a long stay. And so I kept saying to them every time we'd run into them, like, you know, what are you gonna do when you get to Barcelona?
[00:06:41] Or what are you gonna do when you get to Spain? And they just kept saying, We don't know. We don't have time to plan our trip. Like, we're just gonna kind of go.
[00:06:48] Well I am first born, Enneagram one, like control freak, all of those things. And so I literally could not stand it. So I finally just said, give me the reigns, let me plan the trip for you.
[00:07:02] And I did. And so I planned their entire trip. We had 'em, you know, go to San Sebastian and do all of these really cool things. And because I can't do anything the easy way. I went to Hobby Lobby the week before and bought a little craft brown paper box and bought a bunch of just things that I knew they could use on the plane ride over there and converters and just things that they would use during their time in Spain.
[00:07:26] And I sent them off to the airport with the box and I said, when you get to the airport, open this up. And there's some fun goodies inside. So Kate, the wife, recorded it on Facebook just because she's hysterical. And that literally started getting comments like, who planned this trip for you and who's behind it?
[00:07:45] Yeah. So when they got back, we kind of gathered on my back porch with some other neighbors to hear about their trip. And literally that was the night that bookitbox TRAVEL was born. It was named that night. A friend of. Literally kind of just said bookitbox TRAVEL and immediately grabbed my phone and went to godaddy.com and bought the url.
[00:08:07] Steph: That's an amazing origin story. I love it. And, and for you, you hadn't— I think our backgrounds are kind of similar, that we hadn't really traveled growing up. Like, you know, we weren't jet setters by any means. Is that right?
[00:08:20] Erica: That is so true, yes. So I grew up in St. Louis, so pretty landlocked in the Midwest.
[00:08:26] Steph: Yep.
[00:08:26] Erica: You know, we did a couple of Carnival Cruises and we drove out to Disney one year, but it was very minimal travel and I mean, Like I say, my dad wore a badge of honor for the cheapest hotel or motel he could find. So like there was no luxury happening in my childhood travel experiences.
[00:08:47] Steph: Yeah. I I hear you.
[00:08:48] At least you left the state. I don't think we left the state when we were younger except to go to Disney once. But I love, I love when people tell these stories and, and hearing stories like ours, because when you didn't grow up traveling, it may seem like you can't open a travel agency, but it can help inspire people who may not have a lot of opportunities to travel when they were younger that a career in travel isn't out of the question. And we'll, we'll kind of talk about that more later on, about how to sell travel that you don't actually do necessarily.
[00:09:19] But I, I wanna move into talking about these bookitboxes. So before we do though, I, I wanna touch on something a lot of successful business owners will run across, and that's people copying your ideas.
[00:09:32] So you just finished a podcast with Helen from Virtuoso, right?
[00:09:38] Erica: Helen Nodlin, yes.
[00:09:39] Steph: Yeah.
[00:09:40] So you we're gonna link to this in our show notes, but I, I think it's called, Thanks for Asking the podcast. And why I bring that up is because you've been very open and during this call and the call we had before this. You're just very open in sharing about what you do.
[00:09:54] You're not trying to hide it. You'll show us what the boxes look like. So how do you deal with copycats? Do you have any advice for agency owners? Cuz you seem to, you know, be very open to sharing.
[00:10:06] Erica: I am. You know, I just realized that there is enough business to go around for everybody and you know, of course I hold onto the fact that that I've kind of brought the box component to the industry. And so typically when you're first, you know, there's just so much that goes into it. So it's not easy to copycat by any means. But, you know, I just believe in sharing and that's one of the things that I really love about my host agency is that the advisors within the network are just so open and willing to share.
[00:10:36] And as a new advisor four years ago, that's how I grew. And so, you know, I just, it doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me .
[00:10:49] Steph: Yeah. No, that's fantastic. Like, thank you for sharing. Cause I think so many people and including me, like when I first started and someone copied the site. It was kind of irritating to me.
[00:10:59] And everyone tries to tell you, Oh, it, it's, you know, it's the best form of flattery you can ever get. And you're like, Okay, that doesn't make me feel better though.
[00:11:07] Erica: Yeah. Well, and to me, you know, I mean, we all have to respect each other in the industry, right? And so, to me, you can't be an imposter. No one else can be Erica Carr. And I can't be Steph Lee. So I'm a huge believer and like, stay true to who you are and put your own voice behind your emails and your marketing and all of those things, which we've done and certainly invested in a copywriter and graphic designers and all of those things.
[00:11:33] So as long as it doesn't cross the line, I'm okay with it.
[00:11:39] Steph: Yeah. I, and I feel the same way, like as, as time has gone on you know, what I started realizing is people can copy me all they want, but they aren't me and they aren't Host Agency Reviews and they aren't our team. We've created this culture and that's not something people can replicate and it's something that comes across to clients.
[00:11:59] So thank you for sharing that. And again, thank you for being so open about everything today.
[00:12:03] Steph: So let's, let's jump into the fun part. I wanna like learn about the boxes. So tell us more about the boxes. Show us everything.
[00:12:10] Erica: Yeah. Yeah. So again when Kate and Matt went on their trip, I, you know, went and got the, the first box, which I really wish I had like that because that was 1.0, version one.
[00:12:20] So that was spring of April, 2018 that they traveled and then, some friends just started reaching out and saying like, Hey, can you, you know, book us trips? And so just, I was obviously still full-time in my sales career and so I was just kind of doing these trips on the side and it started to kind of grow.
[00:12:40] So at the end of the year, that's when my husband and I sat down and we were like, Okay, we, we think this can be a business. And so that's when I hired a designer and things like that. So the first version of the box is this one. This was, mm-hmm. , we'll call it version two because the Hobby Lobby version was version one, but you know, kind of white and starky.
[00:12:59] And I had a friend who's really has a great eye, she owns a cute little boutique in town, and she was like, It looks pretty corporate. And I was like, Yeah, you're kind of right. After Covid and after things started to come back, we refreshed the brand and so just kind of upleveled the colors and the fonts to speak more to the luxury market.
[00:13:20] And of course came up with a much more fun and colorful.
[00:13:26] Steph: That's gorgeous!
[00:13:27] Erica: Yeah. It's so fun. Ready, set.
[00:13:29] Steph: Yeah!
[00:13:31] Erica: So it's just it's just more fun. It's bigger, you know, we were trying to cram things in the small box,
[00:13:37] Steph: All boxed up and TSA approved. Very cute!
[00:13:40] Erica: Yeah. So that's the box.
[00:13:42] Here's one actually put together.
[00:13:43] We have we have clients, we have actually have the sweetest husband. He's surprising his wife. She's never been to the Grand Canyon and—
[00:13:50] Steph: Okay. I'm gonna have to have you smile cause I'm gonna use this for our picture for promoting. Oh, hold on. Oh, now it fell over. Hold on, everyone. We're taking the picture in the middle of the podcast.
[00:13:59] All right, perfect. That's gorgeous.
[00:14:02] We'll be back in a moment after a quick word from our sponsor.
[00:14:06] Levarte Travel: Turn your travel passion into a career with Levarte Travel. I started Levarte Travel after being in the industry for 40 years. The industry is fun. It sells itself. The team at Levarte and Lori herself are always very accessible. I can't say enough about the types of training that we've received from her and her team.
[00:14:29] One year in my business is booming. Learn more at Levartetravel.com/hostagencyreviews.
[00:14:36] Erica: Yeah, so just fun step and it's just so fun to find, I mean, this is by Madewell and it's Sedona Hand Cream, which if you've ever been to Sedona, you need hand cream. So it's just, it's fun finding all of the cute little things that can go in the box.
[00:14:54] Steph: So are, so are all the boxes the same size? You do different things for different destinations, but are all of them the same size?
[00:15:02] Erica: Yes, they're all the same size. It's the value of what goes in them is what varies. And so that is based on the revenue that is generated from the trip.
[00:15:10] Steph: Gotcha. Okay. So can you give us some ideas of like, some things we saw, what you did for Sedona are there any other things you really like to put in there? Like you talked about the adapters.
[00:15:21] Erica: Yeah, so definitely anything that they can use on their trip. I mean, you know, like we do a lot of families to Costa Rica, so we do organic you know, bug cream that they can use.
[00:15:31] Steph: Oh, good. Yeah.
[00:15:32] Erica: Things like that. But we really do try to stay away from consumables. So I read John Roland's Giftology book, and it completely changed my mindset on gifting.
[00:15:42] So we really tried to gift things that will stick around for a while, and that clients will continue to use time and time again to increase the number of impressions that we're making on the client. Right? So if we have a client going to Italy or France for wine, we might gift them a wine opener, you know, the electronic opener. So every time they open a bottle of wine, it's just like a little subconscious reminder and how amazing that trip was.
[00:16:11] We also love the Cat Studio brand. They have a whole travel. Line. So it's one of their dish towels. They're so cute. So they've got Italy and Croatia in New York City. I mean, tons of different destinations.
[00:16:24] But again, you know, John Roland in his book Giftology talks a lot about people use things the most in the kitchen. So if you can find some of, you know, kitchen gadgets, kitchen teams, that's where you're gonna get the most impression.
[00:16:38] So we love the Cat Studio dish towels for that reason, but they also do like the cutest little mini, it almost looks like a mini pillow, but it's like a Christmas ornament or holiday ornament, and it has like Italy embroidery on it. They're just really well done.
[00:16:54] Steph: Ah, well link to that in the show notes if anyone's interested. So what's kind of the feedback from your, your clients on the box and how does this help, has it helped your agency grow?
[00:17:06] Erica: A hundred percent. And this is a lot of what Helen and I talked about. And after she and I did the podcast, I got two emails from clients who had just received bookitboxes.
[00:17:15] And I swear they're like little kids. They're like, Oh, we just got our box! Or they sent pictures or videos of them opening the box. So, you know, that's one thing that has been missing from the travel space, right? Is like there's no tangible element to travel.
[00:17:28] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:29] Erica: And yeah. So absolutely. And it also gives a tangible that they can post about on Instagram or Facebook, and there's no doubt in my mind that I had tremendous growth kind of right out of the gates because of the box.
[00:17:45] Steph: Yeah. That, that makes tons of sense. And you also put would you mind like bringing one of the— Cause you put cards in there as well, right? That are specialized?
[00:17:53] Erica: Yes. Yes. Let's see if I have one.
[00:17:59] Steph: She's digging around right now defining beautiful cards.
[00:18:03] Erica: Yeah, so they're little--
[00:18:04] Steph: Now this is backwards, so you might have to tell us what's on it.
[00:18:08] Erica: Oh, okay. So it's the, of course branded. So it's a six by six card stock. But this, this particular card is: Tag us along the way and we'll send you some book at Box Love.
[00:18:16] So this is basically our ask for the client to tag us on social media.
[00:18:21] Steph: Mm-hmm. .
[00:18:21] Erica: So on each card, these are all customized for every single trip. Snap a photo at the Macy's Day parade with deflated parade floats, , something Christmasy and with Santa Claus. So this is obviously someone that was going to New York, New York City for the Macys Day parade.
[00:18:38] And then backwards again, but this is kind of the first card in the box. So it says you are going to the Macy's Day parade in New York City. So that's where we kind of name the destination.
[00:18:49] So the cool thing about the box and what we've seen as a trend is that it's a really cool way to gift, right? So yeah, husbands are gifting their wives during the holidays, a lot of parents are wanting to gift experiences to their kids, and so they can literally wrap the box and put it under the tree. And we, we modify the travel cards when it's a gift so that it literally unfolds the trip for the recipient of the book at Box.
[00:19:17] Steph: Oh, fun. I love that.
[00:19:20] Well, it's, you know, your box is such a differentiator when comparing agencies and the, the growth you've gone through since you've started is really exceptional.
Hockey Stick Growth
[00:19:30] Steph: So let's move into the next section and I wanna talk about your evolution since you started in officially in 2019. . So I think you said you did 100 trips in 2019, is that right?
[00:19:40] Erica: Correct.
[00:19:41] Steph: Okay.
[00:19:41] Erica: Small trips.
[00:19:42] Steph: Yes. Yeah. So of course then the pandemic hit, which none of us can forget because of our PTSD from it. But now in 2022, you said you were on track for 2.2 million in sales, I think.
[00:19:55] Erica: That's right.
[00:19:56] Steph: So with those a hundred trips you booked in the first year, that's like, I was trying to figure it out. It's like eight trips a month. So what do you think contributed to the such a successful first year and then really helped you hit it outta the ballpark in 2022? Was it purely the boxes, or what do you think level you up?
[00:20:16] Erica: So in that first year, 2019, again, I mean, I, I attribute a lot of the growth to the box and just, you know, the novelty of having a, you know, someone that was a boutique agency who put a lot of like, love into designing these vacations. And so it just kind of spread through our community.
[00:20:38] So for 2019, but of course like all of us, I mean I was doing, you know, three and four and $5,000 trips. And so after Covid and as we, our region here started to kind of open back up and start traveling again, at that point I had, we had so much business coming in, I had to say, Okay, I have to either, I have to make a decision here. I can either increase the minimum trip budget amount or I can take on all of these clients and kind of give less love and go less of that high touch.
[00:21:13] And that was definitely not what I wanted to do. And the growth certainly also has a lot to do with how much touch we do. And, and, and the client experience that we deliver is just so critical.
[00:21:26] So that's why people are willing to tell their friends about us is because we treat 'em really well and we also deliver a really great vacation experience.
[00:21:34] And so, you know, over the years we've just slowly up level, like the type of clientele that we have attracted.
[00:21:43] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:44] Erica: So I just told Morgan who handles our social media a couple of weeks ago, I said, you know, our goal with social media is not to attract more clients. That's not our issue. We want to attract the right type of client and just continue to like, hone in on that luxury market.
[00:22:04] Steph: Mm-hmm. That's yeah. That's sweet. Are there, are there, are most of the clients from your background in orthodontics, like are you selling from a lot of your network from back then?
[00:22:16] Erica: We are. Yeah. And I, I'd waited. Like I strategically did not go back to the orthodontic community. It's a very small community. There's about 10,000 orthodontists in the country and, you know, spending 20 years nearly in the space, I know a lot of the doctors. And so I wanted to be really careful about approaching that market after I knew what I was doing.
[00:22:36] So I did not start marketing to the orthodontic community until until 2021.
[00:22:43] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:22:44] Erica: So yes, we work with a lot of doctors in this space and we adore them. They're some of our favorite clients, but a lot in our community here too, in Gainesville, Georgia. And we also have built a, a network in the Houston area and we love our Houston Heights too.
[00:23:00] So that's been really fun. And that was just, a friend of mine, actually from the orthodontic space, and we did a trip for he and his wife, and he told some friends and they have then told their friends. And so literally it's just grown in that, in that market.
[00:23:15] Steph: Well, that's amazing. Like, I feel like part of what I've been hearing too, from you is that your marketing... a strategic point of it too is what you call loving on your clients.
[00:23:24] So can you tell us some of the personal touches that you put into the process of working with a client to just kind of surprise them?
[00:23:33] Erica: Yeah. So we, that was one of the blessings of Covid for me was, you know, 19 was like so busy and I didn't know what I was doing. And so after the craziness of covid and cancellations and postponements and all of those things that we all traumatically went through together
[00:23:52] Steph: Yeah.
[00:23:52] Erica: And subsided. At that point, I was able to stop and say, Okay, what is it that I need to add into my workflow to, to have more client touchpoints?
[00:24:04] You know, I think it's so easy to deposit a trip and then ghost your client until right before they leave and you're sending them final documents. And so we have just built in steps into our workflow that we're, you know, in touch semi-regularly with them, and a lot of it is getting them excited about their trip.
[00:24:25] So if they're heading to a five star luxury resort in Cabo you know, every month we send them some highlight about whether it's, you know, the pools at the resort or the dining at the resort or cool things that they can do in the destination. For our international clients, it's a lot about, you know, if it's their first trip across the pond, it's educating them on how things work in, in Europe. I mean, you know--
[00:24:48] Steph: mm-hmm.
[00:24:49] Erica: —can't just walk into a cafe and use the restroom like you can here in America. So just educating them throughout the process. So we do a lot of that. And then we also just do some fun little things. So on departure day that morning, we will send a text, a happy departure day text to the client. And if they're coffee drinkers, we send them a Starbucks gift card that has enough on it to, you know, cover up their first coffee on us for everybody in their group.
[00:25:16] Steph: That's nice. That's a really nice touch.
[00:25:18] Erica: Yeah. So that's fun. And then the other fun thing that we like to do is in Italy, the for, again, our kind of 101 clients, if you will, first time travelers to Italy who are coffee drinkers. The first full morning that they're in Italy will we will gift them a how to order Italian coffee class.
[00:25:38] And so typically it can happen at their hotel or a cute little coffee shop—
[00:25:42] Steph: that's very fun!
[00:25:43] Erica: —hotel. And so, you know, I just know for me it's intimidating to walk into an Italian coffee shop and try to order something that you like. Here in America it's just so different. So to me it just gives them the experience of trying all the different Italian coffees and figuring out what they want and giving them the confidence to order it during their stay and interview.
[00:26:04] Steph: Oh, so they get —yeah. So they get to try everything so they know. Oh, nice.
[00:26:09] Erica: Yeah.
[00:26:10] Steph: That's awesome. Well, let's see. And, and you mentioned the Giftology book too, so I'm gonna make sure to put that in the show notes if I didn't already say that.
[00:26:18] Steph: But let's, let's talk about some of the systems that you've put in place at bookitbox to help grow and scale your business because it's— I think when you start, it's so easy to focus on finding clients, learning the industry, you know, you have to figure out how to pay estimated taxes and a zillion other things.
[00:26:35] Erica: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:26:35] Steph: That are now on your plate as a business owner that you hadn't thought of. But you had just mentioned that the pandemic was such good timing for you, which by the way, is the first time I've ever heard a business owner in travel say that. But can you tell us a little bit, kind of about the, how you revamped things?
[00:26:52] You talked about like you really need to, in the beginning think about scale when you're, how you can scale using the existing systems.
[00:27:00] Erica: Yeah, that's one of my biggest tips for any new advisors to the industry is when you implement your systems, which you have to do in the beginning, you have to think about scale and growth.
[00:27:14] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:14] Erica: So only implement a system that is gonna work for you with five clients, 50 clients, or 500 clients. Because by the time you get to 50 clients, you do not have time to go back and implement systems. I mean, that is the last thing you have time to do. So invest from the beginning, do it right the first time and just make sure it will, it will scale and grow with you.
[00:27:39] So during Covid, I mean, you know, for me it was a lot of refining. So I had a lot of systems in place, but just there needed some serious refinement to those systems. After learning for a year of dealing with clients and, and working with clients. So...
[00:27:58] Steph: Yeah, I, I think that's such great advice because people don't think of it. When I, like when I started HAR, I like did three months of planning on everything I wanted, how I want it designed.
[00:28:09] And that was really, really helpful. And then we had to— we revamped our version one of our site, maybe like five years ago or something— but we built it custom on the back end instead of being in WordPress. And like that project was so big and so hard to like figure out how to scale this on such a bigger level.
[00:28:28] But well worth it. But it, it is so hard. Once you become successful, that's when you need these systems to move for you. And oftentimes you're just kind of stuck because you don't have the time.
[00:28:40] Erica: Yeah. And I mean, same with hiring. Like you have to hire ahead of growth. So I hired. My virtual assistant in 2019, that summer.
[00:28:49] So I officially like, walked away from my software position and stepped into bookitbox TRAVEL full-time April 1st, 2019. And I think that June or July I hired Amy, who's still with me. And you know, I just didn't quite need her yet, but I saw it coming. And so again, like if you wait until you are busy, you can't train that person or you can't go find that person because it takes some time sometimes to find the right people.
[00:29:17] Steph: Yeah, that's very true too. And it, and it's, yeah, there's a lot of work involved if you wanna make sure you're hiring the right person.
[00:29:23] Erica: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:24] Steph: Well, let's see. On the site you have your start planning page, which is essentially the quote form. And I'll link to it if people wanna take a look at it. But walk us through the bookitbox customer journey from there.
[00:29:35] So they fill out your start planning form, and then I know you, you send like your custom planning guide and your welcome guide. Can you walk us through that?
[00:29:42] Erica: Yes. So no matter what, no matter how someone reaches out to us prospective clients, you know, you get Instagram messages, text messages, phone calls, you get leads kind of from everywhere.
[00:29:51] We always, always, always send them to that start planning link on the website. So that is a form that is embedded. We use Dubsado as our CRM tool, so that is a jumps auto form that's embedded in our website once they complete that lead form. And that helps us, of course, to collect all of the basic information.
[00:30:10] Like who are they, where do they want to go, what are their travel dates what are their interests while they travel, budget, those sorts of things. Once they submit that, it redirects them to my Calendly page, which is again, embedded into our website, and that's where they can schedule their complimentary consultation call with me.
[00:30:30] Steph: Mm-hmm. So once that occurs, how long is the call usually? What chunk of time do you allot for it?
[00:30:36] Erica: I allot 30 minutes, but it. You know, 15 to 30 minutes—
[00:30:42] Steph: okay.
[00:30:43] Erica: —depending. So once that lead form comes in, I then send out an email to them that comes from me, and it's a canned email that I customize based on where they want to go and who they're traveling with.
[00:30:58] And that basically just says, you know, congratulations on filling out your start planning form. You are on your way to an amazing vacation experience. Before we hop on our call, you know, click here to see what happens next. And it's our custom planning guide, which was one of the documents that I created, or I, I hired someone to create during Covid.
[00:31:21] And that basically that document, it's goal is to pre-sell the perspective client on why they should use bookitibox TRAVEL. So it, you know, talks about me, it talks about the benefits of working with bookitbox TRAVEL.
[00:31:40] It also talks about our design fees, which are our service fees. And so it kind of preps them to let them know like, Hey, this is what our design fee startup for the different types of trips that we offer.
[00:31:54] Steph: Yeah. I'm just gonna pull this up really quick while you're talking on it. And again, if you're listening, this is one to, to check out the video one. But here's like the custom planning guide. You can see it's really beautiful. 11 pages. Got testimonials. Yeah. Design fee questions. The different packages. It introduces who Erica is, what they're doing.
[00:32:15] Yeah, so we'll, we'll link to that in the, the show notes.
[00:32:19] Erica: Kind of goes through our rules, like, you know, no, you cannot use hotel points with us, but you can use air points. So it just kind of, you know, nearly answers— it, it almost like helps to answer objections before they come up during that call.
[00:32:34] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:32:35] Yeah. I, I just realized I wasn't sharing my screen when I did that!!! I hate it when I do that. Hold on. Okay, we're gonna scroll through it again everybody. Yeah, and if there's anything Erica, like in here also you introduce your design fees. Do you wanna chat a little bit about those, Like, why you charge them? Any advice you have on it?
[00:32:53] Erica: I have so much advice on this.
[00:32:55] Steph: Give it to us all. We love it.
[00:32:57] Erica: There's so much advice on this. So, I, I honestly don't know how advisors run a business without traveling, without charging fees. I mean, here's the thing. It takes a lot of time to do what we do. We have business cost, we are advisors, we have, you know, we have knowledge that's easy for us, but you know, not easy for our prospective clients.
[00:33:22] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:33:22] Erica: So yeah, we charge a fee every single time. I, trust me, I've learned and slapped my hand several times where I had friends that came and I thought, I'll just wave the fee. And it literally bites me every time. So to me, you know, to attract the right clients charge a fee because you, we always say our ideal client has more money than time.
[00:33:49] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:33:50] Erica: they're looking for someone who's a professional to hand something off to. And so, you know, we want to attract people who are willing to pay a pretty significant design fee because they value what we do. And in addition, when we go to our travel supplier partners, I mean, we have a 99% close rate.
[00:34:11] So, so it's helped us to create a really good reputation and relationships with our supplier partners because they know when we send a new trip request, it's go, it's going to close.
[00:34:23] Steph: Yeah.
[00:34:23] Erica: Because they've paid us eight, $900 to book the trip. So they're committed. They're not gonna just bail.
[00:34:31] Steph: Mm-hmm. And that's your, your fee for FITs, right?
[00:34:34] Erica: 8 95 is what our i's start at and that's both domestic and international per week.
[00:34:40] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:34:40] Erica: So, you know, if it's a two week Croatia Monte, Negro, FIT it's 8 95 times two. Whatever that is... I was a communication major.
[00:34:51] Steph: That's awesome. Well, it's, you know, if, if anyone is— I know fees, there's so many different ways people do them and people feel very strongly, usually one way or the other. But if someone out there is listening and is toying around with, with charging fees, make sure to check out— I'm gonna put in the show notes a link to our annual surveys that we do and we give all sorts of information on fees, like what the average fee is for consulting you know, service fees, what people are charging for and the amounts.
[00:35:19] So there's a lot of information, data within there to help you make that decision on what you feel comfortable charging and give you a base.
[00:35:25] And then I'll also link to our article on charging fees. We have the verbiage that I think like 60 plus advisors use for charging fees, cuz the way you present it can be like, make or break things.
[00:35:38] Erica: Absolutely.
[00:35:39] Steph: Yeah. So there's, there's lots of great advice in there for anyone kind of struggling in, in that area.
[00:35:44] Erica: Yeah. And you know, I mean, if you're a part of a consortia or you're a preferred partner with a hotel brand, I mean, honestly, it's like if you go spend a week at a nice resort somewhere and you get breakfast included because you book through us, like it comes back to them twofold.
[00:36:01] And they have to pack their bags and go, and they let, like, we take care of all of the heavy lifting. So, you know, I mean, there's just so many ways to, to kind of sell it, if you will. And I just, you know, I always say if, if you want to attract people who are willing to pay zero design fee, then that's the type of client that you end up with, right?
[00:36:24] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:25] Erica: you just have to attract the right client type.
[00:36:28] Steph: Yeah. It, it can be tricky in travel because — You don't make a lot, with 15% commission, if there's a mistake, it can eat into your profits really quickly. So those fees can really help make it so people can have a, a nice living as a travel advisor.
[00:36:44] Erica: Yeah.
[00:36:45] Steph: And then I, I'm gonna pull up too, if I show this correctly, so after someone when we were walking through the process, the custom guide, so you send them the form that I just showed everyone where it has your fees--
[00:36:55] Erica: mm-hmm.
[00:36:55] Steph: and then once they sign on, what happens?
[00:36:58] Erica: Yeah. So after they get the custom planning guide, then we have our consultation call.
[00:37:02] I quote the design fee on the call and tell them that I will send them the link to the design fee. As soon as we conclude the call, I do let them know that once they execute payment on that design fee, then they land on our trip planning calendar. And so I let them know, you know, hey, we have availability next week to start on a new trip.
[00:37:21] And that's when we would sit down and actually start working on your trip proposal and putting that together. So I set some expectations on that. So once I send the design fee link and they execute payment then they get the welcome guide. And that's a similar document
[00:37:35] Steph: I'm pulling it up here.
[00:37:36] Erica: There it is. Got it!
[00:37:38] Steph: Welcome guide.
[00:37:39] Erica: Yes. So this one is basically welcome, let me tell you about the process. Let me tell you about kind of our rules, if you will. FAQs. And so it just kind of outlines the expectations of, of what they will be going, what the process is from now to departure day.
[00:37:59] Steph: Yeah.
[00:37:59] Erica: Setting up a lot of expectations with the office hours and like how quickly you'll get back to people.
[00:38:08] Steph: We're, we're learning that Erica also sold Cutco knives to pay her way through college. Very exciting!
[00:38:14] Erica: I did. And actually Kim who just joined our team three weeks that she's, she's finishing up her third week. I met her because her husband and I sold Cutco knives together in college. And so when he saw my post, because we're Facebook friends, he sent, he screenshotted it to Kim and now she's part of the team. So I'm like, ah, I just love Cutco so much.
[00:38:35] Steph: That's so funny cuz I once ended up, I saw —this is kind of aging me, but I saw like in the newspaper or something and there was an ad for it and I was just like, Oh, I can make a lot of money.
[00:38:43] But I was so confused cause I was not prepared to sell knives. And I was like, what did I just walk into? Like I I just wanted to get paid whatever, $18 an hour.
[00:38:53] Erica: Right. I know. Well, I think I found them because they like had hammered a sign into a telephone pole off of the exit that I lived off of. And I remember my mom just being so nervous about, cuz I was so excited about it because I like, I'm very money motivated and I was like, Mom, this is gonna be great. I'm gonna make so much money. And I really did. Like it was, I mean, I can, I could go on forever. They're really good knives. But my mom was so busy. My mom was so nervous, rather. She was so nervous about it.
[00:39:22] Steph: Yeah. I will say they are good knives. My parents have some, and they are super sharp. We can't have sharp knives in our house because my partner is very accident prone.
[00:39:31] Erica: Yeah.
[00:39:31] Steph: And he will cut off his fingers. So...
[00:39:35] Erica: okay. I mean, I'm still like, Listen, I can still sell Cutco. Sharp knives are actually safer than dull.
[00:39:40] Steph: They've never met Paul like. Yesterday we were, I was like upstairs and I heard, Oh, and I was like, What's wrong? And he's like, The ceiling fixture came out of the ceiling. I'm so sorry.
[00:39:55] Erica: How does that happen? Never had a—
[00:39:57] Steph: This is what I'm saying!
[00:39:59] Erica: Yeah.
[00:39:59] Steph: You like... things happen around him where I'm just like, I feel like you're just... no sharp of knives in the house for us!
[00:40:07] Erica: Right. Exactly. You're probably right.
[00:40:09] Steph: So now our, our kitchen light fixture is like hanging down... so...
[00:40:16] Erica: right.
[00:40:16] Steph: Well, let's see. Another thing I noticed on your site is that your blog posts are evergreen. Meaning that they're relevant now and they can be relevant five years from now. Although, you know, you may have to update a few things in there but you often link back to them in your workflow.
[00:40:30] Could you give some examples of that on anything like packing, travel essentials or anything along those lines?
[00:40:36] Erica: Yeah, for sure. So that's really cool. So the, the, so one of the examples would be on the— so the client fills out the lead form. They schedule a consultation call. I send that initial email—
[00:40:50] Steph: mm-hmm.
[00:40:50] Erica: —to them. I will link them back to a blog article that I wrote called the B word, and it's about budgets. Oh, trip budgets. Yes. And so that's one example. Packing list is another example. So, you know, however many days before departure, we send a canned email that says, you know click here for our, don't forget to pack items or whatever, and it links them back to those blog posts.
[00:41:15] So same thing with like currency exchange and again, just some of those educational topics that that are helpful for people, especially again, going to Europe for the first time, or Africa for the first time.
[00:41:27] Steph: Totally. And it's nice traffic for your site, which helps out too. So I'm gonna, I'll find those on your blog and I'll link to those in the, the show notes for everyone tuning in.
[00:41:35] Okay. So the last thing I wanna touch on in this section is your trip minimum is $10,000 per client. So when you're, when you're dealing with these higher touch clients, sometimes that work-life balance can be a little bit more difficult to juggle because they're paying more and want more access to you.
[00:41:55] So what systems do you put into place to make sure that you have some boundaries and you know, you're not getting text messages at midnight on the weekends?
[00:42:03] Erica: Yeah, so I invested in RingCentral, which is a voiceover IP system. So we use it for our team internal messaging. We use it for outbound dialing.
[00:42:13] So and so it's a work phone number versus our cell phone numbers and we can also text clients on it and they can text us back. So as far as they know, it's, you know, we're calling them from our mobile phones. They just think we're Android users cuz it's green instead of blue . But but you know, it just allows us to, you know, you can have settings, like, you can literally tell RingCentral I'm only available between eight and six and it will not, you know, ring your phone after six o'clock at night.
[00:42:38] So that was one of the things that I did just to create some boundaries because it's hard. I mean, it, you know, we all know it's, it's really hard to not answer something if it pings they're on your phone. Obviously if clients are traveling, they have our cell phone numbers. We always, of course, try to get them to call the travel supplier partner first, but they certainly have our cell phone number so they can get through to us.
[00:42:59] And then we work off of scheduled calls only. So we train our clients from the get go to use Calendly so if they email and request a call or they send a text through our RingCentral number and request a call, we send them our calendar link and they get on our calendar and it's a scheduled call.
[00:43:17] And that really just reduces the phone tag because they're busy, we're busy. If we try to call them and they're with a patient or they're in a meeting or whatever like it can be challenging.
[00:43:27] Steph: I love like Calendly or things like that. Just makes it so much easier. And I'm, I'm gonna link to Calendly and RingCentral in the show notes if anyone wants to learn a little bit about them, but, okay.
[00:43:38] So I do have one more question now in this section. We talked like about kind of the systemization that you did. And with that comes technology. So keeping in mind that at the end we're gonna ask for your favorite book person or technology in the Indispensable section, what are some of your favorite technology to keep things running smoothly?
[00:43:58] Erica: At bookitbox Calendly is at the top of the list. Love it. And you know, there's a free version so anybody can use it, it's free. Yeah, we like free.
[00:44:08] And then Boomerang is another one, so it's a Chrome extension. I noticed you used it and that—
[00:44:13] Steph: Love Boomerang.
[00:44:14] Erica: Yeah, I love it. So I really, the, the primary use that, that I use it for is when I send an email mostly to a supplier I can tell the email to Boomerang back to me if they don't respond. So
[00:44:30] Steph: mm-hmm.
[00:44:31] Erica: you know, if it's a note about upgrade request or an amenity request or whatever it is I can send that off and tell Boomerang, Hey, if you don't, if they don't reply in two days—.
[00:44:42] Steph: And this is Boomerang. Just if people aren't familiar with it, I use it in Gmail. Are you in Gmail too, Erica? Or?
[00:44:48] Erica: We use Outlook 360.
[00:44:50] Steph: Okay, cool. So it's in Outlook too. That's what I wasn't sure of.
[00:44:52] Erica: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:53] Steph: Excellent. I'll, I'll put a link to Boomerang cuz if you don't have it, it's very handy.
[00:44:57] Erica: Yes. It is so handy. And then we love Travefy I mean, a huge, huge fan of Travefy we never send out supplier proposals. Amy, our assistant, converts supplier proposals into an itinerary inify, so it's branded and pretty, and clickable and, you know, electronic and all of those things. And then of course, when we finalized final documents, it converts into their itinerary that they're on the road.
[00:45:20] And I honestly cannot tell you, I mean, it's like almost every testimonial they mention how much they love the app.
[00:45:27] Steph: Oh, that's-- okay, we're gonna link to Travefy and not only do they have an amazing app, but the people that work there, I, I just really like them. They're always so nice and so fun.
[00:45:36] Erica: I know. Love Stephanie.
[00:45:37] Steph: So sweet! I know I love Stephanie's in general, but I really like her energy.
[00:45:42] Erica: Right. So yeah, so love Travefy. And honest, I mean, even my husband and I are like, how do we travel before we had the trip plans app. I really can't remember how we organized our travel thoughts, but I was [inaudible].
[00:45:57] Steph: So you mentioned in the very beginning, Dubsado, which I've never heard of before. Can you just give a quick-- we'll link to it in the show, know if people are interested— but a quick overview of what it is?
[00:46:07] Erica: Sure. So it's a CRM tool or client relationship, you know, tool. And so it, it's really the lifeblood of our business and it includes forms, canned emails, so you know, for all of the emails that we send all of the time to most clients, like our canned emails are stored there.
[00:46:24] Steph: Nice!
[00:46:25] Erica: Workflows. So we can apply different workflows to different types of trips based if I'm, you know, I'm working on that trip as the lead designer, if one of my team team members are doing it. And then there's also workflow add-on. So you can layer on like an Italy workflow to where we're disseminating that information about how to live life in Italy.
[00:46:43] We have a concierge workflow that kind of layers on top of the other workflows that just make sure that we're doing all the concierge items that we need too. So all of that lives there. So I mean, you know, all of our client information is there, so it just makes it easy. Literally, we can link our travel suppliers to the traveler documentation form so they can get their passport information and their phone numbers for transfers and even things like their height and weight for a hot air supplier.
[00:47:11] Steph: Oh, that's awesome! Yeah, they're probably like, Why in the world are they asking for my heart height and weight in here? But—
[00:47:19] Erica: we let 'em know only if you're scuba diving or hot air balooning or helicoptering or small plane-ing do we need this information.
[00:47:28] Steph: That's awesome. Well, I, I mean for, you also mentioned for credit card authorizations. I think you use Travel Joy, is that right?
[00:47:35] Erica: Mm-hmm.
[00:47:36] Steph: Okay. But you've also said that you have some friends that use, is it Canary?
[00:47:40] Erica: Canary.
[00:47:41] Steph: Yeah. Yep. Okay. I wasn't— I can't read my handwriting.
[00:47:44] Erica: Yes, it's Canary and I have not looked at it again. It's like once you get in too deep, it's like too late to turn around and try something new. And Travel Joy works for us, so we use it for payment authorizations. And then I love their new feature where you can do supplier messages.
[00:48:04] Steph: Oh!
[00:48:04] Erica: So, yeah. Once a client authorizes payment, you can securely through their PCI compliant tool send a message to your supplier partner that securely transfers those credit card details,
[00:48:18] Steph: That's smooth. And also love Dayo over at Travel Joy! Very, very nice fella. Yes. Let's see. Okay, and, and there's one other one, and I remember this because I love using it too. So, Loom, how do you use Loom and explain what it is.
[00:48:33] Erica: So Loom is also a free tool where you can video screen share. So like if you're sending a how-to video to somebody, you can share your screen so you can show them literally how to navigate that system or program or whatever.
[00:48:46] But you can also like bubble your face in. We really use it a lot for sending proposals as an example.
[00:48:54] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:48:55] Erica: just, you know, it's been a minute since they've connected with me personally, and so it's just another way to put a personal touch and a face like a, you know, a live video face with the proposal for the client so we're humans to them.
[00:49:09] Steph: Yeah, no, exactly. Loom is so great. Or even if you're just troubleshooting amongst your team and wanna show, someone asks like, Hey Steph, how do I do this? I can do a loom, put it in Slack, send it their way. And we don't have to, you know, we can work asynchronously, which is all the rage to say nowadays.
[00:49:25] The first time I heard it, I was like, What are you saying to me?
[00:49:27] Erica: Like, how many syllables is that?
[00:49:29] Steph: I know. I was just like, asynchronously working. I was like, you mean... okay.
[00:49:34] Erica: Oh, I don't know if I can say that word, but yeah, we've create, I've created a loom library for onboarding new employees, so it's—
[00:49:42] Steph: Oh, nice.
[00:49:43] Erica: This is how we create a payment authorization and Travel Joy, and this is how we send a supplier message in Travel Joy.
[00:49:48] So, you know, it's always there for their reference if they ever need a little refresher. So we use Loom that way internally as well. Great tool.
[00:49:56] Steph: Yeah. Agreed.
[00:49:58] We'll be back in a moment after a quick word from our sponsor
[00:50:02] Levarte Travel: Catch the wave. Join Levarte Travel today. What pique my interest first about Levarte was the small family setting from our personal support to our industry expertise. Lori is the travel goddess! She knows this industry inside and out. Levarte does a great job at giving us training that we need to succeed.
[00:50:24] We give you the tools and technology to help you grow your travel business. Learn more now at Levartetravel.com/hostagencyreviews.
[00:50:33] Steph: So, wanted to chat with you about, we, we talked a little bit about the technology, but also like your favorite per place or like events in the industry to kind of get your learning on.
[00:50:44] Where do you, where do you go for that? Or have you gone?
[00:50:47] Erica: Yeah, so I went to Virtuouso travel week in 2019. Loved it. I mean, I think if you're newer to the industry and you are like thirsty for meeting new partners, it's such a great. I mean—
[00:50:59] Steph: Lots of partners!
[00:50:59] Erica: —such a great event for that. Same with ILTM, so I was able to attend, ILTM North America and Cannes France last year as part of Travel and Leisure's Rising Star program and those are phenomenal events. North America was great.
[00:51:15] I would say if you ever have the opportunity to get an invite to the Cannes event, it is absolutely the most gorgeous exhibits that you've ever seen. I mean, I have spent 20 years in an, in a convention space, like I've done so many trade shows and I was in such awe of these hotel brands and, and cruise line.
[00:51:38] I mean, it's gorgeous!
[00:51:40] Steph: That's fantastic. We're gonna link to those in the show notes. And just a note as well I— well actually let me share my screen. So I'm gonna— our events calendar is great for anybody that's tuning in.
[00:51:52] If you haven't checked it out, there's over 75. So on our homepage, all you really do is drop down to, I'm looking for a travel event, and that'll take you to our calendar, but you can see there's... I don't know, there's like seven pages full of different events. Oh, here's ILTM here!
[00:52:09] So there's a, there's a lot of information in here if whether you're new or experienced, It's great for planning out what you wanna see next year. There's tons of stuff in here for 2023 and can kind of— ugh! Forgot to show the screen again!
[00:52:22] You need to, you need to yell at me, Erica, when I forget!
[00:52:25] Erica: Right? I was just so intrigued by what you were saying. I forgot I was supposed to be looking at something!
[00:52:30] Steph: So, okay, here's the homepage. We'll go to the travel event and go. [ inaudible skipping] and likewise if you are someone that's putting on anything that would be of interest to travel advisors, any type of event online, virtual / in person or invite only, definitely listed on here cuz there's ways to show that it's invite only and when they're virtual versus in person.
[00:52:48] So Let's see, So that, that kind of wraps up that section.
[00:52:54] Steph: let's talk about the success that you've had, that you've been able to grow and hire a remote team. So starting with the basics, the team is all remote that you're working with. Tell us where they're at and how you found them.
[00:53:06] Erica: So, Amy Martha was the first per first team member to join me.
[00:53:09] She was in Wilmington, North Carolina at the time. I was referred to her by another GTN advisor. She's now in Ohio, but again, has been with me the entire time, even through Covid. Kelly Heck joined me in April of 21, and so it'll be two years in April. She was living in England. So I'm in Gainesville, Georgia. She is from middle Georgia, from Perry, Georgia, but her husband is a fighter pilot in the military. So Cool. Like, I'm just such in awe, Anyways, that's another, another story. But so they were stationed in England for four years and she started following bookitbox on Instagram because some of her Perry middle Georgia community had traveled with me on bookitbox trips. And so she reached out during the height of Covid with the best little message on Instagram. Just saying that she loved the brand and would love to join the team. And of course, at that time I was, you know, working for free.
[00:54:08] Steph: Yeah.
[00:54:09] Erica: During all the chaos. And I was like, as much as I love you, I, I can't hire you.
[00:54:13] And so whenever things started to come back I reached back out to her and she joined. So she's phenomenal. I say all the time, if I could clone Kelly Hack, I would have a team of like 500 people. They are now in Boise, Idaho. So she's working remote from Boise. And then we just hired Kim Snak and she is in Lexington, South Carolina, also Total Rockstar.
[00:54:36] And Morgan Green handles our social media and she lives two doors down from me. So she's a really good friend of mine.
[00:54:42] Super remote!
[00:54:43] Yes, she is remote. But it was funny, we did a bookit box photo shoot at her house three weeks ago and I was like schlepping the boxes in a little beach wagon between our between our houses. Like there's one house in between ours. So...
[00:54:58] Steph: That's so cute. So what kind of— like, if you were to give advice for people on things they should look for, if they're looking to hire remote, are there certain traits they should be looking for? Cuz one, one that I found and learned a lesson from was I had hired someone. He was amazing and wonderful on so many levels, but he really struggled. He'd never worked at home before by himself. You know, sometimes he'd, he'd come here in the office, but as a general rule, we didn't meet very often and it was just too isolating for him—
[00:55:28] Erica: mm-hmm.
[00:55:28] Steph: — Because he'd never worked at home, which I didn't— cuz I loved it so much it never dawned on me that it might not be a good fit for other people. So what do you look for?
[00:55:36] Erica: Yeah, yeah. My husband is like, he would be the worst work from home person, but you know, to me, it's all about personality traits.
[00:55:45] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:45] Erica: And organization. And I've made a couple of poor decisions in hiring. And I think likeability— it's so hard to like, take the likability out and really focus on like the traits. And a, another thing that GTN really talks a lot about is like, you have to create your job profile and then you have to take— you have to find the person that fits the job profile. You can't like hire somebody and then kind of create the job for them.
[00:56:10] It doesn't work that way. But I mean, honestly, when I hired Kim I interviewed three people and the other two were advisors, travel advisors with experience. But Kim just had the personality traits that I was looking for. She's so organized, she's so diligent. She loves to check things off of a to-do list, which is so crucial in our industry.
[00:56:30] You know, she thinks twice and acts once. And so those are just the things that I have learned through trial and error to look for. And I also think that Enneagram, like I love the Enneagram and I —oh, like I asked, what is your Enneagram number on the application form, because it's—
[00:56:49] Steph: Ooh, that's smart!
[00:56:50] Yeah. Those personality tests can be really telling. And, and there's so many out there, but I'll, I'll link to Enneagram if anyone is interested, but that's a great way to get a feel for where the person's strengths are and where their weaknesses are.
[00:57:06] Erica: Yeah. I mean, like, I love an Enneagram seven, but they are probably... you know what I mean?
[00:57:11] And, and that's what I say too, like, I don't wanna hire somebody and then them be miserable. Like you have to just have those natural, like organization and detail oriented and fine tooth combing. Like, you have to naturally just be good at that. You cannot coach or teach that.
[00:57:25] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:25] Erica: And it's also miserable if that's not your personality. And I'm, you know, barking about all of the details. So yeah, this works both ways.
[00:57:34] The other thing that I implemented too, after a couple of trial and errors was a 90 day courting period. So when I hire and bring somebody onto the team, we have a 90 day courting period, and it really works for both of us because at 90 days we can sit back down together and just evaluate is this the right fit for bookitbox and is it the right fit for you?
[00:57:55] And it just gives both parties a really, you know, like an easier exit if it's not the right fit.
[00:58:03] Steph: Yeah. Well, last question about your team. So you and I spoke about how it can be really intimidating to book luxury travel if that's not the world you came from. So do you look for someone that's traveled extensively in the luxury space for these positions?
[00:58:18] Or how do you, how do you work that?
[00:58:21] Erica: No, and just because I, I didn't travel as— you know, I wasn't a luxury traveler, so
[00:58:27] Steph: [ inaudible] in the Midwest are very, very nice, Erica.
[00:58:31] Erica: Motels. Motels. I know. Yeah. Not hotels, but motels, and m, m as in Mary. Yeah. So, no, I mean, you know, just because I know that that's not, you know— even still, like, I'm, I'm not spending $20,000 on a trip or 50,000 or like, there's no way
[00:58:50] Steph: mm-hmm.
[00:58:50] Erica: So so no, that's not crucial to me. But I also, I do ask in the interview process, like, are you comfortable spending $50,000 of someone else's money if that's what they asked? Because I think it's important. I think there's some people out there that would have a really hard time with that. And so it's a question that I definitely ask in the interview process.
[00:59:14] Steph: Yeah. Well I, I definitely know that as a Midwesterner, I'm totally out of my element when I'm dropped into a really, really fancy place. So those are great tips and insights. Thank you. Cuz I, I think so many people— what's the saying? Like sell out of their own wallet book or pocket book instead of the clients?
[00:59:31] Erica: Yeah. And you know, I mean it's like I say about realtors. If, you know, if a realtor's selling a million dollar house, they don't necessarily live in a million dollar house.
[00:59:41] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:41] Erica: And so it is okay to do it. And to me, the job is fulfilling and creating the vacation experience that the client's looking.
[00:59:51] Steph: Yeah, exactly. That's the big thing.
[00:59:54] Steph: Well, let's move into our last segment, which is our new one. It was formally the Warm Fuzzies, but now we've ditched that in favor of the indispensable segment.
[01:00:01] So this is the segment where we ask our guests what technology slash book slash person has been indispensable in the growth of your agency? And then tell us why. So Erica, what do you have for us?
[01:00:14] Erica: Okay. And I flipped my thing.
[01:00:16] Steph: I was just like, what just happened?!?
[01:00:18] Erica: So I'm hoping that you can see this. Yes. Remarkable. This has been a game changer for me. It's the Remarkable tablet and I just absolutely love it. It was one of those things that I'd seen it and I was like, Okay, I'm gonna invest in this and it might be one of those things that like sits in the corner of my desk and just collects dust.
[01:00:40] I don't leave home without it. It is like, I mean, I can't tell you how many times I turn this thing on and off, but the biggest way that I use it is I import the new lead forms onto this. So I literally like download the PDF lead form, import it into the remarkable tablet, and then when I'm on the —
[01:01:00] Steph: Can you pull it up again? I just made you full screen so people can see's. So pretty looking. It's like the Kindle for those that are listening. Like it's got that paper white feel to it, but you can write on it and everything, right?
[01:01:13] Erica: Yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely. So those are all individual documents. But, so I would pop the lead form in, and then when I'm on the consultation call with a client, I can literally write my notes over the top of what they have typed in.
[01:01:26] Steph: Mm-hmm.
[01:01:27] Erica: And then I literally send that to the travel supplier. So when we send the new trip request, the travel supplier not only gets the, the lead form with the client's words on it and what they are looking for, but also all of my notes that I've learned about that in addition to that. So, so it's great for that.
[01:01:46] And then it's just good for like quick notes. I mean, I'm a, I used to be a post it person, and I didn't like how they looked in my office. So this is great because I can just pull it up and do like a quick note or I can do math cuz I'm not good at math, you know? So anyways, it's great for just like a little scribble pad.
[01:02:04] Steph: That's awesome. I'm gonna link to that. And I have heard great things from two other people about Remarkable or a, a similar thing, so it's definitely something I'm going to look into.
[01:02:14] Yes. Well, let's see. This has been straight up fandabulous! Thank you so much, Erica, for sharing the inner workings of your agency and your experiences so freely.
[01:02:24] And, all of you for tuning in our TAC episode comes out quarterly. But don't forget to subscribe to our channel, whether it be YouTube or whatever podcast platform you're on, because we also host our Friday 15s in this podcast feed where we answer your questions every week.
[01:02:42] So we're gonna be back with one more TAC episode before the end of 2022. That one will be on kind of second generation or multi-gen travel agencies and what it's like for the younger generation coming up, some of the challenges, the experiences that they've had, how they can transition over.
[01:03:00] And if you think you'd be a great guest for the show or know of someone that would be a great guest, we always love to hear that. Anyone that wants to share about their agency's success with others you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[01:03:17] And that is all for now. Thank you so much, Erica, and thank you everyone for joining us.
[01:03:23] Erica: Thank you.
[01:03:24] Steph: Yay!
[01:03:26] Steph: You can view a transcript, view the show notes and watch a video of today's episode all in one place. You can also listen to it actually too. So head on over to Host Agency Reviews.com/tac and click on episode 24. And don't forget to grab your free spot for HARs Annual Host Week. It is January 23rd through the 27th, 2023.
[01:03:51] And if you're listening to this and Host Week is already passed, do not worry! The free sessions are available for your viewing pleasure at youtube.com/Host Agency Reviews, and just click on the Host Week playlist. I'll also put it in the show notes for you. Have a wonderful, wonderful November everybody, or whenever you're listening to this, and we'll talk to you.