Some say I have the easiest job in the world. Many wish they had my job. Many think I sit around all day eating bon-bons and watch Oprah. Well first off, I have no idea what a bon-bon is and have no idea when Oprah airs in my market. For the past five years, I have been a stay-at-home-dad to my beautiful daughter.
Unfortunately, she started to grow up and it was time for her to enter kindergarten. I faced the possibility that my days would be filled with outright boredom instead of the life of play dates, outings, chores and eating those elusive bon-bons. I knew it was time to re-join the workforce. However, it was important for me to not have a latch-key child; and the laws in my state are quite clear about a five year old coming home to an empty house. I needed to find a flexible job that would allow me to work from around 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., have nine weeks off in the summer, a week in September, November, February, April and two weeks in December. As you might imagine, the traditional corporate world was just not going to work.
About ten months ago, I started investigating work at home opportunities. The legitimate options are extremely limited. The internet is filled with get rich quick, envelope stuffing, easy money opportunities once reserved for the back pages of Rolling Stone magazine that are designed to take money from your wallet rather than put money in it.
It turned out that there were a few options that until a few months ago I honestly had no idea existed. I learned that it was possible for a relatively low investment to purchase a cruise only sales franchise that I could work from my home. I could set my own hours and literally be my own boss. By buying a franchise, I could get the necessary training and support and not be left to fend for myself in uncharted (to me) waters. More importantly, I could be home when my daughter stepped off the bus.
But without any experience in the industry, many might ask why on earth would I want to become a cruise agent?
Well for one, I have loved to travel ever since I was young boy. I spent five years working for Continental Airlines and saw the world. After taking my first cruise in 2004, I realized I had found my passion. I had spent so much time rehashing that cruise, that my good friend and neighbor said, “Chuck you should be selling cruises, you talk about them so much.” After a year of hearing him say the same thing over and over again, I took the leap of faith and dove right in.
I purchased a franchise with SeaMaster Cruises after spending a great deal of time engaged in due diligence. I talked to franchise owners of not only SeaMaster, but of their main competitors. This firm checked out fine in every respect. In the end, it was the relationship between the owners and the franchisees that sealed the deal for me. It also helped that their preferred suppliers were also my personal preferred cruise lines.
I have embarked on a new chapter in my life and feel the best part of my story is now being written. I feel that I am not selling a product or service. Instead I feel I am selling myself and my passion for the experience of a cruise vacation. I love what I do. I love getting up in the morning excited to go to work. I still have not figured out the misnomer of “home-based”. With all of the networking, I am home far less than I ever was as a stay-at-home dad.
When I made this move, I never expected the economy would have deteriorated as much as it has this year. Right now, I feel a bit like Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan out in the Gulf of Mexico during a hurricane. I may not know 225 recipes for shrimp, but I am doing okay. While not a multi-million dollar office, after just two months in the business I have about $20,000 in bookings in the hopper and an very optimistic about my first year. I knew that getting into this business would take quite a bit of elbow grease and hard work, and I feel that anyone can do what I have done–even in a tough economy.
Because of my planning and marketing plan, I will survive this coming onslaught and still stay on course. I will be better positioned than those who are cutting back on their marketing and networking. I am out of my home almost every day shaking hands and making new contacts. I believe that effective business networking is done by a series of “base hits” and not necessarily hitting the one or two “home runs”. Powerful networking is accomplished by establishing powerful relationships.
Chuck Flagg is an independent owner-operator of SeaMaster Cruises in Canton, GA. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or via phone (770) 355-9569