Why can’t we all get along?

Posted on by in Agent Perspectives

I’m a home-based travel consultant, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The funny thing is, it’s not my clients (or even prospective clients) who question the fact that I conduct business by appointment instead of having a retail storefront.

No, it’s the brick-and-mortar travel agents who give me a hard time!

I realize that there aren’t that many home-based agents here in Rhode Island (unlike Florida or California), and I expect to have to explain the idea to some of the older, more traditional brick-and-mortar agents, but I really don’t understand the hostility that I get in return.

It’s one thing to look down on the card-mill MLM agents who think that paying $500 makes them a travel professional (I think we all resent that), but I am a college graduate with more than fifteen years of experience in the corporate world who made a conscious decision to leave that behind and build my own travel business. I am driven and entrepreneurial, and I did not take any shortcuts.

I went through the exact same training and licensing requirements that the storefront agents did, including college-level courses, an apprenticeship, and more. And, I would venture to guess, I probably spend more time and effort on continuing education (conferences, seminars, specialist courses, etc.) than some of these long-time agents – many of whom seem to feel that they already know it all.

So why does it bother them that I have a different business model?

I actually had a local agency owner tell me the other night, at a networking event we were both attending, that I should not try and join the group because it would not be fair to her. After all, she has rent to pay, employees to support, and lots more overhead than me.

Is that my problem?

If it sounds like I’m complaining, well maybe I am – a little. We’re in an aging industry, and the experts are always saying that we need to find ways to bring in new blood. So why would an older more experienced agent be resentful of an enthusiastic newcomer? And why is it wrong for me to embrace new ways of doing things?

To me, it would be better if we all helped one another, the way we do here on TRO, and shared our skills and experience. I’m sure I could learn a lot about the industry from someone who has been around the block a few times, but maybe – just maybe – they could also learn something from me about how to adapt and thrive in a changing world!

Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com

  11 thoughts on “Why can’t we all get along?

  1. Hang in, don’t let a few peoples view discourage you about the industry. Homebased is the wave of the future and I’ve been an agent for 19 years and I’m now homebased. Change always brings out the ugly and let’s face it the travel industry has seen it’s share of change in the last 10 years. I love to see what your doing is important to you and you see the potential. Next time you run a across someone so willing to put you down, just tell them you would be happy to host their employees as independents if the burden of their agency has to much! :)

  2. 1Dean Greenhoe says:

    I’ve had the same experiences, Ann. It doesn’t seem to matter that I spent 30 years toiling in a B&M environment, even as an owner, employer and host for a few home based ICs for a good chunk of that time before I joined the ranks of the homebasers.

    Beyond having to deal with perceptions being tainted by the unprofessional MLM type of crowd in our ranks…

    …having worked both sides all I can think of is that some B&M agents and agency owners consider our ability to work with lower overhead costs somewhat of a threat, perhaps feel we have an unfair advantage? I’ll admit to feeling a bit envious of the ICs who worked from home when I was struggling under the expensive infrastructure of a storefront agency.

    Rather than fight the newer business model I made a calculated decision to embrace it. Granted it’s not possible for many B&M agencies to take advantage of such a move and I applaud them for hanging in there through the challenges faced in these times.

    But I attribute at least part of the derision we face to misplaced frustration over difficulties faced in a tough marketplace.

  3. 1Twoblondiesmommy says:

    We are a retail store front agency (with several home based agents) and have had to battle the card mill agents. The problem we encounter with the majority of the home based agents is that they are card mill based. I think both store front and home based agents have unique qualiities for a sea of different clients. You have more of an uphill battle getting over the stigma that the card mills have created and folks like YTB. Good luck and hang in there.

  4. Anne, It is just a matter of time before the home based model grows in your area as well. The local women’s travel group had to vote before agreeing to allow me to keep my status when I first started my home based business. But here in the DC area, there are many home based businesses today.

    The problem is people have no way to measure a serious agent from someone looking for a hobby. The truth is, I have been in this business for 30 years (the last 12 in my home based business). In the old days, we used to complain about the rich doctor’s who set their wives up in travel agencies to have a tax wriite off. Some of them became very successful.

    Keep satisfying your clients, and get your IATAN TSI – that adds a lot of credibility.

  5. 1Ann Petronio says:

    Dean – I think you summed it up really well when you said “misplaced frustration”…and I’ll have to keep that in mind when I feel like losing my temper with some of these folks.

  6. 1Susan says:

    Ann, great article and right on the nose!!

  7. 1Mary Stephan says:

    Great article Ann!

    There is a misconception among people that when you work from home you don’t really “work,” that you are eating bon bons and watching soaps in the afternoon. I know my neighbors think that. That’s why they send their kids over when we have a snow day or the kids are off for the day.

    I actually put in MORE hours working from home than when I worked in an office setting. I am working early in the morning, late at night etc.

    I think Deano hit the nail on the head when he said it is “misplaced frustration.”

  8. 1Betty says:

    Ann I applaud your straight forward common sense to this timely topic. I, too have been in the business for over 25 years and don’t understand the logic of trying to exclude entrepreneurs’ from doing what they do best…”build better mousetrap”. A travel consultant is one who knows customer service, knows the products and can communicate well with the vendors. I have worked with both homebased and B&M, both have the good and the bad. Location is not what makes a good agent!!!

  9. 1CAROL BLOOMFIELD says:

    YOU GO GIRL!

  10. 1Robyn says:

    As a home-based agent, new to the travel industry, I receive alot of questions regarding my “legitimacy”. This is the truly the best industry to be in. I love to travel, and I work hard to make every trip the very best it can be, tailored to the clients wishes. I work late into the night (happily, I must add) to make sure that requests are delivered. I somewhat resent the implications that my work is not of value because I choose the benefits of working from home. I agree with Betty. Location is not what determines a good travel professional.

  11. Anne,

    I have been a home based agent here in Pune, India for the past 10 years. It was difficult the first few years, but we seem to be doing reasonably well now. Our strenght like most of the HBAs in the US are referrals. If you are giving quality servce with sincerity, you cannot go wrong. It is the satiisfied clients that count.

    Good luck,

    Ravindra Virkar

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