Way back in 2010, I wrote a series of articles for the Travel Agent Diary series for TRO and now have the chance to write again. When I first started writing, my company, Wandering Puffin, was still in its infancy. Now 6 years in, my agency has matured and I am feeling the desire to keep going and keep growing. I remember the nervousness of starting on my own; it was exciting, but unnerving at times. I maintained a part time job as a safety net, which, until a year ago, I kept. I used to substitute teach part time, but my passion and my experience has given me the confidence to let that go and focus on the future of my business which has certainly grown.
Although I have always taken my business seriously, I take it even more seriously now. I have learned many things in the past few years that have allowed my business to grow, including finding that niche, and honing my knowledge and skills around those markets. I travel independently which gives me the best basis to explain traveling independently across the nations of Europe to my clients. Early on, I realized that man does not live on my niche alone—well at least this one doesn’t. So I have developed a knowledge and experience base for secondary niche markets such as Alaska, Southeast Asia or Central America. My business is also very seasonal and I sell very few winter trips. I have sold ski trips to Switzerland and beyond in the winter in Europe. I feel that having a winter destination or two in my back pocket, allows me to maintain the agency’s balance sheet in what would normally be my slow season.
I have also tried to streamline my business so that I am doing less; yet being more productive. I am not a paperless office yet (never will be), but I do identify ways I can work smarter. I do like to create document packets for all of my clients and have created a library of information at my fingertips that I can cut and paste into a client’s document package. I have found that my clients love the idea of having a packet of vouchers, informational pieces and ideas to enhance their upcoming adventures. Despite most vendors moving to e-docs, I have found that people still appreciate a physical document. I don’t spend a lot of money on this. I print out my own labels, buy pocket folders with a business card holder and prongs from the local office supply store, and laminate small maps with driving or walking directions for the clients as needed. I know they may have a GPS and they will get “real” maps on site, but I feel these little extras give them peace of mind that everything is organized and in order. And, if I happen to have a “real” map or brochures of the destination (I try to pick them up when I travel), I include them as well.
As everyone does, I value each client never disparage a small booking. I am confident in due time, that small booking client will book the trip of a lifetime. One of the most difficult aspects of agency management for me has been growing my database. Despite the competition from the online travel agencies, I have managed to grow my list of clients and prospects. I have learned not to fear the Internet, but to embrace it; it’s not going anywhere in my lifetime. I have found that if I can get my foot in the door with a client, they will hear my passion and knowledge and get even more excited about their upcoming planned adventure. My years in the industry have taught me, most of all, to trust myself and be honest with myself about what I am able to handle. I wanted to start bringing small groups over to Europe on very intricate itineraries that I created; but I had to put that on the back burner because I was not comfortable with it. It may still happen, but for now I am happy with how my business is growing. More and more of my business is from referrals from across the country–and even across the pond; but I will always look for new ways to grow my business, so the Wandering Puffin does not become stagnant.
Jamison Bachrach is better known as the Wandering Puffin for the way he likes to travel. Jamison has been in the travel industry for almost 14 years and has been home based for a little more than 2 years and specializes in independent European travel planning, specifically, central and eastern Europe, as well as Scandinavia.
Jamison has traveled to over 35 countries, including most of Europe. Wandering Puffin LLC. Is located in Plymouth, MN. Jamison can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 763-244-0669.www.wanderingpuffin.com.