There used to be a statistic floating around the ether—2 in 10 businesses will survive the first two years. And of the remaining, only 1 will survive 10 years. I can’t source it, and it may not be exact, but the message is clear, more businesses fail than succeed. And travel is not an exception. From small agencies, to gigantic airlines—there have been failures all around us. It takes work, and knowhow to make it work. Do you have what it takes? If you are thinking about getting in the industry…or just thinking about if you can make it in business for yourself, consider these 6 questions.
Do you function well without a guide?
I am not talking about a marketing or business plan. To be successful, you need to be able to think on your feet, constantly be aware of the changing dynamic of the travel industry, and react accordingly. Some people simply do not do well without a well-honed structure in place to follow.
Do you offer value to your clients?
“I have a passion for travel.” We have all heard that. We have all said that. There is no doubt that passion is an important key to your success, but your passion will not bring people through your door. The market does not care that you are fulfilling a life long dream or fueling your passion. People spend money on a service and product that fills their need—not yours. If there is no customer need, your business will fail!
Are you different?
How unique are you? How crowded is your local market? Your niche market? These are important questions to consider, but keep in mind that you do not have to find and create a new niche. Very few successful ideas are original. Starbucks did not invent coffee, nor did they invent the coffee shop. There are plenty of other successful coffee shops competing with the behemoth. In short, look at the industry and find a need that you can fill and run with it. It does not need to be a new need, just one that gives your customers a real reason to choose you over the competition.
Can you multitask?
I am not talking about working a GDS and answering the phone while waving at the lady that just came in the front door. To own your own agency, you must wear many hats and you need to distinguish your roles. Yes, you are a consultant. But at the end of the day, you may need to be the accountant or the HR executive. Keep in mind that some of these positions are diametrically opposed. Have you ever fought with a boss for money to fund a project? You will be fighting with yourself. Be prepared.
Can you handle the finances?
We all do the happy dance when that big commission check comes in—well, I do. But, the bottom line is that as a business owner, your income is completely at the mercy of other people. You need customers to book their travel, they need to take that travel, and then the supplier needs to pay you a commission or you need to collect a fee. It is not easy and you need to be financially prepared with savings and investments or another income to carry you through the rough times. In 2002 and part of 2003, I went without a single paycheck because my business had been hurt so badly from 911 and I needed to pay others before myself. Granted, when things turned around, I resumed; but it is food for thought.
Can you embrace the word “no”?
As a small business owner, you will hear that two-letter word a lot. Banks will say it when deciding on a loan for you. Credit card processors will say it when assessing your risk for processing cards. Customers will say it when they found it cheaper elsewhere. The list goes on. Be prepared to hear “no” a lot. Don’t let it get you down, and remember one of the cardinal rules of sales—it takes six “nos” to get to a “yes.” Or as Mike Marchev likes to say, “no” does not mean “no,” it just means “not now.”
Asking the tough questions now may indeed save some heartache down the line. And if your answers to these questions have you re-thinking your decision—hold off. I ask them not to scare you away, but to make sure you go in with as much thought as possible. Success is still very much within reach. You may just need to adjust a little to give yourself the edge. Maybe you need a partner. Maybe you need to contract with an outside firm to handle your shortcomings. Successful businesses are typically ones who have thought through all the potential obstacles and are prepared to address them. Heaven knows there were will be plenty of unexpected ones on your rise to greatness.