I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with several clients who have well-established travel businesses. They have been in business for many years and they consistently sell millions of dollars in travel every year. Sounds like the ultimate place to be, right?
Not necessarily. Every entrepreneur has obstacles and challenges no matter where they are in their business journey. So even though these business owners have reached a threshold of success, they still have issues to face. Some of them have brick and mortar storefronts and some don’t.
It doesn’t matter if they have a storefront or a home office. The most common problem for a travel business when it gets to this established place, is that the business runs the owner, instead of the owner running the business. And when this happens, the business’ growth slows substantially, the owner feels overwhelmed to the point of paralysis and the joy of being in business gets sucked out. He or she comes into work each and every day hoping to get a lot accomplished and does nothing except client work and putting out fires. Day in and day out, he or she leaves the office feeling like a small failure because nothing got done, and that is not a good feeling.
There is a way out. You don’t have to stay in this slave-ridden state – although I see lots of business owners doing it for many years. There are three first-steps you can take to get you off the hamster wheel and into the leadership role your business is asking you to take. Even if you are not there in your business yet, read on because you can avoid being there when you do hit that threshold of success.
Step 1: Establish a Vision. You may know your sales targets and where you are relative to them, but what is the big vision for your business? Where do you want to be in 3, 5 or 10 years? Why do you want to be there? Do your people share this vision with you? It’s so powerful when they do. It’s quite common to get so bogged down in the day-to-day that you push off what might seem like a luxury – dreaming up your vision. This is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Get clear on your vision for your business and articulate it.
Step 2: Streamline. Once you have a vision, it’s time to take a step back and see if you are as productive as you can be. Probably not. Maybe you are the bottleneck because you are doing everything yourself. Maybe you have agents in your office and everyone is working independently of each other and taking care of the entire sales process independently. This way of working presents a few problems. First, there is no consistency in your client care. Second, it results in a reactive approach to everything that comes up.
Instead, begin to streamline your business by deciding what functions you have and what functions you need. Specifically, you can spend a week with a notepad writing down every single thing you do on a daily basis. At the end of the week, you can do two things with this list. First, group the activities into roles. There may be operations, client services, office management, accounting, selling, or whatever else you want to call them. It’s up to you. This will result in the skeleton of job functions for your well-oiled machine.
The second thing to do with this list is to assign a grade of 1 to 4 for each and every activity.
Here’s the scoring scale:
1 = “I am really good at this and I love doing it.”
2 = “I am really good at this but I don’t love it.”
3 = “I am so-so at this and I don’t like it.”
4 = “I am so bad at this that it’s dangerous to my business that I am doing it.”
Go through your list and make a plan to get all 3’s and 4’s off your list by delegating those activities to someone else. Which brings us to….
Step 3: Delegate. A good business owner is very aware of his or her strengths and delegates the rest. If you have people in your office, but they are only working on their clients, you could be missing a giant opportunity. Often, these people would far prefer to have a specific role – like offline marketing manager – than to answer phones and close sales. Get clear on the roles you need and then find the right people to handle those roles. They may be people right under your very own nose. Or you may have to go out and hire someone or two. Don’t let your fear of hiring someone stop you. Delegate, delegate, delegate. If you don’t, your business will always run you.
Meredith Hill, ex-President of Hills of Africa Travel, founded the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE) to empower frustrated and struggling travel consultants by helping them to connect with their passion again, attract ideal clients, and build a business that makes positive difference in people’s lives. Visit GIFTE at www.travelbusinessu.com.