TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents. These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year. Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.
It was 9’oclock on a Saturday, and I felt the urge right then to write a friend who had expressed interest in taking a cruise. She wrote back almost immediately saying she had just been thinking about writing or calling me.
My name is Chuck Flagg from Canton, GA (NW of Atlanta) or as I tell some people far-southeastern Chattanooga. My wife and I bought a franchise with SeaMaster Cruises at the end of July, 2008. I am in the unique position that this was something I wanted to do, not that I needed to do.
I spent five years working for Continental Airlines first in their frequent flier department and later in their interline department. However, my “real” job was as a radio producer, comedy writer and stand-up comedian. I had the fortune of being able to travel the country and later the world. It was not until 2004 until I took my first cruise I was hooked.
I had never owned my own business before. For the past five years, I had been a stay-at-home-father. I wanted a career that allowed me to be at home to meet the needs and school vacation schedule of my wonderful daughter. With this purchase I have accomplished that. There is a huge misnomer that I work at home. Sure I have a home office, but the advances in technology have allowed me to have a “virtual” office. Since I do not have the advantage of a store front for customers to find, I am out of my home far more than I was as a stay-at-home-father. I cannot afford to sit and wait for the phone to ring.
My wife Laura is my financier and partner in the business. As an LLC, we are a female majority owned business. There are some advantages to this both in our marketing plan as well as funding options we have yet to explore. The past six months included more start-up costs than I had anticipated and because of the nature of commission sales it will take time to start having positive income.
I have slowly spent the past six months getting the word out to my old contacts about my new career as well making new contacts. I am an active participant in my chamber of commerce as well as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
My niche is cruises and specifically group cruises. I am spending the first of this year working my contacts both new and old to stress the value of a cruise vacation in this economy to use as a meeting at sea or as a fundraising opportunity.
I see 2009 as a chance to shine, rhyme unintentional. Many of my fellow local colleagues have been cutting back on their marketing efforts. I am doing the exact opposite. I see 2009 as a chance to gain new business and provide a service my clients have never experienced with the current travel agent. I have no doubt that 2009 will present unique challenges, but I know the cruise lines are doing everything they can to fill their ships. There are more ships coming with even more berths to fill. I see the cruise lines strengthening their relationship with the TA distribution community.
Bringing you back to what I first wrote, I was reminded of something I recently read. To paraphrase: “If you are thinking about a contact, ANY time is a good time to make contact. Stop using the excuse that they are too busy on Monday or on Friday afternoon or that it is 9’oclock on a Saturday night.” You might just find that they were thinking about you too. You truly have nothing to lose but the few minutes it takes to compose a quick email and hit send or pick up the phone and dial it.
Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator of SeaMaster Cruises in Canton, GA. For information contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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