It’s Sunday afternoon, my family is watching football, and I am sitting at my desk stressing out about the pile of work that I need to get through. I have six clients waiting for proposals/quotes, two sets of documents that have to go in the mail, a monthly newsletter to write, dozens of names that need to be added to my honeymoon database, bills to pay, filing to do, etc. The list seems endless, and it will only get longer tomorrow.
I know I’m not the only one in this situation. Anyone running a one-person, home-based agency faces the same challenges. We wear all the “hats” in the office, from sales and marketing to accounting, IT, and receptionist. There’s no one to delegate the work to, and no one to pitch in and help.
At the same time, we all want to grow. After all, the goal of any successful business is to sell more, make more, and keep more, right?
So how does one person, with only two hands and 24 hours in the day, resolve the conflict between the never-ending “to do” list, and the need to add even more business to that pile?
If you’re hoping I’m about to give you the magic answer, I’m sorry, because I don’t have it. All I can tell you is what I’ve been doing to try and manage my own “growing pains”.
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Use what you’ve got. The first step is to make the best use of whatever resources you do already have at your disposal. In my case, that’s a couple of teenagers with some extra time on their hands. While I can’t enlist my kids to plan a client’s vacation, I can have them take care of things like filing and making luggage tags. I pay them the going babysitting rate, so that they’re earning what they would be if they were working for someone else. They’re happy to make a few bucks, and I’m thrilled to have some of the most menial tasks taken off my plate. If you don’t have teenagers, maybe you have a spouse who wouldn’t mind updating your Quickbooks each month, or a friend who loves to assemble “welcome home” baskets. Whatever you’ve got, use it!
Learn to let go. I know that, given enough time, I could teach myself a programming language and create my own web site. I could also handle doing my own taxes and filing all the appropriate quarterly paperwork with the state. But neither of those tasks would be the best investment of my time and attention. I’ve learned that it makes much more sense to lean on an expert for specialized tasks, pay them for their time and advice, and let go of the need to do it all myself. I’ve spent a little money this year on web development, my accountant, etc. but it has freed up my time to focus on serving my clients and growing my business.
Bring in reinforcements. Even with the suggestions above, there comes a time when you just can’t handle it all on your own. I’ve reached that point, and I’ve been wrestling with the next step – bringing in help. I don’t really want to manage an employee, and I don’t have the steady cash flow to feel confident in committing to a regular weekly salary, so I have decided to hire an unpaid college intern. A nearby university offers a well-established intern program, and requires all students to complete an internship before graduation. I’ve posted an opening for a student who wants to help with my database management, social marketing, and CRM efforts, and have already received several resumes. My plan is to bring him/her in for the next term (March to May) and see how it goes. If it works out as well as I expect, this will be an ongoing part of my growth plans.
I’m interested in how other home-based agents are handling their own growing pains. Please provide your thoughts/feedback below, and I’ll be sure to report back in a few months to let you know how the internship experiment worked out!
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