Over the years, I have written hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles both for consumers and the trade alike. Some of my most popular consumer articles were the down and dirty advice stories. You know, the ones that tell you what to do on the off chance (wink wink) that something might go wrong when you are traveling. I have even penned several columns for the trade with my suggestions and recommendations for handling issues that arise in the day to day existence of a travel professional. But there was one that I missed.
What happens if you drop dead? OK, so it is a pretty melodramatic question, but a valid one nonetheless. Let’s face it, no one is getting any younger. The industry as a whole is a, shall we say, “mature” one. And since 2001, we have seen more consolidation in the industry resulting in many professionals being solo practitioners working from home offices. Certainly this is a little more complex than a missed connection in Atlanta.
We have built our practices based on the level of service we provide, and as morbid as it sounds, we need to continue that service even after we die.
Succession is not too dissimilar from a sale or merger—it is just more immediate and pressing. So how, exactly, do you handle this? I spoke with Bob Sweeney from Innovative Travel Acquisitions to get his opinion.
Have a plan in place to immediately turn your business over to a trusted agency. Pre-execute an agreement that allows them complete access to your client files and records—not financial records. This turnover agreement will include transferring the phones and mail, and compensation for the successor agency for all commissions and fees received for a finite period.
Bob suggested that 15% of the commissions and fees earned for a period not to exceed two years would be reasonable. I imagine a non-solicit agreement would be a benefit as well.
And his second suggestion was very practical as well.
Your customer list has value and in the event of your death, it is up to your estate to get as much value for it as possible. Rather than just letting the agency close, or slide over to your trusted agency partner, make sure your will includes instructions to immediately contact a travel attorney for advice and perhaps a travel business broker to facilitate a sale. Travel agencies are sometimes complex and difficult to value. A professional in the field is well worth the cost.
As travel professionals, we try to make sure everything goes off without a hitch for our clients. If we are still around, it is testament that we are succeeding. Don’t let a little thing like death get in the way.