Last week, I was reading an article on Mashable called 4 Things Most Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common and it got me thinking. As travel professionals we are entrepreneurs as well. If you are a home based agent, you are one. And even if you work for an agency, much of what you do is entrepreneurial as well. At the end of the day, there is only one person responsible for our success—or failure.
While the first three points have a lot of merit, I have a feeling that most of us have a professional background, positive attitude, and a business plan—we harp on that here at TRO all the time! But I am not so sure about the last characteristic—having a mentor.
Often, I think that we all believe we are mavericks and can eschew conventional wisdom, blaze our own trail, and somehow find a swift path to success and riches. But it rarely is that clear…or that direct. While you may not know it, there are plenty of people in your lives that are consciously (or subconsciously) guiding your path to success. Maybe it is your parents or a trusted friend. But often, like me, it is a respected person in the industry.
For me, I had several. When I first opened my agencies, we were a Carlson Wagonlit Travel brand, (now Travel Leaders) and literally had my pick of mentors to emulate and had the best of all worlds. There was an agent in southern California who was a trailblazer in setting fees (an issue I grappled with immediately in 1997), an Internet marketing whiz in Gaithersburg, Maryland (the Internet and individual websites were just becoming en vogue then), and a small specialist in Dallas that was instrumental in helping me guide the formation of Single Parent Travel. These three were critical to building my travel business.
But of course, much to our collective chagrin, it is not all about travel all the time! At times, I needed just some plain-Jane business guidance. I enlisted the help of a local CPA turned Financial Planner. I met him at a social function and our bizarre senses of humor bonded us immediately. We met informally each month and swapped stories and advice and opinions. Eventually, he determined (with my encouragement) to jump the financial planning ship and move into business coaching—I was his first client. My mentor had become a vendor!
As I moved throughout my travel career—my retail agencies, to writing for MSNBC, to my home based niche agency, to my writing for TRO, I have always identified people to whom I could emulate, look up to, and ask advice and it has proven invaluable to me!
Who do you look to to mentor you in your business? Do you have one or more? Or are you that rare maverick that can go it alone?