I actually had a completely different entry written for this week but by virtue of recent of events, I decided this was more relevant to what is going on right now at my agency.
I remember when I was young, waking up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain in my legs night after night. Growing pains. They were crappy then, and although I’m thankful for my height after the fact, I don’t enjoy them much today either – but it’s no longer a pain in my legs, it’s now related to business growth. I know, I know… I should be thankful for them because it means things are good and business is strong; but I’m not a full time travel agent and the balancing act of working a full-time job and owning a travel agency is getting trickier.
I started my travel agency out of a passion for travel and helping others travel. The more clients I get, the more concerned I am that I’ll lose that passion and it will become a chore which is the exact opposite of what I want it to be. At what point does something that you love to do, become work; or if you truly love doing it does it always stay a passion? I still love helping clients with the travel plans and hearing their feedback about their trips. Knowing you helped someone plan his or her perfect honeymoon; trip of a lifetime or simple weekend getaway is gratifying. However, the 3 AM calls or urgent emails chip away at that satisfaction and passion, at least for me.
About a year ago I worked with a group that had about 125 people traveling from various points across the country to one event. I was in charge of their airfare (and airfare only). Since I was not involved with the other details of their trip, I had very little interaction with each passenger. Of course, Murphy’s Law took over and a storm rolled through half of the US delaying and cancelling thousands of flights throughout the nation. Who had to rebook 50 flights and spend 10 hours on the phone with airlines and had to take a personal day off work? This guy! I was a one-man show back then and learned real fast that I needed help.
I looked at paying for one of those 24-hour travel assistance services (holy $) and looked at getting a better voice mail system, but ultimately I decided that I needed additional agents. My agency isn’t at the point where it can sustain myself full-time and other agents as employees, so I decided I needed to bring them on as contractors – becoming somewhat of a host agency in essence, but without all he rigmarole involved. I wanted to simplify things because bringing them on was more for my sanity than it was about trying to grow a base of agents or even make money. To be honest, there were more steps involved than I thought. I don’t have a background in business, finance, law or any of the other degrees that would be helpful in growing (or even starting) a business. I went to the library and began my own research. The steps involved require more explanation than this one entry allows, so I plan to cover that next time.
Fast-forward to the present, where I now have two part-time/as needed agents who have joined my team. Having teammates for travel is uncharted territory for me, and it has been an adjustment. Just another one of those growing pains I mentioned. Simply familiarizing them with everything that I take for granted and do as second nature over the past few years, is taking longer than I had planned. Mostly it is my fault for not having kept better records, procedures, etc. over the years. I’m hopeful that with the extra brainpower and can-do personalities, my continued passion for travel and helping others travel with be prolonged indefinitely.
Nathan Graeff is the owner of Capital Travel and Events based in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. His agency is a full service travel agency serving leisure and business clients but specializes in adventure travel, non-profit agency travel and accessible travel. Nathan is a home-based agent and a member of Millennials in Travel and OSSN.