Decisions, decisions, decisions. This is what I feel like my life as a luxury travel business owner has been all about lately and is probably something most of us in this industry can relate to. Every day, there is a series of decisions to be made ranging from which hotel should I book the client into for his last-minute business trip to who should I hire as additional support to is it time to fire a particular client to what time should I leave for the airport to catch my 6 a.m. flight? Small decisions, big decisions, it varies everyday, but what stays consistent is that I need to remember to stop and think each decision through (if only momentarily) before making the mistake of not following my gut.
One of the best pieces I have gotten as a business owner was to always trust your instinct. When something feels off, be it a relationship with an independent contractor or a client, it typically is. And, while it’s easy enough to think that it might somehow change for the better, when we know that it’s time to alter or end a relationship, the best thing we can do is to do it without wasting time better spent.
The right decisions are not always the easy ones in the luxury travel business. It can be very tempting to continue to working with a wealthy, high-spending client. But at the end of the day, if seeing an email from that client in your inbox makes you cringe, then it’s time to make the right decision to let that client find a different luxury travel advisor. The longer I work in this business, the more important I realize the importance of only working with people who are pleasant to deal with and who appreciate what I and my team do for them.
If you are someone who has challenges with telling someone that the relationship is not the right fit, consider the alternative: wouldn’t you much rather spend your time marketing to new clients who are in the category of high-spending but also really nice?
It’s also no different when it comes to selecting which suppliers you will reach out to on a consistent basis. Often, there are multiple luxury hotels in a destination that are a good match for my client. I am always going to first contact the general manager or sales person at the property that has taken great care of my clients in the past, as well as been accessible and helpful during the booking process. I have built my successful business based primarily on the relationships I have with my supplier friends worldwide. I am in constant contact with friends who run top hotels and luxury travel companies worldwide as they are always telling me to be sure and let them know when I have clients coming their way so they can personally meet them and take special care of them. These relationships strongly factor into the decision-making process of planning luxury travel. So, when the General Manager of a hotel that I book regularly responds to an email stating that we should “take him off the email chain” (sent in reference to a repeat booking for a VIP client staying there at my personal recommendation), it’s enough to make me stop and think whether I will continue recommending this hotel in the future.
As so many of our clients are busy running their own businesses during the day (and often by night and weekend too), it’s not unusual for me to get more emails between 5pm and midnight than between 9am and 5pm. Yet, I continue to run up against so many people who only want to work and respond to emails between these traditional hours. In the age of the new luxury traveler, I understand that I have to be available to assist in travel-related decisions pretty much as clients are able to take the luxury of talking about travel.
For people considering joining the luxury travel business, that is probably the biggest thing I tell them they have to decide. Are they going to be okay with working non-conventional hours in order to adapt to their clients’ needs or are they looking for a 9-5 job (rather than a lucrative luxury travel career)? Whatever the decision is, it’s usually clear very quickly whether or not this is the right industry for them to pursue. In the meantime, I’m still working on deciding if I should go to yoga class or a meditation class tonight so that I can have a better shot at making tomorrow’s big and small decisions with a clear head.
Stacy Small is the president/founder of Elite Travel International, an LA-based Virtuoso travel firm. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elitetravelgal.