Let’s face it, running a travel business can be tough. It can be even tougher when you are running it solo. Without employees or contractors, it all falls squarely on your lap and it becomes very easy to spend your day putting out fires rather than handling productive tasks that will make you money. But it does not have to be that way.
I have been working for myself since 1996 and have run the gamut from owning several retail storefronts, to a purely online endeavor (failed), to a very small niche agency. Through the years, I have missed a beat or 1,600. I have had some successes and many failures. The secret is to learn from your failures and move on. How do I measure success? Well, I am still self-employed, I am a single father, and I have three kids in college with one graduating in a few weeks. I have to think that somewhere along the line, things worked out once I learned how to juggle my businesses. Here are some of the things that help me out!
Defining my roles
When you work for yourself, you assume many different roles from janitor, to parking lot attendant, to bookkeeper, to CEO—along with everything else in between. Look at the different roles within your organization and select the ones that are critical for your involvement and concentrate on those. For me, I selected marketing, sales, and general management. Obviously there are many others involved with running an agency; which brings me to my second suggestion.
There are operations in your business that must be done by you and others that you want to do. But if you look deeply, can you outsource the mundane? We all have tasks we dread—why not invest that time driving sales and use the income to pay for the outsourcing? I have permanently outsourced my accounts payable, accounts receivable, and accounting functions. I semi-outsource my email marketing and graphic creation in that I create the content shell, and pass it off to a company that works their creative magic for me. I am a concept person—I can come up with a concept and the words, but add some visual into the mix and I am lost! Finally, all of my technology is outsourced on an as-needed basis. I will, and do, update my website and blog; but the larger items—redesigns, software implementation, application development, etc., is sent off to someone that knows what they are doing. Look at it like a client—can they muddle through a complex travel booking themselves? Sure. But there are likely to be problems and glitches and an indeterminate cost associated with them. But if they call you, you know the ins and outs like the back of your hand, and the risks are mitigated for a small cost.
Name your days
It took me a while to figure this one out. There are some tasks that need to happen every day—phone calls to make, emails to return, etc. But the big tasks (see my first point) worked best if I focused on them on specific days. Sales come when they may and need to be handled at the moment, but my weeks look like this:
- Mondays: Marketing
- Tuesdays: Client Retention
- Wednesdays: Office Management
- Thursdays: Vendor Relations
- Fridays: Content creation (code for goofing off in anticipation of Saturday)
Going it alone takes a lot of dedication and willpower. I have found that, like a large business, if you establish some defined systems, you can manage it a lot easier. How do you juggle your business?