As kids, we were often asked, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Back then, a pretty clear picture usually came up – doctor, nurse, teacher, pilot, accountant, or maybe a designer, mechanic, or artist. What you wanted to do back then, versus what you wound up doing in your career undoubtedly changed a bit. Today when we go to professional networking and social events, we’re always asked, “So what do you do?” The 30-second elevator pitch is expected. Although I’ve tweaked it, I silently think, “But I do more than that! I wear multiple hats!” As travel professionals, how do we successfully steer and grow our businesses while having to wear all those different hats?
The “So What Do You Do?” Challenge
Yes, we are memory creators, booking agents, sales pros, connectors, and miracle workers. Beyond that, it also involves the business and financial side of running a successful, profitable business. We have multiple components when it comes to successfully operating a travel business, but there are resources available, along with realizing what we can cannot do by ourselves.
Embrace the “I have scissors, but don’t cut my own hair” Mindset
As a kid, I found some scissors, started playing around with them, and thought it might be fun to cut my own hair. Unfortunately, it turned into a bit of a disaster, and after my mom saw the mess I created? She took me to a hairdresser who straightened it out.
Yes, we all have scissors at home, but does that mean that we’re going to cut our own hair instead of going to a hair salon or professional stylist? No. I have a Master’s degree in business administration from a terrific university where I successfully got through macro and micro accounting, along with business finance and statistics, but do I sit down and do my own taxes? No!
In our case, it’s best to decide what we can do well, prioritize those tasks, and then accomplish them successfully. And when it comes to things we need to handle where we don’t have the expertise? We need to find, and use, other professionals to handle those areas for our business and us.
A dear cruise industry executive once told me, “I’m not an expert in everything, so if there is something I need when it comes to running this company that I don’t know, I reach out to someone who’s got that expertise.”
Insights from Richard Meadows, President of Seabourn and Cunard Line
When it comes to wearing multiple hats, perhaps one of the best executives who successfully manages to do that is Richard “Rick” Meadows, President of Seabourn and President of Cunard Line.
In Rick Meadows’ extensive cruise industry career, he’s held specific positions where he’s had one title. His first dual role with two different Carnival Corporation brands came about when Meadows oversaw the move of Seabourn from Miami to Seattle. He became president of luxury line Seabourn along with continuing his role as executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line.
In 2015, he transitioned over to becoming president of Cunard Line as well as remaining president of Seabourn.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Rick, and asked him how he’s been able to successfully wear multiple hats and run two different successful companies.
Rick first mentioned, “The key thing is acknowledging that the Seabourn and Cunard Line brands are very unique and provide different selling opportunities. I’m fortunate to have good teams that are focused on selling each brand. I lean heavily on them to bring those brands to life.”
He further explained, “We have separate but independent organization units that handle both of these brands, and I’m dedicated to spending my time with each one of these, along with switching the hats.”
Technology Makes Things Easier & Having Good Dedicated Teams
Yes, technology does make things a bit easier. Rick notes, “With technology today, I can connect via video calls and conference calls as I work in both Seattle, Seabourn’s headquarters, as well as California, where Cunard Line is located. I’m fortunate, because our two headquarter offices are in the same time zone. Also, I can easily fly down to California and be there in about two hours. So in my case, it’s about leveraging technology and maximizing my time spent, along with travelling and working with team members.”
The fact that technology allows close connectivity helps, but he also explains that he’s fortunate in having two good dedicated teams within each cruise line.
Richard Meadows’ Pulse for Travel Professionals – Running the Business
Meadows also mentions that what he deals with is really similar to what travel agent professionals also deal with day to day. He notes, “Today agents tend to work remotely, but they can easily dial in and speak to someone at their host agency. And technology allows close connectivity.”
As far as successfully running a business, which in his case is two different cruise lines, Rick shares a few of his own insights. He explains, “It’s about setting clear goals, prioritizing around those actions and then make those goals come to reality.”
Another Suggestion – Be a World Class Storyteller
As a travel professional, he further explains, “The bigger thing is being a world class storyteller and connecting with your prospect. You need to convey what you are selling along with what resonates. It’s also important that you add value to what you’re selling and creating that for a prospect and future client.”
A critical part of approaching travel selling is what Rick refers to as “being a master storyteller.” He further explains, “You need to have that come to life. Listening to clients and then matching those wants and needs with the best fits are critical, as well as being able to authentically tell the story and relate to that person/client.”
With selling, “We’re responsible for matching expectations and making clients end up with the right experience. By being that master storyteller, telling it correctly, and being an active listener, your story really will be heard.”
Use the Two-Pronged Approach
When it comes to the key priorities that travel professionals should focus on when it comes to successfully managing their businesses, Rick notes, “It really gets back to prioritizing your business. Travel professionals need to not only have a business plan in place, but also be able to adapt to what might change. This is critical. I like to think of this as having a two-pronged approach. You need to have a business plan, but also re-evaluate and prioritize that plan as well as having tactics in place that let you be able to change. Unexpected situations can and do occur, so being to adapt and change quickly is also critical.”
What Richard Meadows Likes Best Wearing Multiple Hats
When I asked Meadows what he likes best about running both of these cruise lines? He explained, “They’re both such inspirations and quality brands. For me, to be able to spend time helping these brands and being part of a team is an honor. Yes, I’m a steward. But in their own way, both Seabourn and Cunard Line are leaders, have a legacy, and give guests high quality experiences. Seabourn is ultra-luxury. With Cunard Line’s history and legacy for 175 years, we work to continually bring that brand forward. It’s also gratifying to continue to find ways to surprise our guests. These are two different brands with extraordinary power in their markets.”
As a dedicated list maker myself, I love it when I’m able to check off my accomplished tasks each day and each week. But Rick Meadows’ point of being a storyteller really resonates with me, because I value my storyteller edge. People relate to experiences, and by sharing a story, along with being able to match clients with the best fits for their needs is where the success begins and can continue. We also need to continue to “switch hats” within our business, use other professionals to handle what we can’t do, prioritize, and be able to quickly adapt to changes when needed.
Cindy Bertram has 15+ years of cruise and travel industry expertise in marketing, sales, training, diverse content creation, as well as areas of social media, including blogging. She handles projects through her own company, Cindy’s Inside Cruise and Travel Track, LCC, in addition to working in small business consulting. A diverse writer who’s nationally published, Cindy has presented workshops at travel and cruise conferences, along with being the opening speaker for PR NEWS’ Writing Boot Camp Chicago November 2014. Passionate about having a positive impact, her short story, “A Cruise and a Promise,” was included in Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul (published 2002.) She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org