A recent TRO article by Dan Chappelle terrified me. Not because it suggested that we might be better off being more like McDonalds; but that there might be a huge cost to forging out on your own as a solopreneur. My agency might be worthless!
For years (I guess I can say decades now) we’ve been told to go home. The retail version of the travel agency is shrinking and Travel Agency 2.0 is right there in the spare room in your house. All you need is a desk, a laptop, an Internet connection and a phone and you are in business for yourself.
There is no more “working for the man.” You are the boss and make your own hours. You decide what you want to sell. You decide to whom you want to sell. You set the company culture. You set customer service policies for yourself. And as for the dress code…casual Fridays…yup. No pants Mondays…got that too.
But when Dan said:
The client tends to be loyal to the person, not the business.
I freaked out.
Of course I realized this. I have bought and sold many retail locations and there was always some shifting of personnel and clients. I have written checks for lost business and received checks for gained business. Somehow I thought it all worked out even in the end. But as a solopreneur it is not that easy.
I am 56. I am not getting any younger. And while retirement still seems like a long way off in the distance, it is a goal of mine to not work to the grave. My children have no interest in the travel business and all are on their own separate career tracks. So, aside of any investments and savings, I figured I would sell my business and make a few bucks. But now I am not so sure.
I agree with Dan. I like the guy that cuts my hair and I don’t care if it is at barbershop “A” or barbershop “B” as long as I get the haircut I like at the price I find appropriate. Why do we use the same lawyers? The same accountants? They have built relationships with us and relationships are important. But once that accountant goes away—so does the relationship.
When I go to my barber and we share wholly inappropriate jokes while getting my hair cut, that’s our relationship. If he leaves, what do I do? Sure the fresh faced girl right out of beauty school can replicate the product (the hair cut) but not the experience of before. Besides, I might be the next headline in the #MeToo movement if I carried on the jokes!
So, what to do? Sorry Dan, I have worked too darned hard to build this business, to have it turn into a paycheck to paycheck type endeavor. And to be honest, I am at a loss as to what to do. Dan says that most sales today are based on an earn-out (and I agree) but I had not thought of that for a solo shop. I need to get to the drawing board and figure this out.
Certainly I have been able to afford a decent lifestyle from travel consulting. I have 2.8 of 3 kids out of college and gainfully employed. And I thoroughly believe in the industry and the continued ability to make a decent lifestyle for those that are willing to work. But it is disconcerting to consider that for all this work, there has not been much value earned.
As I muddle this, I think that it might make sense to reach out to colleagues. I have always been a proponent of having a back up for when you get sick and someone needs to handle the clients—but that was usually predicated on coming back. Maybe I need to approach my backups and have a discussion about purchases (both ways) at some point. Maybe nothing in contractual form, but a memo of understanding? Maybe I need to make sure my clients are aware of my backup person and can get used to them to see that they are just like me (as odd as that may seem)? Hmm, lot’s to think about here.
All I know is that I have not busted my chops for 20+ years to retire with something of little value. And thanks Dan for freaking me out and getting me thinking!