An Axe to Grind | TravelResearchOnline

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An Axe to Grind

“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.”Abraham Lincoln

Louie was one of the hardest working men I had ever met. A restaurant owner, he was up first thing in the morning, worked all day in the kitchen and on the floor and went to bed late at night. The next day, he would do it all again. I was amazed at his ability to put in those hours and I was sure that his new venture would be a great success. A year later, he was out of business. I told Louie’s story to one of my business mentors and he shook his head knowingly. He was not surprised at the restaurant’s failure. “Too many business people have to work hard because they don’t work smart.”

ThinkstockPhotos-478835322He was right, of course. Louie loved his restaurant. Passion for his business was not an issue for Louie. Problem was, he didn’t much care for the business end of running a restaurant. Louie loved mixing with the customers, coming up with new dishes, and talking about food. However, his costs were too high, and he just didn’t get the need to market beyond simply serving good food. His marketing had little rhyme or reason and employees rotated through his establishment in revolving door fashion. Passion, by itself, wasn’t enough to sustain the business.

My appreciation for the Protestant work ethic was radically altered by Louie’s misfortunes. Hard work counted, but smarts counted, too. Like many good travel consultants, he was spending more time IN his business than he was spending ON his business. I see the same situation with many  travel consultants. They work very, very hard and they are passionate about travel.  But not all of their tools are sharp enough for the job in front of them. Their marketing is sporadic and their sales technique is haphazard and not studied.

How can travel agents be better business people? The answer is deceptively simple.

There are lots of things to be done every day. There are clients to call, there are deadlines for payment, and there are meetings to attend. But it occasionally pays to take a step back from the day-to-day processes that are absolutely necessary and just think about what we are doing. Are we as efficient as we could be? Are we delegating tasks to give us more time at what we both do and enjoy best? Are we investing adequate time in marketing and professional study? Are we growing our client list as well as maintaining it?

Growing your individual travel practice takes time and patience, but it also requires ongoing thought and planning. It takes a willingness to adjust course mid-stream and to break bad habits. Too many agents tend to be sporadic and reactive without giving their craft the study and attention it deserves. They are so chronically short of time they will even explain that they don’t have the time to plan. Their business is running them instead of being run by them.

Give yourself some time each week to review your progress and to adjust your practice. Allow yourself that luxury. Take the time to meet with yourself and review all of your business assets, the points of contact where the public encounters your brand.  Set the time aside and make it your own. Take time to review the way you are doing things and whether there are ways to improve on your practices. Read trade journals and associate with peers either at work or on forums. Get a business coach. Attend trade shows and think about the art of travel planning.

The time you spend just thinking about travel planning will make you a better travel planner.

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