Author Archives: Mary Stephan

There are 50 articles by Mary Stephan published on this site.

Relax, I don’t bite

After a recent meeting with some colleagues, we decided to head out for a drink.  As we were sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender, we started talking travel as usual. The  bartender mentioned that the woman at the end of the bar was also a travel agent. Not one to miss an opportunity to promote our small group of travel professionals, I asked if she’d like to join the group and network with her peers.  The next words out of her mouth took me aback: Read the rest of this entry »

Are you hosted?

When I lived in Ohio I hated the yard work that came with living in a suburban home: every fall the huge maple in our yard would shed its leaves and I would rake bags and bags. Winter brought shoveling snow after snow. Spring and summer saw me mulching, planting, fertilizing, and mowing. Not only was it time consuming, it was exhausting. There was always something needing to be repaired or cleaned—the roof, the gutters, the driveway, the lawn mower. It was never ending! Living in a house with a yard is great; but it’s a lot of work! Read the rest of this entry »

Why are you scared of me?

Recently, I went out for cocktails with another agent after an agent networking meeting. As we were sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender, we started talking travel. The bartender said, “Oh, so-and-so down at the end of the bar is a travel agent.” I approached her, introduced myself, and mentioned the group along with an invitation to join. The next words out of her mouth took me aback. Read the rest of this entry »

Do you have a backup plan?

Back in 2010 my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and we made the decision, as a family, for hospice care. Between surgeries, hospital stays, and her passing, it was a grueling couple of weeks. While all this was going on, I attempted to take care of my current clients. I was in no shape to take on new ones at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Want to know the secret to getting more clients? Making millions in the travel industry? Being wildly successful? So would I. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a magic bullet or pill to take for instant success.

What I do know is it takes hard work, dedication, education, getting out there, patience, and a positive attitude. Read the rest of this entry »

Know, I mean really know, your clients

When I purchased my home, I received an inexpensive bottle of white wine from my realtor. Nice gift? Not really. I have very specific taste when it comes to the wine I drink. Anyone who knows me knows I drink red and specifically Malbec. Not only that, I absolutely hate screw tops, which this one had. Needless to say, the bottle is on my wine rack unopened and collecting dust.

What does wine and travel have to do with each other? Plenty. Read the rest of this entry »

Do what you say

My father in law was the kindest, gentlest person I know; and very slow to anger. The only time I witnessed his irritation was directed at one of his grandchildren who had agreed to do something for him and blew him off. In no uncertain terms he told them that if they made a commitment they needed to honor it. It was not acceptable to say they were going to do something and not follow through with it.

He was a wise man and those words have stuck in my head. Honor commitments, promises and follow through. Read the rest of this entry »

The art of the sale

Several months ago I was shopping with my daughter. We walked in a well-known store. We were the only ones in the store besides the two sales associates. Neither associate bothered to greet us, acknowledge us in any way, or even remotely show that they saw someone walk into their establishment. Instead they proceeded to talk to each other and completely ignore us. My daughter and I walked out disgusted and appalled by their behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

We all know what a professional looks like; but what about an unprofessional? You know, someone who arrives late, dresses inappropriately, talks more than they listen, snaps their gum and are basically disagreeable.

Is there more? Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been one year since I moved from being a home based agency owner to an employee of a brick and mortar agency. And, looking back on my decision a year later, I wouldn’t change a thing.

At some point you wake up and ask yourself “am I where I want to be? Am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I still passionate about my job?” The short answer to those questions is “Not really.” Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Friday. It’s the first Friday of the official summer. Let’s keep this short, sweet, and powerful. Your business is nothing unless you market it. That is pretty plain and simple. If people do not know you are there, how can they purchase from you? The answer is simple—market yourself. Here are five down and dirty ways to do just that! Read the rest of this entry »

Find it yourself

There are a myriad of advertisements to entice people to become a travel agent, travel for free, and tap into the billion dollar travel industry. The reality is very different from the hype.

There is more to being a travel agent than printing business cards and having a slick website. Much more. Being a travel agent is work; it’s a job. There is no magic bullet to get clients, no free travel, and certainly no path to instant riches. On top of that, you need ongoing education to ensure you are selling the right products, matching them with your client, and keeping up with changes in hotels and destinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Why you need a business plan

How many of you have a good business and marketing plan? If you are serious about growing your travel business, it’s important to have one even if you work your business part-time. A business plan helps you stay organized, on track, and holds you accountable. Some components of a business plan include your value proposition, an operational plan, and financial plan. It doesn’t have to the size of a college textbook. Keep it simple. Read the rest of this entry »

So, you still want to be a travel agent, travel the world and make a lot of money. Not so fast. There is a lot to learn before you are ready for that first client.  Before the commissions and fees start to roll in, you really need to know a little bit about yourself and how you fit into the industry. What’s next? Let’s start with the basics–where, when, how, what and why. Read the rest of this entry »

So, you want to be a travel agent…

Love to travel? Want to get paid to travel? Travel for free? Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Like the serpent offering Eve the apple in the Garden of Eden a lot of these offers are very tempting. Travel is sexy, travel is fun, travel is something a lot of us aspire to do. These ads hit all the right buttons–love, free and get paid. Buyer beware–If it sounds too good to be true it usually is. Read the rest of this entry »

What goes around comes around

It’s funny how life works sometimes. It seems that mine has now come full circle. It seems that not too long ago, I was an independent contractor working for a couple of host agencies. Not happy with the status quo, I made a business decision to become fully independent. I obtained my own CLIA number and ran my very own agency. Now, as the IC Team Sales Leader for a retail agency, I find myself instructing, mentoring, and guiding people who were just like me. Read the rest of this entry »

Being a home based travel agent is not for the faint of heart. Sure we all love to travel. Who doesn’t? But selling travel and traveling are two very different things. At some point, we all question why we continue to do what we are doing especially dealing with price shoppers, tire kickers and the occasional rude, know-it-all client.

I had a successful home based agency in Ohio. However, I was working 60+ hours a week. Afraid of missing a sale, I was always answering the phone and booking travel even on the weekends. Much to the detriment of my family. Read the rest of this entry »

So, I picked up my things and left

Mea culpa. I can’t believe it has been a few years since my last column for TRO; but I am back, and better than ever. Sit back; it’s a compelling story about where I have been and where I am headed.

Back then; I owned a home-based agency, Allons Travel in Powell, Ohio. I was a fixture here at TRO and at the trade shows for a while. But then, my mother died of cancer and my life was profoundly changed. Losing a parent not only changes you—it alters how you think about your life, your decisions and what you want to do with the time you have left. Read the rest of this entry »

What I Have Learned From My Pets

I have 2 dogs and a cat. While I love them dearly, sometimes they frustrate the heck out of me. Yet I still love them. More importantly they have taught me a lot of things.  Things that I apply to my business. I know what you’re thinking: “Are you crazy? Your pets actually teach you something?”  Before you call me certifiable and haul me away, let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

The Busy Conundrum

I am busy. You’re busy. We are all busy. Too busy to do this, that and what we should be doing. Ask anyone how they are and you will get the words busy out of their mouth. And, of course the response back is that is a good problem to have. But is it?

Are we busy just to be busy? Are we using busy as an excuse to avoid doing what we should be doing? Or, are we so conditioned to being busy that we simply don’t know how to be anything else. Can we be addicted to busyness? Sure we can. In this fast pace society we live we are told to get ahead we need to be busy, work harder, faster, not take lunch breaks, work 70+ hours a week. Got kids? They need to be scheduled every minute of the day to get into a great college.

But is all this busyness really helping us or harming us? Read the rest of this entry »

Why are we so afraid of each other?

After our monthly travel agent association meeting —I went out for cocktails with another agent.  As we were sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender we started talking travel. The  bartender said oh so and so down at the end of the bar is a travel agent. Not one to miss an opportunity to promote our group I asked why she had not been coming to our meetings. She stuttered around for a bit and said her agency focus had changed.  The next words out of her mouth took me aback. Read the rest of this entry »