Two Business Lessons from My Time as a Travel Agent

Necker IslandHaving been a traveller all my life, I thought it might be fun to own a travel agency. Alongside the wonderful adventures I enjoyed during those years, which included spending a night on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, I did learn a couple of very valuable business lessons I’ve never forgotten.

Lesson #1 – Say NO To The Difficult Client BEFORE They Hire You

One day we had a client who was proving difficult. Our job was to be the agent, i.e. stand between our client and the tour operator, helping our client to choose the holiday which would be perfect for her and her family.

She was stressed and demanding. She couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted and everything was our fault, even before she’d made the booking. When she couldn’t get the service she wanted from us, she went over our head direct to the tour operator.

Fortunately the tour operator was a savvy man who decided, from a telephone conversation alone with our client, that she was a woman he didn’t want in his business. So he told us he would not accept any booking from her and left us to relay this news to our client.

I do remember she broke down in tears in our office when she couldn’t get what she wanted. She couldn’t get what she thought was going to solve all her problems – a holiday. She couldn’t understand why any business would decline her custom.

I know. I’ve been there. You are experiencing difficulties across several fronts – in her case, husband and family, and you think if you can just secure this one last thing, all will be well, magical, healing. A holiday will fix everything (not).

And it slips further and further out of your grasp. The more stressed you are, the more slippery it becomes and the more desperate you become also. This is, after all, the one thing which is going to make everything alright.

So there she was, in my shop, gold card in hand, and she couldn’t get what she wanted. Computer said no. A tearful meltdown ensued which we mopped up and calmed down. I do remember saying the immortal words “this isn’t about the holiday, is it?”

The Tour Operator knew that if this woman was being this difficult before she even booked her holiday, just imagine what a nightmare she was going to be for his company when she was on one of his planes or in one of his hotels.

He said no. His experience of life and clients was sufficient that he could detect a difficult one at a thousand paces and he knew he could just say no. There’s some sorts of business you just don’t want. Let it go.

Lesson #2 – Have a Finite Goal, Achieve It, Celebrate and Shut Up Shop 

Tour operators have a finite capacity each season. When every plane seat is sold and every hotel bed has a body sleeping in it, there’s nothing more to be done. They can shut the shop, get the champagne out and celebrate. Their job is done.

Just imagine how wonderful that feels!

If you are in the service industry, it’s never “done” and this is quite draining, like a lot of other work – admin, cleaning, secretarial, house-keeping, that sort of drudgery just goes on and on and on. And on.

So, if you don’t have finite goals like the tour industry does, invent them.

Decide on what would be “full up” for you.

Recently I worked with a client who has one thing to sell and one thing only. And we know that if she sells 100 of them she will never have to worry about money ever again. Her work will be done. What bliss!

What’s the equivalent in your business? We can work that out together, it really is that simple.

Find your one thing which if you promote, market and sell enough of them will enable you too to shut up shop for the afternoon and put your feet up on the desk, celebrate with the champers and know you’ve done a good job. Good enough, anyway. For now.

You can indulge yourself with a bit of R & R and then re-group before next season, whatever that means for you.

I find this a very attractive idea, to know when you’ve achieved your goal and done enough, when you are full up, when you can congratulate yourself and celebrate your success. And then pick another goal if you want to.

If you’d like some help working out what that finite goal is for you in your life or business, just book yourself in for an exploratory no-strings chat: Entrepreneur of the Day

Your Biz Your Way

If you have enjoyed reading my words here, you might also enjoy my book - Your Biz Your Way: Learning to Trust Yourself. Relax! You've Got This. Get a chunky free sample and/or buy the book here Read My Book

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