An Intangible Asset

Sometimes we take for granted one of the most important aspects of running a successful agency: the people that work in that agency.
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

Here, at TravelAge West, we strive to provide readers with stories that cover a wide range of practical topics, such as marketing, business development, customer service and others. Sometimes, however, we take for granted one of the most important aspects of running a successful agency: the people that work in that agency. We can provide agents with the best information available but, in most cases, you are only as good as the individuals that make up your team.

Recently, we lost a crucial member of the TravelAge West team when Production Manager Matthew Sullivan passed away suddenly and at far too young an age. As the Production Manager, Matt's role was crucial to our business, but -- as it has become painfully obvious this past week -- his true value went far beyond his official job description.

In addition to his work as Production Manager, Matt handled our classified advertising. It was often through this task -- which he approached with a blend of gentle, down-to-earth humor and humility -- that he gained the respect and adoration of many agents. It was common to be approached at trade shows by agents saying, "Tell Matt he is such a sweetheart."

Through some quirk of our phone tree, random calls to our direct number would often be directed to Matt. His office was next to mine, and I would marvel at his patience and easy-going nature when dealing with callers.

"'No, Miss, we're a travel agent magazine, not a travel agency,'" he would say. "'I'm sure Brazil is beautiful this time of year -- Would you like me to get you the number of an agent that specializes in travel to Brazil? Yes, I'm sure your granddaughter will love visiting the rainforest.'"

The decade or so that Matt was at TravelAge West were full of examples such as this. Ultimately, Matt's friendly, good-natured personality was a bigger asset to our magazine than anything that can be calculated on a balance sheet or accounted for in a business plan. And it's the loss of this one-of-a-kind spirit that hurts so much now that he's gone. I truly hope his example will inspire the rest of us for many years to come.
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