If there was ever a time for travel advisors to get creative with their business, it’s got to be now. With the hit that many in the travel industry have taken over the course of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has perhaps never been a greater need for advisors to consider out-of-the-box ways to put their skills to good use and bring in new sources of revenue.
Just before the pandemic struck, Susie Chau, founder of Carpe Diem Traveler in Chicago, Ill., was brainstorming one such innovative idea. After connecting over LinkedIn with Jake Northrup, founder and financial planner at Experience Your Wealth, the two started discussing a way to offer Chau’s travel planning services to Northrup’s clients, most of whom are younger couples and families who want to make travel a major part of their lifestyle.
“We definitely connected off of some shared ideals around being able to live your life and use your money to support your dreams,” said Chau of their initial conversations. “What really made it click was what we both want for our clients, and that is to have the financial freedom to live out those dreams, especially as they relate to traveling.”
Although talks paused for a few months, Chau and Northrup reconnected in the fall and began hashing out the details of their plan. The end result is a newly launched partnership for 2021, in which Chau will offer annual travel consulting services to Experience Your Wealth clients, helping them be more intentional with their time off — and providing Northrup with the insights he needs to help them budget for their future travels.
“There was quite a lot of back and forth and ideating in terms of what I could offer and what his clients need, so it was a really collaborative effort to get to the point we’re at today,” Chau said. “In January and February, I’ll have my meetings with his clients so he can then have that financial information to help them from a planning perspective throughout the rest of the year.”
The biggest thing I took away from this is that there are so many ways small businesses in totally different industries can help each other.
The beauty of the partnership is that it truly benefits all those involved — Experience Your Wealth will compensate Chau for her annual consulting services (clients won’t pay her directly unless they want additional services that aren’t being offered as part of the program); Northrup will know exactly what travel expenses to budget for his clients in both the immediate future and the coming years; and the clients themselves will have a roadmap of their future trips, as well as specific financial guidance for making each one a reality.
Knowing what to expect financially is especially important for bucket-list trips, says Chau, who notes that the sticker shock of, say, a Galapagos or Antarctica trip can be a deal-breaker if clients are not planning for those expenses far enough in advance. What’s more, saving for specific, big-ticket vacations can help build anticipation and motivate clients to be more intentional in their planning and saving.
“It’s wonderful if you have a general travel fund, but it’s so much more exciting, powerful and motivating to be able to save for something that’s specifically earmarked, that you can anticipate for years to come,” explained Chau. “People have these bucket lists in their heads, but being able to see them on paper with dates attached to them, it just feels so much more real and achievable — especially with the help of a financial advisor who has the budgets and can manage their financial portfolios to be able to meet those goals.”
For Chau, the arrangement adds a new layer of security for her business, offering a stream of reliable revenue that could be particularly helpful in years such as 2020, when fewer people are planning and booking travel. She points out that there is always potential for unexpected events to disrupt advisors’ plans and goals for a given year (as well as those of their clients), and encourages advisors to think creatively and optimistically about ways “to continue to grow even when the environment might not be ideal for planning travel.”
Another benefit of the partnership is that both Chau and Northrup stand to expand their client lists, in the event that one partner’s clients decide to take advantage of the other partner’s services.
“We kind of serve the same people, which is why I think this works,” Chau said. “As his practice grows, that means more annual clients I would be working with. And there are people in my audience who fit his target clientele.”
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The way the arrangement is structured also helps Chau effectively balance the needs of her existing business and her responsibilities within the new partnership. Scheduling the Experience Your Wealth consultations at the beginning of each year makes them “something that can be planned for, versus just popping up here and there,” according to Chau, who notes that she will know exactly when to carve out time in her schedule to dedicate to these particular clients.
Through the process of creating this partnership, Chau says she learned that there is actually a lot of crossover between financial advising and travel advising, and now feels “there are a lot of ways that those industries can work together.” But if advisors want to get creative and pursue new options for their business, she points out that there are plenty of other opportunities out there, as well — especially now, as small businesses look for ways to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest thing I took away from this is that there are so many ways small businesses in totally different industries can help each other,” Chau said. “2020 was like no other year, and I can guarantee you that any other small business is happy to be able to have conversations with other people and see how they can help each other out, because all small businesses need help these days — and [will] in the future as well.”
“I just encourage other advisors to think creatively and focus on [their] clients,” Chau said. “It was so exciting to have these conversations with Jake because it was something new and fun and exciting and promising — all of the things that 2020 was not. It revived my level of excitement, which was refreshing. I can’t wait to see more of his clients in the new year.”
Carpe Diem Traveler
Experience Your Wealth