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If you work in travel, then you know: We don’t just plan vacations. We create experiences. We help make memories for our clients by carefully crafting each trip with love and attention. It’s fun and rewarding, but it can be tough financially.
As a supplier who primarily sells to travel advisors, that journey is a slow burn. I know advisors face the same challenges; waiting until clients travel — and for commission to come in — is often difficult on cash flow.
Suddenly, the world is no longer traveling, and we are facing more challenges than ever before. In this downtime, we have the opportunity to work more on the business side of our business. My No. 1 bit of advice for surviving this pandemic? Get lean.
No, I don’t mean your waistline (hello, stay-at-home snacks); I’m referring to your financial practices. Having started North & Leisure with a travel planning skill set, a healthy dose of ambition and no extra dollars laying around, I had to be thoughtful with every penny. I made my share of mistakes along the way, but most of what I’ve learned continues to serve me well to this day. These five tips set up my business to survive in even the worst of circumstances.
Track ItFind all your monthly and yearly expenses for your business. Think monthly subscriptions to services you use, your host fees, insurance, legal fees, etc.
Do the same for your personal life. You need to have an accurate picture of both to make sure you are building a business that supports your life, and not the other way around.
If it doesn’t, I hate to break it to you, but what you’ve got isn’t a profitable business. It’s an expensive hobby.
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Stop Money LeaksNow that you know where your money is going, see what you can cut.
Separate Your Business and Personal AccountsThis is crucial, and I’m always shocked when I learn about fellow travel pros who still have their business and personal expenses combined. If you are brand-new to the industry, go ahead and separate your business and personal accounts now. Your future self (and your accountant) will thank you.
This step will make everything easier with accounting, but also when setting priorities.
Remember earlier when I said my business was a slow burn? I accrued some debt in those early days, but I made it a priority to pay the business back first. I focused my energy on a healthy business that was set up for success. Now both my business life and my personal life are financially fit.
Teach Yourself FirstRight before the pandemic changed all our lives, there were countless articles, podcasts and programs out there teaching how to scale quickly. “How do I grow and scale?” is one of the top questions we get at Travel Pro Theory.
Most often, advisors believe that the best way to grow is to hire for every type of task. Building a team became the new #squadgoals.
While you should absolutely dream and plan for the next levels of your business, play the long game. If you are in a position where you’ve got more time than money (which is the case for most of us in this industry, given the current circumstances), it’s the perfect time to learn some new skills.
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Need ideas? Create graphics for social media, create an email opt-in, write a welcome guide, research hashtags, create a workflow — the possibilities are endless. I taught myself to build a website in my early days, and let me tell you, that skill is the gift that keeps on giving.
Will you do any of these better than an expert that charges a premium? Nope. That’s OK; aim for incremental improvements.
If you can master the basics, it will be good enough for now. Down the road, when you are financially ready to invest, you’ll be better equipped to delegate efficiently.
An inefficient system will cost you time, which then costs you money. This magnifies as you grow. The faster and cleaner you can complete any given process, the faster you’ll be able to teach any current and future team members to do it, too.
Clean Up SystemsYou are as good as your systems. Read that again.
I don’t mean any fancy software, though I love tech that makes life easier. I mean what you do from A to Z for every part of your business.
Record your process. Write down every single step you do for client intake, follow-ups, booking, tracking, etc. As your business grows, this will have to evolve, so make this a habit you do at least once a year.
It may feel overwhelming to start, but you can do it. We are travel pros during the time of COVID-19. We can do hard things. I promise it will be worth it.
Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.