What Would Your Clients Do If You Suddenly Weren’t There?  

This month, many people along the East Coast of the United States and Canada, along with the Caribbean, were affected by Hurricane Dorian…some, tragically so. With a hurricane approaching, many of you successfully completed your hurricane preparations. But did that prep include making plans in case you were unable to serve your clients due to property damage or outages for cell service, internet, or power? As a business owner (especially if you are an IC), it is critical to expect the unexpected and create a succession plan.

Recently, Jackie Friedman, CTIE, president of Nexion Travel Group, wrote an article for Insider Travel Report, Insider View: A Guide to Succession Planning for Your Business, that we would like to share with you because it stresses the need for proper planning. The following is an excerpt from that article.

“There are many reasons to have a succession plan in place. Among those: an unexpected medical issue; a major family emergency; a decision to retire earlier than planned; your unexpected death.

“When considering what your succession plan might look like, here are some things to think about:

  • Selling your business: Will you hand it over upon your death? Perhaps you want to identify someone to transition your business to over time, for example at 25 percent intervals until it is fully under the control of the successor.
  • Look to your peers: Do you know a fellow travel advisor who you have always admired? Does he or she have a niche that fits well with yours, and do you share the same values? That person could be someone you want to consider handing your business off to.
  • Look to your network: If you are part of a host agency or consortia, does it offer an opportunity for you to sell your business to the company or other members?

“Succession planning is not only smart but gives you peace of mind, and, I’d argue, is an essential part of the service you offer your clients.”

To read Jackie’s entire article from Insider Travel Report, click here.

Backup Plans from Agency Owners

This article got us wondering what solutions are already in place by our savvy certified graduates. So, we reached out, and they were happy to share:

When Jennifer Walker, CTIE, Jennifer Walker Travel Inc., is traveling, coverage is supplied by her independent contractors–including the agency’s former owner who still works there. Her husband is the secretary/treasurer with full access to bank accounts and passwords, If needed, he can take over or work with their consortium to sell assets to another member agency.

Michele Cartwright, CTA, Destinations by Design, had this to say: “The majority of my business is backed up in the cloud, so my travel advisor team may access my clients and their traveling plans. Our team also has bi-weekly meetings to discuss upcoming events.”

Denise Lorentzen, CTA, Dreams Travel Consulting, offers these practical storage and backup tips: “I have a master binder in a secure location with all important info, including our CRM logins, banking, ICs’ info and more. I have the same info inside our password-protected Google Drive account associated with our business account. I also have a few friends/travel advisors who know what to do. My family could call on them as well.”

Katia Gilliam, CTA, Apex Systems has her team currently documenting and updating all process files because, she believes, “this is critical for continuation of services.”

Advice to Colleagues

We then asked these same agents what advice they would give to peers who don’t have a plan… but should.

Jennifer said: “Whether it’s coverage while you’re away on your own vacation, or something extreme happens and you’re no longer able to handle the daily operations of your agency, planning ahead for the future of the agency should be an important component of any business plan. It’s irresponsible for any agency owner to forego having a contingency plan in place.”

Michele advised: “Take the time to make a plan—it’s so worthwhile for you and your valued clients. If you don’t have team members, find a trusted advisor who is willing to help you during your absence. You must also plan for your death by leaving the business to a family member or other entity. Consult an attorney for legal advice that covers your specific circumstances.”

Here is Denise’s advice: “Have all important information in one place with phone numbers of trusted people who could handle your business should something happen. It’s so important in this business to have colleagues you know you can trust. If you don’t have that and work with a host agency, then turn to your host as a source of help as well.”

Finally, Brenda Shine, CTC, Orange Coast College Travel, has these sobering words: “Imagine a day you wake up and can no longer fulfill the needs of your clients. What would you do?”

For more on this important topic, register for the webinar Building a Succession Plan this Friday, September 27, at noon EDT, presented by Anne Smith, CTIE, owner of Travel and Events Extraordinaire.