As we have been discussing, there is much to learn when becoming a travel agent and advisor. Last week, we discussed options for your business structure. Today, let’s focus on starting that successful business.
Businesses that thrive typically are well planned. A key question to consider is whether there is a market for what you have to offer. Let’s suppose you have determined you have the skills and personality to work on your own, and there is a market for your services. What’s next? It’s time for a business plan.
A business plan is a summary of what is expected from a commercial effort—including level of income, benefits, and investment—along with a statement of mid- and long-term goals. It’s important to take the time to develop such a plan. Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t invest the valuable time to do it.
If you are entertaining the idea of becoming a travel business entrepreneur, having a business plan should be your first step, along with getting the education you need to succeed. As your lifelong learning partner, The Travel Institute offers guidance on business planning in our introductory program, the TRIPKIT, which is designed for new agents and consists of three areas: Travel Agent 101, Destination Geography, and Starting a Business.
To learn how to market your business and increase your sales, be sure to attend Insider Insight: Getting to the Sale—Developing Your Communication Skills & Creating Marketing Strategies, presented TOMORROW at 2:00 pm (EST) by Kim Specht, CTIE, Travel Industry Educator.
The following are some basic elements and checklist of a business plan taken from the TRIPKIT Program:
- Your expectations. For example, how long do you expect to take to generate income? Do you plan to work part-time or full-time? Do you desire eventually to obtain all your income from this business?
- Your business concept or profile. What is your niche? What is the competition? You may want to specialize in two or three niches to cushion your business for seasonality and unpredicted marketplace changes.
- A mission statement. It should clearly and succinctly communicate your company’s purpose.
- Specific goals and objectives. Based on your expectations, you can identify specific goals that will direct your efforts and help you set priorities for your activities. Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. Create a 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan of action and identify specific tasks that flow directly from those goals.
- Projections for the business. What income do you project for the first year? For the first three years? What expenses do you project? Do you need outside funding? If you need assistance with creating a financial plan, check out the Travel Agency Finances course.
- Your name and brand. Choose a name and brand that are descriptive of your business’s focus. For example, “World Diving Cruises and Tours” is much more descriptive than “Suzy’s Travel Shoppe.”
- Legal and accounting requirements. Turn to the experts to help you properly establish your business. It’s critical to find an attorney and an accountant who specialize in small businesses or travel agencies.
- Your office. Setting up your office—particularly if that office is in your home—requires time, effort, planning, and money. The investment is worthwhile for a space that gives you a professional atmosphere and convenient access to the required tools of the trade.
- Your website and social media presence. A website and social media presence are especially important for virtual travel agencies because they often lack a physical storefront. You may want to develop a site and social media pages on your own, but many companies specialize in creating, hosting and maintaining websites for travel agencies.
- A possible host agency. If you are an independent contractor, selecting a host agency partner that is a good fit with your business is a key decision. For some helpful tips on this topic, you can find a list of host agencies at The Travel Institute’s website. You also may seek out other resources, such as FindaHostTravelAgency.com.
All these tips and many others are covered in depth in the TRIPKIT course. Our goal is to help you gain knowledge and to offer you the unbiased guidance you need to succeed. We look forward to continuing to see you grow!
Remember that an educated travel professional saves travelers time and money and provides peace of mind for agents and clients alike. To start building a solid foundation on the critical areas all travel professionals need to be successful, check out the TRIPKIT today.