A rock star is someone at the top of their profession, entertaining the masses, and living life to its fullest. Rock stars come in all shapes and sizes AND in all industries. Rick and Leslie Howard, the owners of Kingdom Magic Travel and Must Love Travel, are entrepreneurial rock stars who fit this definition. This husband and wife team reached out to me earlier this year to see if I would speak to their travel agents on a team cruise to the Bahamas. (Um, yes.)
It was a great trip with a highly motivated team. This group of travel agents, known as advisors, are also walking, talking, and booking proof that travel agents are alive and well. They are also proof that you want an expert involved with a project for success.
Why this business, where did the idea come from?
We planned a trip for our family and a small group of our friends. We enjoyed the process so much, we started talking about making a business of it, and we did.
What do you wish you had known to start with?
Put people first. It’s our mantra now, #PeopleFirst, both customers and advisors. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time building tech and processes. Now it’s relationships with our clients and advisors that drive our business.
How has the industry changed since you started?
There have been tons of changes in the travel industry in the 24 years since we started. Airline commission caps, mergers, shifts from business travel to leisure, niche agencies, storefront to home-based agents, and more also contributed to a changing industry.
Technology, software, and online searches have all improved, making it easier for our advisors to service and plan trips for clients even better than before.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
Managing a team of home-based advisors can feel somewhat disjointed. Not having a central location to work in like an office with a conference room can be tough both for management and advisors.
Advisors can feel alone and isolated, while managers have communication challenges and can feel out of touch with the staff. That’s why we continually communicate with our advisors in multiple ways and make the team trips as well.
The best lesson learned that will help another entrepreneur?
Never, ever run out of money! Seriously, start early and work hard. And, Leslie adds, “Pull up your big girl pants and deal with it!”
The best lesson learned from a customer?
Different customers require different ways to communicate, and they all process information differently. This lesson was learned when we realized that an 83-year-old customer was asking for his trip information to be delivered on index cards, not Word documents. That taught me to ask how each customer would like to receive their information. Everyone is different, and you have to make that effort to deliver information. It’s not how we communicate but rather how the customer wants to communicate!
The best lesson learned from a big mistake?
Making sure to have credit card approvals and signatures on file.
Tech innovation you hope to see in the future?
Seamless internet and Wi-Fi connection across devices and around the world. No more sniffing hot spots when you travel. Instead, your internet connection follows you.
Rick: Days Like This – Van Morrison
Leslie: Thank You – Led Zeppelin
Any final thoughts?
Many people are surprised to hear that we use a travel agent and that the travel agency business is booming, but we do, and it is. The more complicated a trip, the more I want an expert involved. And, if something does go wrong, it is less stressful when you have someone on your team who knows how to fix it. Yes, you can book just about anything yourself, but you could probably also change the oil in your car or fix your toilet. I prefer an expert for those and my vacation travel.
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