Travel insights from Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing for Travel Planners International

The Most Important Business Plan You’re Probably Missing

As a business owner, not having a “plan” can lead you to some serious pitfalls. It’s why you probably have a general business model as well as a marketing and profitability plan. However, what happens when you can’t run your business anymore? Do you have a succession plan in place? Do you know how to create one? If the last three questions sent you into a panic, find some relief that you’re not alone. When one of my top advisors told me she planned to retire, I asked what she would do about her agency and clients. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

According to a Hot Travel Jobs survey, the average travel advisor is 55. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics simply says “a large portion of travel [advisors] are reaching retirement”. From my personal experience, it’s not uncommon to come across advisors in their 70s or even 80s. This is to say, we’re not getting any younger. Many host agencies are realizing that as our workforce ages, most travel agency owners don’t have a succession plan in place. Ultimately, this leaves us, you and the industry in a very vulnerable place.

Where do you go from here? Your natural next step is to craft your own succession plan. It’s in your agency’s best interest to be proactive, rather than reactive. Below are some tips and ideas to consider when creating your plan. By adopting one (or a few of these), your business will already be in much better shape to face the future.

Find Your Backup

Take some time to think of someone who can take over for you. You should look for a person(s) that has the necessary skills needed to be in charge. Once you’ve selected your ideal candidate, take the opportunity to mentor them, showing them the ins and outs of running your business.

You can also leave your business to another experienced advisor. They won’t really need mentoring however, over time, begin to introduce your current clients to them. This will make the future transition unbelievably smooth.

I recommended finding at least two individuals you think are suitable to take over your agency. It’s proactive to have options.

Prepare a Warm Handoff

Unless the worst happens, your clients should know your plans to eventually leave the business. They should also get the opportunity to build a relationship with your successor. Consider this prep work for a warm handoff.

Also consider how hard you’ve worked to solidify your relationship and earn the trust of your clients. Your successor should get the same chance.

Provide Experience & Do a Trial Run

Practice makes perfect, right? In that case, identify opportunities where your back-up can practice running your agency without you. For example, going on vacation gives you and your successor the perfect chance at trial run. They can step in, assume most responsibilities, and form relationships with existing clientele.Your successor will gain valuable experience, and you get to destress without (too many) interruptions.

Plan B: Sell Your Agency & Make $$

If finding/mentoring a suitable successor isn’t reasonable for you, don’t worry. There’s still Plan B - selling your agency. Doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, and various other professionals plan on selling their practice or book of business as part of their succession plan. Occasionally, they work alongside the buyer to make it an easy transition but sometimes, it’s an outright sale.

In the future, Travel Planners International will look into facilitating conversations between retiring travel advisors with business brokers.

A succession plan is crucial for your business! Deciding to leave the industry affects more than just you. The better you prepare now, the less disruptions there’ll be in the future. Open a Word doc right now and start drafting your own succession plan. If you need to work on it over a few days or weeks, that’s alright too. You just need to have something in place.

About the Author

Jenn Lee, Travel Planners International’s VP of Sales and Marketing, isn’t shy about her obsession for guiding and leading today’s entrepreneurial-minded travel advisor community. According to Lee, now’s the moment to remind the world that travel advisors aren’t just booking travel, they’re true curators of the future. She believes that those that find success are going beyond boosting their bank account; they’re building a business. Meeting and strategizing with these hustling entrepreneurs-in-the-making is what keep her going. That and her Bulletproof Coffee.

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