That time I got stuck in a dress….
I used to consider myself a minimalist, in many ways I still do. I’m NOT a shopper and I HATE clutter (I used to be a professional organizer), but there is one area where I am definitely NOT a minimalist….
I have an entire (large) walk-in closet in my house dedicated solely to my gowns.
Now, before you go judging me too harshly for this extravagance, let me explain…
I love my gowns, not just because they are beautiful and a delight to wear, but because of what they represent.
One of my favorite things about Indian culture is how they cherish and nourish a sense of family and of community, and one of the ways they do that is with celebrations – and who doesn’t like a good party!?
And, getting dressed and made up for these events is part of the fun – hence my departure from minimalist into a closet full of gorgeous gowns!
…which brings me to this picture of me stuck in one of those gowns, and the best part is that my husband stopped to take this picture of me before helping me out!
And it gets worse! Right after this picture was taken I pulled a muscle in my back trying to wriggle free! 😂😂😂
Now forgive me as I make the uber-obvious segue here and ask you if you ever feel stuck with your business?
Like you just aren’t making enough money, not getting enough clients, just not getting anywhere….
I get it, it’s normal, it happens to ALL of us entrepreneurs…
One of my favorite ways to get myself un-stuck in my own business is to listen to inspiring stories of other entrepreneurs in my field who are rocking it!
I have one such story for you today with our July’s Outstanding Agent of the Month – Elizabeth Foss. Elizabeth’s inspiring interview is just the help you need to get unstuck (and you probably won’t even pull a muscle). 😉
Hello! Today I am elated to announce our July 2018 Outstanding Travel Agent of the Month Elizabeth Foss from My Travel Elf. She is a mover and a shaker a fantastic agent, and I’m excited to share this interview with you today. So welcome Elizabeth and congratulations!
Thanks Heidi, I’m so excited! I really appreciate the honor thank you.
So tell us a little bit more about you and your travel agency.
Well, I’m based in Naples Florida, but my agents are all over the place. We have 18 agents right now, yeah so it’s a growing agency.
The bulk of the agents are Disney focused, but we’re basically a full-service agency and yeah kind of a family-focused agency really. So wherever your family wants to go, we’re the ones to create a magical vacation for you.
Awesome! So what’s your favorite part about being a travel agent?
You know what – I love to travel myself and unfortunately, time and finances preclude me from being able to just do travel myself. So if I can’t be doing it myself, then I love planning vacations for other people, so that’s part of it.
I’m one of those agency owners that still sells because I don’t want to leave what got me into it in the first place and then the other part of it is teaching other agents how to sell. I love that, too – how to find their happiness and doing something that they’re really passionate about so they can stay home with their kids and travel themselves and make a good income. Yeah, so it’s kind of both sides of it.
Oh fantastic! So I know you’ve been at this a long time, like 30 years, right?
Yeah, in the industry for a little over 30 years.
That’s fantastic! So if you could send a message to yourself when you were just getting started as a travel agent thirty years ago, what’s something you would tell Elizabeth back then?
I probably would have told myself don’t be afraid you can do this, but beyond that, I would have told myself to think bigger because I spent the first probably fifteen years thinking really small. Thinking – just me and just about today or tomorrow or next week and never thinking about the longer-range goals. What do you want to do in five years? Where you want to be in ten years?
And so 10 years down the road then I found myself having a structure that was completely unable to support where I wanted to be at that time. So I wish that I had thought about – well what happens if I want to maybe have people work with me five years from now?
I would have chosen a different way to do my website, a different way to set up the email, a different way for everything. So think big even if it’s only you, there’s never anything wrong with setting things up for a bigger picture.
Yeah absolutely. I see that with newer agents a lot. So what is the best piece of advice that you have for the newer agents out there?
Maybe stick with it. This is not an industry where you can make it overnight because people don’t book their vacations hopefully for leaving next week. They’re booking their vacations for leaving in six months or nine months or a year, and you’re not getting paid in most phases until after they come back. So this isn’t a short-term kind of thing. You can’t quit your full-time job and dive into it, so I think you have to understand it’s a long-term process at least it is for most of us. Yeah, think long range for sure.
Yeah, I think that’s a great piece of advice. I see that was newer agents often, both inside our Travel Expert Marketing Academy and elsewhere not in the Academy. I see that with newer agents thinking in more short terms. I love that you’re talking about that big picture.
And I know business has changed a lot, you know, in the travel industry at large in the last 30 years and then also just with you personally, so like what is your next big goal in your travel business?
Honestly, I want to start tying everything together. I feel like over the last several years, I’ve had all these little bits and pieces and each of those bits and pieces is starting to look really good, but I need some consistency. I need to pull it all together into one tidy little package. And just get that consistent look and consistent feel to everything and then I can go out and present it to the world. I really want to take it much bigger in the next few years, but I can’t do that until I do the housekeeping first.
It’s like you don’t want to invite people to your house until you clean it first. I just need to tidy up some things, and then I just want to go really big and I don’t really know what the definition of really big is. I don’t know if that means bringing in a lot more agents or just increasing my own personal sales. I just know that I don’t want to just be this little tiny travel agent in Naples, Florida with some agents around, and we are doing our little thing. I want it to be a bigger corporate thing.
Awesome, yeah and you did a fantastic job of really building a beautiful culture I know within your travel agency. I heard stories of your agents and how they really feel connected and like it’s been a family there and everybody’s really supporting each other. So big kudos to you.
Do you have any type of personal mantra that you use that has helped you, you know, create that culture and just helped you through all the ups and downs of the travel industry in the last 30 years? Or any time that you’re stuck, and you want to get back on track to you of any kind of personal mantra that you’ve used?
I have a few personal mantras. It kind of depends on where I’m stuck actually. So one of them is don’t give up. For every one big success I’ve had, I probably had two or three that were like kind of sort of, and probably 20 that were complete flops.
And I mean like complete disasters. Spending time and money and all these other resources and getting absolutely nothing from it. So just keep going because I probably think once a month, “Forget it. I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore. There’s got to be an easier way to make a living.” And then I remember how much I like it when things are going right.” So don’t give up. Just keep going. It’s a big one.
When things aren’t working well from a marketing perspective – in fact, just told somebody today – remember that no one likes to be sold to. And when I back off of it sometimes and I look at what I just did, why didn’t this work, and then I realized oh my gosh, I just totally made a bunch of people feel like I was trying to sell them something. No wonder they didn’t buy anything because everybody hates that, you know, so that’s that’s a biggie, too.
And then the third thing is – remember that the other travel agents out there are not your competition. They are all in the same game together. We are not fighting each other for the same business. We have to stick together. We have to be supportive of each other.
So when somebody comes to you and says, “Do you have an idea?” Don’t hold back. Give them the idea, and if they can make it work, then you can learn from them making your idea work and you can use it, too. There’s room for everybody in this business. It’s a huge industry. So yeah, know who your competition is and it is not a travel agent next door.
Absolutely, yes. And as you know inside the Travel Expert Marketing Academy, I preach that. So thank you for sharing that. And so all of you that are travel agents out there listening, you’ve now not only heard it from me, but you’ve heard it from a travel agent who’s hugely successful, who’s been in the business for 30 plus years that there really is no competition amongst travel agents.
We can mastermind together, grow together, and the more that we work together, the more we can all rise because a rising tide does lift all boats. So thank you for sharing that. Elizabeth, what’s been the hardest part of your marketing and how do you overcome it?
Honestly, I’m in the Travel Expert Marketing Academy because I don’t always overcome it. You know what, I know what my strengths are and I know what my weaknesses are, and I am NOT a good marketing person and just I am NOT. And I struggle with it constantly, so I think I’m really good at being creative for other people, but not necessarily for myself. So that’s one of the things I struggle with a lot and then finding the time.
Oh my gosh, I have a list a mile long of things that I think would probably really work well. I just need to find the time to do them you know, so that has been a challenge, too. And so what I’m trying to do right now I find that my email gets in the way because I get hundreds and hundreds of emails every single day, and I hate that feeling of going to bed and knowing that there are people somewhere in that pile waiting for me to answer. Drives me crazy. But trying to get it to zero is tough too, so if I put the email first I don’t get anything else done during the entire day.
So now I’m trying this method of putting a project first like first thing in the morning before I check the email before I even see how many came in overnight working on a project first for an hour an hour and a half and then setting it aside and working on the email. Because that’ll take the rest of the day, but at least I know that I’ve worked on something. I’ve taken a step forward.
Yeah, that’s move your business forward. That is awesome. Yeah, that is one of the, as you know, tactic strategies that we give in the Academy – the Productivity Module because exactly – like travel agents are really busy being agents, but then also have to run their business, have to do the marketing, have to move all these balls forward. So yeah fantastic. Kudos to you for implementing that.
So in the Academy, we celebrate wins big and small because success breeds success. So what has been one of your big wins recently? In business, in your travel business?
Honestly, one of my biggest ones, the ones I’m happiest about in the last year – I decided about a year ago that I really wanted to find out more about river cruising. I don’t know – it’s where I got my start, so I really wanted to do more river cruising.
And a couple months later, somebody came to me and said we’re looking for something to do probably about five couples. And I just threw it out there, what about a river cruise. And he was intrigued, so I gave him more information and he went for it. I was as shocked as anybody, but they went for it, And so they actually haven’t traveled yet, they’re gonna travel soon, but I put them on a cruise line that I felt pretty comfortable with from a marketing perspective.
And completely coincidentally, I found out that they had a Sell Five / Sail Free thing going on for travel agents. So I went back to them and said okay well I just booked five so does that mean that I win a cruise? And they said yeah absolutely! When do you want to? They worked with me and last month, we went on our free cruise.
Normally, you have to wait until your people go, but they were really, really nice about it. Said no, we really want you to do this soon. So they put me on a cruise. I was on Facebook every day just posting – not sales things just, “Oh look at this amazing place we are today! Look what the river looks like outside our cabin.” So every day, I was posting multiple things on Facebook.
And then just a few days ago, I got done doing my very first webinar which is kind of cool. And I went back to all those people that had been commenting and following along on Facebook and from that so far I’ve got three really strong leads for new bookings. So I am just so excited about kind of going down this path now it’s something that I love, and it’s really fun.
Awesome, yeah and river cruising has gotten so popular in recent years, so it’s a really cool new goal to be in that niche and to go after those your River Cruises and really plan the best ones for people I know is a huge amount of people out there that are either wanting to try river cruising or have already tried it and are loving it.
And I know as a travel agent you can definitely get them the best deal in addition to just all the details being handled to make it really easy and hands-off for them. So it’s fantastic.
So other than river cruising what is your next big goal in your travel business?
I think at this point probably working on the group business more because I’ve just found that from a time perspective, you don’t put that much more time into working a group out than you do for working just one family.
So I really want to start pursuing the group angle more and helping people grow. You know, they think it’s gonna be a family vacation, but why not take your neighbors, why not take the people who have kids your kids ages so they have friends to play with. and just helping people take that single-family and grow it into larger groups. I’ve stumbled into that completely accidentally over the years, but now I think I actually want to go after that a little more.
Oh fantastic. Well for those watching that are travelers they’re interested in either some type of a family vacation or a river cruise or a group trip because you’ve now are doing that and they’re interested in hiring you, where can they find you?
They can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/MyTravelElf or MyTravelElf.com or they can email me at [email protected].
Awesome! Well thank you so much Elizabeth. Again, congratulations on being our Outstanding Agent of the Month. You definitely deserve it. You’re a mover and a shaker.
We’re proud to have you a part of the A-Team here inside the Travel Expert Marketing Academy, and for those of you that are watching that are a traveler, go check her out at MyTravelElf.com. And if you’re a travel agent and you’re interested in more information about the Academy, go to TravelExpertMarketingAcademy.com. All right, thanks everyone!
Thanks so much, Heidi!