Travel is Laurie Shuss’ passion. Before opening her own travel agency franchise in February 2016, she worked as a travel agent in New Jersey and then became a high school home economics teacher. When Laurie realized that travel, and helping others plan their perfect vacations was her true calling, she went straight back to being a work-from-home travel agent. Here Laurie shares how she’s grown her business with Dream Vacations.
Why did you decide to open a travel agency franchise?
I did it because of my previous experience as a travel agent for many years back in New Jersey, and then as an associate with a CruiseOne travel agency franchise. I realized that I love travel and helping others plan wonderful vacations. The perks we get as travel agency franchise professionals are just the cream on top!
How have your skills carried over from your previous career?
My skills as a teacher are invaluable to me since they have given me the confidence to speak at ease with prospective clients both in person and on the phone. Public speaking has always been a part of my life, especially from my experiences in 4-H as a teen, and this skill gave me opportunities to share my experience with our travel club as well as at regional training meetings.
What is one thing you wish somebody told you before you opened your travel agency?
How much there was to learn! You can’t take it all in at once, but avail yourself to any opportunities of the great training there is available to you. I’ve learned that to make the most of this travel franchise opportunity, you should start with one cruise line or tour operator at a time and become proficient before moving on to learn something else.
How has your business grown over time?
In our first six months as travel agency franchise owners, we achieved the level of Platinum! We went from beginners to being ranked the 128th franchise out of more than 1,150. We have developed a strong niche in groups, especially partnering with Royal Caribbean for our “Harmony on the Harmony” cruises. This has not only increased our sales to more than $500,000 in 2018, but it has also increased our client base. We pride ourselves on earning most of our business from having a huge repeat client base and wonderful referrals.
What tool/resource/team at HQ has contributed most to your growth and why?
The support we get not only from Support Services but also from all the headquarters staff has been amazing. They help us every step of the way in learning the business and reaching our goals. The training department is outstanding! The Business Center has a wealth of information and training, and the Learning Center provides quick access to training sessions, courses to improve our success, and webinars we might have missed. The recognition we get helps to boost our confidence and help us realize we are doing a great job!
What advice do you have for a travel agency franchise owner who is looking to grow their business?
Try to model yourself after other successful franchise owners. We have a private group on Facebook that has been invaluable to me. I read it every day and learn from the answers others provide. The one thing I’ve been so impressed with is that everyone in our company is so happy to share their knowledge with everyone else. There’s no competition amongst us. There’s plenty of business for everyone!
What advice do you have for somebody looking to own a travel franchise?
Take the plunge with your eyes wide open to this travel franchise opportunity. If you are self-motivated working from home or from a storefront, you’ll just need courage, commitment and a desire to enjoy travel and help others achieve their dream vacation. It takes time to build up a clientele. Don’t expect people to come to you-you have to look for opportunities. Dream Vacations builds us a fantastic website which helps us draw in customers. You can create a Facebook page for your business as well. The more you can get the word out, the faster you will grow your travel agency franchise and be a success. Having travel experience is a huge plus as well.
What is your Dream Vacation?
My dream vacation is a trip to the South Pacific and Australia/New Zealand on a luxury cruise line. I haven’t experienced a luxury line yet, but that is in our future for sure.