Julie Schallmann: Corporate VP Turned Travel Franchise Owner
We sat down with Julie & Bob Schallmann to ask them some questions about their experience as Dream Vacations home-based travel franchise owners.
When did you become a CruiseOne/Dream Vacations franchise owner?
What did you do before opening your franchise?
I (Julie) was a VP of Marketing working in the corporate world.
Why did you decide to open a travel agency franchise?
My husband and I love to travel and we are adventure enthusiasts. Our dream in semi-retirement is to take people on eco-tours – exploring the outdoors, wildlife and especially birds. (Bob is an Ornithologist!)
How have your skills carried over from your previous career?
Responsibility, accountability, and sense of urgency are critical. Not to mention communication, organization, common sense, and a desire to continue learning. I’m also results-oriented with a bias for action, so I think that has helped me too. Did I need my marketing experience to do this? Absolutely not. We have a great marketing and PR team supporting us. I am an entrepreneur at heart, so I think that helps too.
What is one thing you wish somebody told you before you opened your travel agency?
Everything you need is not laid out in a book that you read, do and repeat. There is a ton of learning that only comes from experience – from trial and error. In the beginning, everything takes a long time. I learned (and my colleagues told me this) that the day-to-day tasks get easier and faster. You learn to get more efficient but it’s challenging when you’re learning and want to do it all and do it efficiently. This is especially hard for me as I’m ambitious and I want to know everything today. But that is just impossible.
The good news is that we have great support from corporate, support services, and our wonderful and amazing colleagues. Also, you really need to travel while you’re learning. I’m spending more on traveling now but this is the best part of ownership!
How has your business grown over time? (Sales improvement, percentage improvement, focus on certain markets, products, niches or groups, client base growth, etc.)
I’m meeting my goals for sales in year one and want to get more aggressive now. In this first year, I’m not focusing on a single market very much. I’m too busy learning and taking whatever business I can get, not only for the learning but for the income too. I can see now that I’m going to start focusing more. Before I pick a true niche, I need to continue on my learning curve, but groups is definitely becoming a focus. I decided I need to pick the niche that will be the most profitable (and enjoyable) vs. only what I relate to the best. It will be a balance.
What tool/resource/team at HQ has contributed most to your growth and why?
The private Facebook page, hands down. My colleagues are the ones with the hands-on experience doing what I need to do and learn. Support Services and Corporate (especially my Bus Dev Manager) are really great too.
What advice do you have for a franchise owner who is looking to grow their business?
Wow, when you figure that out, let me know! I’m still new and learning so much every day. I think I would recommend joining BNI. You need to find the right group for you, but I have been in BNI for 4-5 months now and have done about 5 trips from this. I made back my BNI cost/investment in less than one month. I am fortunate to have a great group but our industry makes it easy for BNI members to recommend you and give you business. The hardest part about BNI is the time commitment and giving back and referring others. But this is all part of building my business. It takes work.
What advice do you have for somebody looking to own a travel franchise?
Be prepared to work hard and learn a lot. Have money to learn even more by traveling.
What is your Dream Vacation?
We’re leaving for Alaska next month and Mexico the month after that! I have too many Dream Vacations to mention here but, next year is Peru and then the Galapagos! Also want to go back to Italy, Greece, and Australia and take my husband. Bucket list vacations include River Cruise in Europe (sooner rather than later), New Zealand and Africa. I’d love to do Costa Rica again too. Wow, I better get busy helping more clients travel!