Jason Harwood runs a high-end travel agency which provides a complete solution of tailor-made travel plans for busy professionals. Specialising in customised packages for High Net Worth professionals and corporate travel, Journeys By Design travel agency requires the very best staff to deliver the best results.
Jason first used virtual assistance and office support in a personal capacity when working for a major Australian Bank. His virtual assistant coordinated his calendar and handled staff issues, and also prepared important presentations and essential data. When he saw how successful this model was, he applied it in a revised format to his travel agency where he now relies on top quality virtual assistants who are specialists in their individual areas to ensure that his customers’ high expectations are met and often exceeded.
What were you looking for in a VA?
- Calendar management
- Sales and activity reports
- Presentation creation
- Various copywriting, website and admin tasks
What's your story?
We are a travel agency franchisee with a target market of High Net Worth professionals who are time poor and need support to make their leisure travel arrangements. We also have a corporate travel element to our business as well which continues to grow.
We relocated 8 months ago from a street front outlet to an office environment which provides a much more comfortable place for our clients to discuss their travel plans – think lounge chairs, couches, televisions for reviewing itineraries, etc.
Our goal is to deliver on our promise that once you book with us, you will remain a client for life as we take the time to understand you and your goals/dreams for travel.
When did you start hiring virtual help?
I started hiring virtual help personally late 2010. At this time, I was working for a major Australian bank and managing a team of relationship bankers. The target market for our bankers was HNW, time poor professionals so very similar to our travel agency. This role was very intense with high time demands and demanding targets. Of course, I was also effectively working as book-keeper, director, marketing manager, etc for our travel agency which was a full-time job of itself.
I hired a VA to help manage my calendar, amongst other things. VA would contact each of my staff individually to make appointments to meet me on a monthly basis, would ensure that sales and activity reports were completed weekly for my information and follow up where no compliance. Additionally, VA would receive data from me which would be collated into a monthly report.
Any presentations that I required would be prepared by VA from outline points that I provided.
For the travel agency, key role was managing our database to ensure current and accurate data. I would then receive email notification of any clients that I needed to be in contact with.
What were some of the challenges? How did you overcome them?
Initially, the challenges were accurately defining the scope of tasks so that VA understood to what level I required work to be completed. This was purely a communication issue that improved over time as we came to understand one another.
The second challenge is that of time, ironically. To be most effective, in hindsight, I should have spent more time preparing/modeling exactly what could be done for me and how this would work in the overall structure rather than assuming that VA support would be a panacea where I could just randomly outsource individual tasks as they came up.
Third challenge is understanding the limitations of VA support. Once I left my role at the bank to spend more time within the travel agency, whilst undertaking some management consulting 2-3 days per week, I needed to reassess. I have now moved away from a single VA support model and now use individual specialists, depending on the task at hand.
Currently, I have the current tasks managed – to varying degrees – through outsourcing:
- Preparation of travel quotes for clients (visually, very engaging marketing)
- Preparation of travel itinerary booklets for clients (again, very engaging marketing)
- Articles for our blog
- Website creation
- Presentation preparation
- Spreadsheet creation
- Currently assessing whether the admin./booking component of travel agency can also be outsourced
The above tasks could not be outsourced to an individual – regardless of time limitations, I have found that we are better served by having specialists in each area rather than a jack (jill) of all trades.
How has hiring virtually supported your business and you personally?
The biggest change is that I work less hours, have greater outputs of better quality and, most importantly, decrease my frustration in trying to achieve things in an area of which I am not an expert, but could muddle my way through, e.g. website creation.
If you could do it all over again, what would you not do again?
Only major change would be better mapping out my own model for utilizing support rather than just handing off tasks as they came up.
Jason Harwood runs a high-end travel agency which provides a complete solution of tailor-made travel plans for busy professionals.