Ron Archer grew up in the travel industry. As an 11-year-old, he would clean the bathrooms of the Greyhound bus station in Glendale, Calif. He would also load buses and sell tickets there at the franchise his parents had acquired in 1952.
His parents, Lola and Cliff Archer, met while working for Greyhound Corp. in Los Angeles shortly after World War II. After the Archers acquired the Glendale franchise, they started selling travel, launching Archer Travel Services, a company and a tradition that Archer and his wife, Jill, continue to this day.
Cliff Archer, right, and his wife, Lola, celebrated the opening of a new office with a United sales representative in a photo taken in the 1960s.
Ron Archer, now 59, said that during his many years in the industry, two events "dramatically changed" his world. They were changes with which the rest of the industry is painfully familiar: airlines cutting commissions some 20 years ago and the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Though both of those events changed Archer's business significantly, with some creativity, Archer Travel Services made it through. The agency steadily pulls in annual sales between $30 million and $40 million, depending on the year.
"I've seen so much feast and famine in my life in this business," Archer said. "You know, I've made a lot of money, and I've lost a lot of money. But all in all, it's a great thrill ride."
Now, Archer has embarked on a new ride: his retirement plan.
On June 1, he began hosting agents. He has about 50 now, and he plans on having 1,000 in five years, doing at least $20 million in sales annually.
"If I can surround myself with great people and build this network and be the head rah-rah coach, I can do this until the end of my life," he said. "I see this as being a great retirement plan."
Archer's host agency is an amalgam of his experiences in the field. He started working for his father, selling airline tickets, after graduating from the University of Southern California.
Archer Travel Services’ Ron and Jill Archer recently began hosting agents. They have about 50 currently.
At the time, Archer Travel Services was doing about $1.5 million in annual sales. Archer's first client, landed about three months after he started, brought in an additional $750,000 per year.
Over the years, Archer continued to help the business grow. When the industry went through airline commission cuts, he barely managed to stay afloat.
"For a couple of years, we were getting waivers and favors any time we requested them," he recalled. "And I went to my corporations that I was dealing with and I said, 'Here's the deal: I'm going to get you waivers and favors, and it's not like there's an unending supply of these things. But any time I get you a waiver, I'm going to give you 66%, and I'm going to keep 33%.'"
For some time, the company made more money with that technique than it had made previously, Archer said.
But, as he had warned his clients, nothing lasts forever. He changed gears and started buying leisure travel offices throughout the U.S. He also got involved in redemption services for travel certificates in the mid- to late-1990s.
At that time, he was also running a call center in Las Vegas. That was where he was when he saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television.
"On 9/11, I had 104 people in the company, and 30 days later I had 25," he said. The call center was sold, and "we pretty much lost the certificate business. We went back and hunkered down, closed all of our offices and started rebuilding the company again."
Lola and Cliff Archer, in front row with sunglasses, in a 1979 photo with staff. They started Archer Travel Services in 1952.
He started doing more corporate work and in the mid-2000s became the travel agency of multilevel marketing company World Ventures. He was also paid a consulting fee on a monthly basis to get the company off the ground.
A few years after that, he found himself involved with another multilevel marketing company, this one in the process of declaring bankruptcy: Your Travel Business, better known as YTB.
"We consulted with them basically on how to get through the bankruptcy until they could resell the business," Archer said.
After brief stints working with another multilevel marketing company and selling travel club memberships, Archer found himself thinking about the future.
"I've got all this experience and all this creativity and all this knowledge and everything else," he said. "Finally, earlier this year, I said, 'You know, I am so tired of building these programs and, really, doing it for other people.'"
He went to work creating a replicated website that hosted agents could use, similar to what he had used for multilevel marketing programs. He started advertising for home-based agents, and on June 1, he began accepting hosted clients.
While he welcomes all agents, Archer particularly caters to those new to the industry by focusing on training and access to himself and his staff.
In addition to using educational units from Signature Travel Network's Signature University, CLIA and ASTA, Archer produces twice-weekly educational conference calls that are recorded and later archived online. The calls are a tactic he borrowed from multilevel marketing companies, but his are purely educational.
"The multilevel marketing was people [who] want to get into the travel industry," he said. "But very quickly it became more about the recruiting side of it than it ever did about selling travel. Well, we're taking similar concepts, and with similar principles we're putting them into place but really putting the emphasis on selling travel."