If the grass looks greener in the meetings, incentives and
corporate groups market, it's not your imagination, according to
Bruce Tepper, vice president of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Joselyn
Tepper & Associates.
In fact, travel agents can add significantly to their bottom
line by arranging even a few such events a year, said Tepper, who
runs a boot camp training course on the subject every year.
"For agents frustrated by trends like commission caps and
competition from the Internet, this is a segment that is nowhere
near [its] saturation point," Tepper said.
analogy we use is that if you win a corporate account, it will be
at someone else's expense, whereas with the corporate group market,
you are not competing with anybody," he said.
Another advantage to the market is that pricing has
traditionally been net with a markup rather than commissions, which
means the agent can control his or her margins.
"Basically, you are creating a unique event every time, which
means the price is not being compared to something in the Sunday
paper or a brochure," he said.
The challenge, on the other hand, is to convince the consumer
that he or she needs the service in the first place.
Tepper offered the following tips for getting started:Identify prospects and analyze their needs and how to sell
them. "Don't try to sell a trip to a company that can't afford it,
for example," he said.Learn a variety of products and services beyond group travel.
"At the first level, there can be name tags for corporate meetings
and room gifts, amenities and luggage tags for incentives," he
said.If you can't do it yourself, outsource. "There's no reason a
one-person agency can't compete with everyone out there, since it
can subcontract out practically everything," he said, adding that a
number of firms offer prepackaged meetings services that agencies
can sell under their own name.Consider selling catalog merchandise, gift certificate programs
and debit card programs. "The margins on catalog merchandise can go
up to 25%, and the catalog companies do all the work except the
marketing."Bone up on on-line registration services. "They have become
very sophisticated and much more affordable than even a few years
ago," he said.
If there is one message Bruce Tepper of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based
Joselyn Tepper & Associates seeks to get across in his firm's
Boot Camp program, it is that agents need a new attitude when
selling meetings, incentives and corporate events.
"Agents need a different mind-set here, because the customer is
buying a business product, not a travel product," Tepper said. "The
drive is more than getting the client on the right plane and hotel;
you want to make sure they run a productive meeting."
Tepper said that the more facets of the
event an agent becomes involved in -- such as organizing breakout
sessions and procuring speakers -- the more lucrative the venture,
and the more likely the client is to return.
"In our experience, price is not a determining issue," he said.
"Help them meet their meeting objective, and they will shop you
Incentive programs are not just for employees, Tepper said, and
can work equally well for distributors. "In the case of incentives,
the company is buying performance improvement," he said. He
suggested offering to set up a reward program for a corporate
account's distributors, using airline frequent flyer programs as a
In short, Tepper said, you want to be able to convince the
client that the increased revenue spurred by your program will more
than pay for your services.
For more information, contact Joselyn Tepper & Associates at
(480) 443-0098; fax to (480) 443-1760, or visit the Web site at www.joselyntepper.com.
Q:Am I liable for penalties if my payroll
processor failed to make deposits on time?
A: Unfortunately, yes. If the person you
contracted to submit payroll tax reports and make required
employment tax deposits fell down on the job, you're still the one
responsible as far as the IRS is concerned.
The delegation of these duties to someone else doesn't relieve
you of ultimate responsibility.
Keep an eye on your processor to make sure your business is
being conducted in a timely fashion, as late penalties and interest
can be costly.
Q:Do I have to offer
part-timers the same benefits as my full-timers?
A: No. Full-time employee benefits are rarely
extended to part-timers.
Partial benefits are provided at some agencies to those working
30 hours or less per week, and still other agencies offer none at
However, within insurance carrier and legal guidelines, you have
the right to establish your own policies and change them whenever
you see fit.
Write a clear, comprehensive policy that spells out what the
benefits are for part-time and full-time employees.
If you don't know how to start, contact your insurance agent,
local chamber of commerce or the Small Business Administration.
Q:Can I still set up an IRA for a
deduction on my previous year's tax return?
A: No. You could have set up and made deposits
into an IRA account up until April 15, 2000, in order to receive
the deduction for your 1999 tax return.
These retirement funds are simple to arrange through many common
financial institutions, including banks, credit unions and
If you don't have an IRA set up, plan on opening one by next
April. It is one asset that every small business owner should
Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the
newsletter the Successful Worldspan Agent. Contact him at [email protected].