The passion seminar

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"I know that this is kind of a 'fluff' subject -- but I don't think that we can address the business subjects if we're so down in the dumps we can't even think straight."

Can agents' love of travel to such dream destinations as Paris be used to help reignite their passion for the business? That's Dianne Moore, a partner in Vacation Plus in New Berlin, Wis., explaining why she decided to present a seminar on Recovering Your Passion for the Travel Industry at the recent ASTA World Travel Congress in Strasbourg, France.

At the well-attended session, one of Moore's strategies was to ask agents why they got into the business in the first place -- and if those reasons were still valid. One answer that resonated for many: "I wanted a job that wasn't boring."

Agents at the seminar said they "still liked the fact that their job involved a continual learning process," said Moore. "Something new was always coming up."

Another common answer was the love of travel and working with people. When she asked agents, "Well, do you still love people?" she got answers such as, "Yes, but that's not what I'm doing all day long."

Moore agreed that "we're having to deal with things we don't like to do."

"Still, [it might help to] think about your best clients, and ask what was the best thing you did for them, and say to yourself, 'I really want to keep that in my life.' "

Another trend Moore saw as ultimately positive: "Some of the agency owners who are merging with others are feeling bad, like they're a failure. But in fact, they're not failures as travel agents. Maybe they're not cut out to be a business owner in the first place; what they really wanted to do was sell travel, not look at financial statements or worry about balancing the books.

"So they're getting back to what they really want to do."

Paulette Lindberg, owner of Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Adventure Travel and Tour, Marquette, Mich., found the seminar "a good reminder" of why she loves the business, and why "I'm not ready to stay home in my armchair."

Getting a fresh perspective

Write the name of the supplier that's bothering you the most on a piece of paper. Then put the name into a paper bag, blow it up and pop it."

These were the first instructions Dianne Moore gave to participants in her seminar, Recovering Your Passion for the Travel Industry, at the ASTA World Travel Congress in Strasbourg, France.

The ASTA Seminar Handbook includes a summary of Dianne Moore's workshop. The resulting loud noise helped provide "a physical way to get rid of the anger at something you really couldn't do anything about," she said.

Moore also tried to "see if fears were being blown out of proportion." For instance, she reminded agents that concerns about CRS segment shortfalls are currently being addressed by CRS vendors' easing up on productivity requirements.

An agent working in California's Silicon Valley also provided her perspective. Because of her location, she'd been battling the Internet longer than other agents -- and she reported that clients "are coming back to her, saying that the Internet was too confusing," said Moore. "That made everybody feel better."

Another feel-good turnaround was a direct result of the seminar. Attendees had bemoaned the lack of younger, entry-level agents -- but by the seminar's end, one young woman who had expressed her ambivalence about working for her family's agency said Moore had helped her discover her own passion for the business.

More personnel queries

Is it OK to let small inconsistencies slide for a top sales performer?

When you have employees who perform really well in one area (especially sales), it's tempting to overlook their poor performance in smaller areas. Don't.

Dan McManus.Let's say your sales star doesn't finish records according to your procedures. An incomplete form might seem to be a trivial mistake, but it can force other employees to stop in the middle of their work to find the person responsible.

Although it might be tempting to write off the sloppy habits as the cost of having an excellent salesperson, it can hurt your team's attitude and lower productivity. The best thing to do is to meet with the star, provide praise for area of excellence and firmly point out areas where improvement is needed. It might help if you explain how the problem affects other co-workers.

Can I insist that an employee get a haircut?

In most cases, you can. The important consideration when enforcing hair requirements is to be consistent. You can specify a certain hair length, but it must be equally enforced for all male employees. If you decide that some male employees can wear their hair long and others can't, you will be guilty of discrimination.

When setting policies, avoid any rules that separate individuals by gender, culture, nationality, religion, etc. There are a few exceptions that permit you to hold different standards for men and women; hair length is one of them.

A recent court case cleared the way for employees to set different hair standards for men and women. This means you can permit women to have long hair but not your male employees. Recognize that this is an exception to most employee policies, in which treating men and women differently is against the law.

Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the newsletter The Successful Worldspan Agent. E-mail him at [email protected].

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