Mike Edic doesn't fit the stereotype of the typical home-based travel agent. For one, he's male and has been in the industry for almost 20 years. Second, he hardly ever books vacations.
Edic is among the minority of home-based agents who is a corporate travel specialist. He operates his company, Pioneer Travel, from an office in a corner of his Milwaukee home.
After 15 years as a corporate agent with major companies, Carlson Wagonlit and others, Edic struck out on his own four years ago.
"I simply got tired of working for other people," he said.
"When you're with a company, you have to follow the guidelines that they have in place. I wanted to give the best customer service and, to do that, I decided I needed to go off on my own."
Mike Edic takes a selfie during a drill with Delta Airlines flight attendants at the Delta Headquarters Campus in Atlanta. Photo Credit: Mike Edic
Edic started with a client base of three companies that followed him from his previous employer. He researched hosting options and settled on Nexion because of the host agency's air contracts and support services for corporate travel specialists, including annual events specifically for corporate travel agents.
"It's also their family environment. They give support that is like a partnership and they also are part of the larger Travel Leaders group." (Nexion is a branch of Tzell Travel Group, a Travel Leaders Group company).
Edic recently participated in a United Airlines fam trip to London for Nexion corporate agents. Unlike a leisure fam that focuses on resort hotels, this fam involved visits to newly renovated United airport lounges, gates and terminals, seeing Global Entry at work, flying BusinessFirst and inspections of hotels that appeal to business travelers.
Throughout the trip, Edic was in communication with his clients, who rely on him for round-the-clock service, he said. Some live as far as Europe and the Philippines so, as a one-person operation, he rarely has true down time. When Edic does take time off he uses the back-up service Agent 24.
Edic has built his company to about $1 million to $1.25 million a year in sales; the bulk of that, $700,000, is air. He doesn't charge a retainer fee as some corporate agencies do but instead uses a service fee per airline ticket or itinerary, based on the contract he's negotiated with the client.
In his spare time, he volunteers for the local Special Olympics and Eternal Wish, the latter an organization that helps fulfill wishes of adults who are terminally ill.
Last winter he arranged for a man to attend a Dallas Cowboys game and for a woman who had never been out of the state of Wisconsin to visit Disney World. It's given him opportunity to promote his agency but more importantly, he said, it has provided a lot of personal satisfaction.
When Edic weighs the pros and cons of working as a home-based agent vs. a company employee, he said there is no contest.
"It's the best decision I've ever made because of the fact that I will sink or succeed based on what I do," he said. "And, it allows me to be more focused and give my clients the best service possible."