Veteran travel advisor Jack Ezon's latest endeavor, Embark, aims to not only provide hypercustomized travel and lifestyle services to its clients, but to attract and retain top talent by making its employees partners in the company.
Ezon, who previously headed Ovation's leisure business, officially transitioned away from Ovation earlier this year. He founded and is managing partner of New York-based Embark, which launched nearly one year ago last August.
Ezon said the idea for Embark was formed about three years ago when he noticed "a bifurcation in the luxury marketplace."
"Either our clients were being more value driven than transactional or they were requesting more from us than just a trip and looking at luxury travel as part of their overall holistic personal life," Ezon said. "And our role as advisor, that's basically shifting to doing more than just booking trips, but also fitting those experiences into their life's goals and having broader conversations."
That requires more insight into travelers' lives as well as a highly trained advisor, Ezon said, which is why Embark makes its employees partners in the company.
He described Embark's structure as "emulating a law firm" with travel advisors being partners and owning a piece of the agency, which gives them a long-term career track with equity in the brand.
Embark, a Virtuoso member, has four founding partners: training company Master Connections; Miami-based agency Brickell Travel, which brings corporate structure, strong air contracts and an entree into Latin America; Embark Events, which focuses on high-end celebrations; and a wholesaler Ezon declined to name.
The company is looking for additional partners in the concierge, technology and marketing spaces, Ezon said. More may be added in the future based on client demand -- for instance, an art curator since clients have requested help curating art collections.
"The idea is to be agile, nimble and to be open to change," he said. "Change is happening exponentially, more and more every day."
Embark's clients tend to be millennials or Gen Xers with an average net worth of $100 million, according to Ezon.
"Our clients, in general as an overarching theme, we find that the biggest thing they crave is connection -- connection to themselves, connection to the people that they're with and the places they go," he said. "We continually find ourselves in the business of helping them connect and helping create emotional impact."
To that end, Embark's agents are tasked with ensuring that each trip has an "emotional impact factor." They are authorized to spend up to $500, or even more, to add a personalized, unique component to the trip. That component goes beyond typical gifts like flowers or wine, however.
As an example, a client's dog recently passed away. An Embark advisor went on his Instagram account and, using his photos, created a pocket book filled with images of the dog. It was delivered on a silver tray at the hotel where the client was staying, with a note saying, "we know [he] can't be with you anymore, but hopefully this can help you put him in your pocket and take him with you wherever you go."
"It's that kind of thoughtfulness," Ezon said.
Embark currently has 18 employees as well as five independent contractors (ICs) under its Embark Collective initiative, which was created through its partnership with Brickell Travel. The IC program is designed to give participants a clear path to partnership with Embark. While the agency is willing to have conversations with prospective ICs, Ezon said it isn't looking to grow its IC ranks until January.
"Our goal this year is to build a very strong foundation," he said. "You can't build a tower on quicksand."