Business of Travel, Podcast, Travel Agent Education

Travel Biz CEO Podcast: Part 3: Bringing on Independent Contractors with Ashley Metesh-McCoy

Welcome back to Travel Biz CEO. This week is the final segment of our 3 part series on bringing on IC’s, or independent contractors, into your travel business.  In Part 1 we were joined by Denise Lorentzen of Dreams Travel Consulting, where we dug into the the path that led Denise to bringing on IC’s. We got into who this is a good business model for, who it isn’t for and what makes people like Denise thrive in this role.

In Part 2 we were joined by Michele Schwartz of Making Memories Travel. Also a KTA member, Michele has a unique style of bringing on IC’s to her team. We had the opportunity to learn about Michele’s business model, why she brought on IC’s and what has made her successful so far.

In Part 3, our very own Ashley Metesh-McCoy of Kinship Vacations and Kinship Travel Academy talks about her experience winning the 2019 ASTA Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her education program developed for her IC’s at Kinship Vacations. She talks about how she set up her mentorship and training program, who she set out to serve, what made Kinship Vacations unique, and what parts of that she carries over to Kinship Travel Academy.

For your convenience we have included the transcript of today’s episode below. Enjoy!

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Hello, everyone, welcome back to the Travel Biz CEO podcast, brought to you by Kinship Travel Academy. I’m Ashley Metesh-McCoy, one of the co founders, one of the triumvirate of KTA. I am coming to you from California. I am here today to toot my horn

No, just joking. For those of you who don’t know, I was the ASTA Entrepreneur of the Year for 2019. Which if you’re not familiar, ASTA is the American Society for travel agents. And if you are not a member, I highly recommend you join because they are the front line lobbying organization, essentially, that is who is responsible for making things better for us as agents, especially to wetter weather. The storm that has happened since COVID. They’ve been fighting the good fight to make sure that the travel industry was represented, represented throughout this entire last almost two years, my goodness. And they are responsible for doing things like getting an exemption for California agents in Gosh, was at 2019, I believe, when a proposition was put forward on the ballots that would have completely eliminated the ability for independent contractors to operate in California. Travel agents got the exception to that new law. And so travel agents were able to continue operating as independent contractors in California, I would say largely in part because of ASTA and then on top of that they’re an educational organization. They have an amazing global convention every year. They do destination expos. So here’s my little pitch for ASTA. Check it out. Don’t wait another minute and join.

In 2019, I won their Entrepreneur of the Year award. And what that is, is, I think yearly since 2016, or 2015. They’ve been holding a competition to to nominate a person in the travel industry that exemplifies entrepreneurial excellence, I guess. And my mentor from when I first started the as a travel agent, Meredith hill from GTN Global Institute for travel entrepreneurs and won it in I believe it was 2016 2017. I’m not sure she wanted one of the I think the first year they had the competition. So immediately, I learned about it just because my mentor had won the i don’t know i don’t want to call it a competition, won the honor of being distinguished the Entrepreneur of the Year and she wanted for her revolutionary program, the Global Institute for travel entrepreneurs. That was a new concept to the industry. It was a membership program that provided training, mentorship, education in areas, specifically marketing mindset, and just hadn’t been done yet. in the industry. So she was recognized for her innovative approach to education and Global Institute, the Global Institute for travel entrepreneurs that wasn’t affiliated with a host agency at the time. Now they have a sister organization, that gifted travel network. But yeah, it was just a revolutionary concept. And I would say now many organizations, including my own Kinship, Travel Academy have popped up emulating that same concept in prioritizing, prioritizing educating and training of agents in the industry. And so anyway, back to the whole subject. At a certain point, I think it was 2017 2018. They started creating a contest basically for this award. And you’d have to submit a pitch. And then you would do a shark tank like pitch at the global convention in front of all the attendees to see who won who won the honor to be the entrepreneur that year and in 2019 I entered and I’ll be totally honest about the process. I was not selected but I was selected as a backup

of the top three And at some point, I was notified that somebody had fallen out of the competition for whatever reason, they didn’t say why or who. And that I was invited to come to the global convention and pitch, my presentation and my whole presentation surrounded on the program that I created at my now host agency, kinship, vacations. That was all about training and mentoring new agents in the industry, specifically, military spouses and veterans, because that’s the background I come from and starting their own business, a business that they can take anywhere the military sends them. And so I went to the competition. And I pitched you get three minutes to pitch is really hard, believe me. And lo and behold, I won. And it was just a crazy honor. And I was very excited. I encourage you all who are listening to apply for it and compete. It’s a really cool experience. And so that’s the long story. Not shortened too much. But so I was the winner of that. And that was really exciting. And people asked me how, why I wanted all that fun stuff. And I guess I’d like to answer that because I get this question a lot. And so basically, the whole point of this podcast again, Institute, sorry, listeners know, just to kind of describe the program and tell you why I won that amazing award and had that amazing experience. And it also will inform you a little bit about the educational philosophy we have at Kinship Travel Academy, because I’ve definitely carried that same approach from, you know, my days that kinship vacations to Kinship Travel Academy. And so just to back up a little bit, I started kinship vacations as a solopreneur. Doing trips for families, couples groups, in I would call it experiential, culturally immersive, fit type trips. And then after a certain point, me being a military spouse, my husband is still active duty army, I realize that this is an amazing opportunity. This career field was an amazing opportunity for other military spouses. The reason I started my travel business in the first place was post army, I was an army officer, post MBA, got my MBA at George Washington University, and then post corporate career I worked at Carnival Corporation. My husband was getting stationed at a new duty station that didn’t really have the type of corporate jobs that would have been

equal or on par to what I had been working in sort of had to take a step down in my career trajectory, to keep working, or I had the opportunity to start my own business. And while at Carnival Corporation, I was brought aware of how travel agents are still alive and fries thriving and successful. And so that inspired me to start my own travel agency. And like I mentioned before, I joined the Global Institute for travel entrepreneur community, joined the gifted travel network as a host agency, and I dove right into the education, training and mentorship of it so that I would be starting off on the right foot. So I, I started my own job, because are my own business because we move every two to three years as a military family, and we have to pick up and start all over again. And that means job fairs, networking, applications, interviews, denial, denial, denial. And it’s just a demoralizing process, like I said, and I wanted to have some control some element of control over my life. And I thought this would be a really cool adventure to start. And as I was in, you know, a few years into it, seeing some success, and realizing this could be very easily replicated for other military spouses, military spouses live all over the world with their servicemembers. So we have this innate or acquired travel knowledge, we get to live places like Hawaii, Germany, Japan, Italy. So we already have this wanderlust this sense of adventure travel knowledge and experience, and we need portable jobs. At the time that I started this, the military spouse unemployment statistic was roughly 26%. And the national average was around 4%. And as a group, military spouses are more likely to be educated in some form of post secondary education. And the higher the education and career experience level the more times They experience periods of unemployment, because we get stationed in random places like no offense to anybody from Kansas. But maybe you go from starting career in Los Angeles to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and you can’t necessarily keep on that, you know, events career that you started, hey crystal talking about you while you’re listening, that you started in LA, the same way you could at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I think you all get my drift. The point being, there’s a crisis, military spouses need employment. And one way to solve this is to start a travel business. And so that’s begun my travel agent training and mentorship program for military spouses and veterans at kinship vacations. And I knew I needed to do this right, I needed to do a service to my fellow American military spouses and veterans and get them off on the right foot in the industry, like I had been given the right foot. And so I developed a very structured program, that combined training, mentorship, and a full business suite of business systems so that whoever joined, if they had absolutely no experience could come in with a fully developed, you know, core of business systems, plus structured training and education, and mentorship, so that they could just hit the ground running, learn the mechanics of being a travel agent, and not necessarily have to worry about all of the nug stuff that we have to do as entrepreneurs like getting a business phone and a website and email. And so just to briefly overview, the program I had at kinship vacations, the training aspect was a combination of utilizing third party travel agent, training courses at the time, I use the gifted travel networks travel MBA program, and I supplemented it monthly with my own internal training sessions, on things that they weren’t teaching there at GTN. So you know, one month I would do very

detailed training on how to how to use travel joy, how we use it, the kinship, vacation standard way with our templates, our tasks, lists, and our procedures using our slps our manuals that we have at kinship vacations, or maybe I would do a travel fi class explaining the kinship, vacation standard of itinerary display, and management with travel fi or I would do a specific class on client consultations. So I supplemented third party training with what I thought was, you know, special to what we did at kinship vacations on a monthly basis. And then the additional aspect to that was mentorship, which we would have weekly, sometimes bi weekly, coaching calls where we’d all hop on zoom, and it was an opportunity for my agents to ask me any questions. And that’s where most of the magic happened all the time. And, you know, when you have a group of people joining a coaching call, there’s always going to be people who are quiet and don’t ask questions. So often there’s going to be people who are always asking questions, and inevitably, the quiet people will learn from the other people who are asking questions, and by listening to other people ask questions, you might realize, Oh, yeah, I had a question. So basically, what I’m trying to say is, some of the best learning opportunities that happen for my agents happened during those coaching calls. And a lot of it was just the collaboration we had with each other. And then over time, we developed a mentor, a fully fledged mentor program. So the more successful agents and the more adept agents took official mentor positions and would teach on specific subjects. For example, at one point, Dina farmer who I’m immensely proud of, and is an independent agent now out there on her own. She is super adept at Instagram. So we would have her help teach us Instagram techniques and strategies. Same thing, she used to be a photographer, so she teach us photo tips and tricks. And the same with crystal who is now my business partner, she’s just really great at marketing strategy. So she would talk all kinds of marketing strategy all day. And then of course, I’m a business operations person. So I would, you know, focus a lot on that. And then just general travel agent stuff. So the nice thing about the model was, you got peer to peer assistance. You got to experience knowledge from people who are really passionate and really expert in their fields. And it wasn’t just me imparting all of my you know, what I know which is admittedly only a fraction of what there is to know in this industry, because I’m learning learning something new every day. And then the third aspect of kinship, travel or kinship vacations was the business systems. Like I mentioned before, I had a set of proprietary tasks, lists, templates, things like that in travel joy, that was basically the kinship vacation standards. And so they would just step into that and have those already set. I would have a phone number for them and email, a website landing page. Of course, you know, insurance, all that fun stuff. So they didn’t have to worry about a lot of the nuts and bolts that you have to worry about when you’re starting a business. So bottom line was, I came to this new business model of mine being an host agency and having subcontractors with a mindset of wanting to help the community that I’m from that I’m genuinely connected to.

But I did it very deliberately, I sought out specific business coaching, from the ladies that get to travel network. And, you know, specifically Jen Cochran, on you know how to set my business up to make it be ready to take on ICS because there’s a lot of stuff you need to do before you do that. And I developed a training program, I developed a plan. And then the way that I was able to get people to join me was I would host regular virtual summits about getting started in the travel industry. And I was really fortunate to have built a supportive community in the industry where I would have friends and colleagues, who would join me in the summit’s to provide their support their experience, many of whom are also military spouses or veterans. And the summit’s were free. And people would join them and just sort of be welcomed into this new community of becoming a travel agent, and learn more about what they needed to do. So whether people signed up with my agency or not, I was still providing them a service of getting them on the right foot, where to start looking how to do your research, how to get started in the travel industry, especially from the standpoint of being a military spouse or veteran. So all that being said, and the reason I’m telling you about this is of course number one people asked me how I one. So I mean, that was the reason I developed a really great program. And I have to remind myself, that it’s not just I developed a great program, but I was super passionate about the people I was serving. And I’m saying this because I’m not sure when this podcast is going to air but either before or after this podcast, we’re going to do one or two podcast episodes where I interview other quote unquote queen bees in the industry who have sub agents, Denise Lorenson, and Michelle Schwartz, about their experiences, bringing on sub agents and having you know, a host agency model, essentially, the common thread when I talk to these people is you need to have the desire to mentor and to give back and to provide service. Because once you decide to take on sub agents, and that becomes a huge portion of your time, you can’t just bring somebody on and not devote any time to training or mentoring them. Even if they’re experienced agents, you have to expose them and get them understanding your agency’s standards, your agency’s way of doing things. And then of course, if they’re new to the industry, they just don’t know what they don’t know. And so it’s important that you have training and education and mentorship opportunities set up and established before you bring them on. Because if you’re trying to reinvent or trying to fly by the seat of your pants with new people, and the more people you bring on, the more complicated it gets. It’s very hard. And so the point hit here is what I keep saying is it’s not an easy business model to run. It’s not a get rich, quick scheme. You need to have a genuine desire to do it. And you need to have the skill set to do it. And so, you know, what skill set is that it’s mentorship, it’s training, it’s education. And then of course, the desire is why why would you want to do this, and there’s so many different reasons to do it. But if you don’t, if you’re not a people person, and you don’t want to take any time to train people, it’s not going to work for you. And, you know, to be perfectly frank, I know that there are models out there where the host agencies don’t charge for their independent contractors. A host agency fee And to me, I gave so much to my sub agents, I had to charge a fee, I had to justify the time I was devoting by charging them a fee, because I was giving them a quality education, so much of my time, and expertise. And so I really want you to consider that too, as you embark on this journey. If you know, number one, do I want to mentor people? Do I want to take that time and number two, what is my time worth? I need to be adequately compensated for this. And not to mention that but every time you add somebody on, you know, it seems nominal, but your overhead does increase. And so in order to be able to

afford the overhead that occurs, the increase in overhead, you need to charge people. And that’s sort of the nature of the independent contractor agreement to and you have to be very careful about delineating that. Especially in a place like California, where they’re very strict about independent contractors versus employees, there can be any question that you’re, you know, your sub agent is an independent contractor versus an employee. And one way to make that distinction is to show that they’re paying you for whatever service that you’re providing. If it’s totally free, that’s a little bit more, let’s just say it’s a little bit more of a gray area. So again, I’m not an attorney, I’m not an accountant. So talk to your professionals about that. I mean, I feel like I’m sort of rambling on here. But these one or two episodes where we’re talking about this concept of having a queen bee model and IC model, whatever you want to call it, they’re all related. And so, you know, aside from people asking me about the ASTA award, you know, I get a lot of people coming to me asking me for advice on how to bring on sub agents, and how to do that. And one of the reasons I decided to interview Denise and Michelle specifically is that I suspected they’ve had the same experience. And one of the most common things that happens when agents come to me for advice, saying I want to bring on sub agents is that they’re mostly looking forward to this new business model evolution, because they think they’re going to make a lot of money on their residuals from the sub agents Commission’s which can very well happen. But I’ll tell you, it doesn’t happen right away. And number one, number one, number two, I can’t count. It’s, you’re gonna have to invest some time and effort into getting those sub agents into that. And so it can’t just be about the money. If you ask, you also have to have the desire, the passion, the skills, and then you have to set up your business to be able to adequately support and new structure of sub agents, paying commissions. And no insurance, sellers of travel, other fun stuff. So think about this process deliberately. I just want to end this particular episode, with something totally unrelated. But the question of how I won the s to Entrepreneur Award versus why I won the S entrepreneur, the award is there two different questions. And I think it’s an important thing to talk about, because I’ve thought about it a lot. And just bear with me. So I will fully admit I’m being totally honest with you guys. And you may hate me for being this honest, however you want to approach this. But the year before I won, I went to the Asda global convention. And I saw the three pitches. And I would say that two pitches were very business like very polished, very numbers driven, you know, and then one was very emotional and sweet. And I figured that this one woman who pitched was just gonna win, she just blew me away with her business acumen and her numbers and just her professionalism and her prior successes, I thought for sure she was going to win. And there’s a heavy waiting for the award based on the audience’s vote versus the panel of judges. And the one who won was the very emotional, very sweet story, not the hardcore business story. And you guys can easily look up who this is, and I’m super happy for the woman who won because I love her story. I think it’s super sweet. I’m just totally being honest. I was surprised. And so what I realized was that audience voted based upon emotions. And, to me, that was an important lesson because, you know, as I was getting ready to apply for the award, and to be perfectly honest, it was, you know, my intention was to know Number one, get the prize money, it was $10,000. And number two to increase exposure to my program.

In my head, as I was preparing my pitch, I thought, you know what, I know my audience here. And they’re going to be more swayed by emotion than financial statistics, and all that other fun stuff. And so I built my pitch around the true personal stories of the people on my team, and I highlighted, you know, their, their stories in my pitch. And they are really inspiring stories. You know, two of my sub agents had children with special needs and needed to be able to be at home, flexibly, flex flex, is that a word, they needed to have a flexible work situation, so that they could take their children to all kinds of therapy and medical appointments. And of course, with the whole moving with the military, you need that flexibility to, um, and so I played on the, I hate to say, played on, I highlighted the emotional impacts of what I was doing. The, you know, 20 military spouses that I had impacted to that point, the statistics of military spouse unemployment, and how I was trying to make a change. And the thing about it is, I wasn’t trying to be manipulative. I was totally genuine, like, those things matter to me. Those are the reasons I got, you know, started this. Those are the reasons I keep doing it. And those are the reasons I get up every day to help those people. But I knew it wasn’t going to be impactful if I just stood up there and talked about profit growth and revenue growth and, you know, super detailed information about my program, I talked about the impact of the program, and the stories of the people that it was affecting. And the other two people that pitched against me, were super business driven. I saw definitely questions, my ability to even speak on the stage because I had learned backstage beforehand that both of those people that I was pitching with had been on the real Shark Tank on TV for their businesses, and I was like, oh, man, this isn’t gonna bode well for me. And they were fantastic. Like, their business ideas are so cool. Their presentations were just like on point, you know, it was a real business presentation here, I come with my, you know, emotionally charged story. And I won, because the audience overwhelmingly voted for me. And so the whole point of me telling you, this is number one, when you’re a marketer, knowing your audience. And number two, when you know your audience, and you’re trying to pitch your idea or sell your idea, however you want to put it, it’s okay to use emotion, but don’t be manipulative. And the only reason I say that is because I knew I was going in this using emotion. But I also can 100% confidently say, what I said was totally genuine. And the reason I say that this is important is the audience would have known, they would have seen right through me if I wasn’t being genuine, if I was trying to use their emotions, to manipulate them. But I believe in what I’m doing, I believe in what I say. And I know my audience in what they are going to resonate with. And so as a marketer, when you’re out there, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing in your travel business, and you know who your ideal client is, and you can match your messaging up with those two things in mind. You’re going to win, it’s going to be magnetic. So two totally different stories, lots of different stuff in this episode. Thanks for hanging with me. If you listen to this whole thing, and I am around I might ktva for anybody who needs help with the ice queen bee strategy. I am partnering with two brilliant minds. Wendy Livingston Guth, Crystal Iker crystal Iker, who I found through my host agency, she was looking to start a travel career and found kinship vacations. She started as my sub agent and I quickly realized that she was just fire and over time, it’s evolved to a partnership and, you know, I bounce stuff off with her all the time. You just never know where people are gonna come from. Wendy I immediately bonded with because she’s also military spouse. So lots of different connections here in this episode, even though it’s all over the place. I appreciate you listening. Please join Kga because the three of us Not only have we lived some life as military people, you know,

we’ve got a lot to offer in terms of our expertise and we don’t all have to when asked to Entrepreneur of the Year awards to prove it. Wendy is a brilliant certified life coach. Krystal is a brilliant marketer. Come join us be a part of our community, and we will lift you up as much as we are able. So thanks again for listening. And don’t forget to join Asda by the way

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