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Travel Biz CEO: Part 1: Bringing on IC’s with Denise Lorentzen

Bringing on independent contractors, or IC’s into your travel business and adopting the Queen Bee model is not for the faint of heart. Many see it as an easy way to make money in the travel industry. Those that take this on will tell you, that nothing could be further from the truth. In this 3 part series, we speak to three very different travel business owners, including our very own Ashley Metesh-McCoy about their decision to bring on independent contractors and the strategies they employ that make them successful. 

Part 1: Bringing on IC’s with Denise Lorentzen

For our podcast we asked our guests the following questions:

1) Tell me about you and your travel agency.
2) Why did you decide to bring on ICs?
3) Are there any important lessons you learned in the process of bringing on ICs that you think other agents should be aware of (if they are also planning on bringing ICs)? For example, would you have set up a different CRM first? Or, done anything differently structurally? Would you have done anything different in onboarding / training / educating the ICs?
4) Do you actively recruit ICs? If so, how do you differentiate yourself from other agencies and how do you recruit? If not, how do you end up with the ICs?
5) Do you think the IC business model is for everyone? Rather, what characteristics should a good “Queen Bee” have?
6) Do you have any specific advice for those thinking about recruiting ICs?

Denise Lorentzen has been in the travel industry since 2006. She has been married for 24 years and has two kids age 20,22.  They live in Boise, ID and she absolutely loves what she does! Denise worked with a few agencies before opening up Dreams Travel Consulting in 2014. Dreams Travel Consulting specializes in Family Travel, Disney Destinations, and Multi Gen groups.  They are in the process of opening up their non-theme park branch called Dreams Travel Network!  Denise’s overall goal was to bring on independent contractors, and in 2017 she was able to begin.  Dreams Travel currently has 12 ICs and most of them specialize in Family/Disney with a few that have branded themselves and are international/cultural/customized. They take brand new to the industry and we also love to partner with advisors that are experienced and need a home that fits their niche.

Because the interview really speaks for itself, we’ve decided to provide the transcripts in lieu of a summary blog. Enjoy!

Transcript

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the travel biz CEO podcast. I’m delighted to be joined today by the wonderful Denise Lorentzen. She’s the owner of Dreams Travel consulting, and she has a very active and giving community member of KTA. We’re really grateful to have her in our community. And she is with us today to talk about the whole what we call in the industry, the queen bee model, as in your business model is that you have an agency and you have sub agents or independent contractor. Typically, they’re independent contractors that fall under your agency. And you are a full service agency that has multiple agents serving clients that can come in so many different forms, so many different focuses niches, and everything. But if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you’ve heard this as a potentially lucrative, scalable business model for the travel industry. And she has been so generous to provide some of her time and experience in this model. And so I’m going to ask her a series of questions about her experience with this. And I know a lot of you out there considering this type of business model. So we think that this will be really helpful as you go along your path. So without further ado, I want to quickly just let you introduce yourself to us, Denise and tell us about your travel agency.

Denise Lorentzen
Okay. Well, II started Dreams Travel Consulting, officially in 2014. But I’ve been in the travel industry since about 2008. And I have worked as an IC myself, so I was very familiar with the model. I also was a, like a team leader with an agency. So I kind of understood how that progressed. And so I always knew I wanted to have my own business, my own agency, I launched in 2014. And worked at just developing our brand and who we are and kind of selling into that before I brought on icees. And I brought icees on officially in 2017.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Yeah, so do you, does your agency have a specialty?

Denise Lorentzen
Yes, we are a family travel specialty. But we we’re our full service we we do everything, we we tend to think that family, it’s not doesn’t have to be the typical parents and kids family is the people you love and the people who you connect with. And so our, our passion is about connecting people and being able to help them bond and make those memories through travel. And so we by default, because we are family travel specialists, we do a heavy amount of Disney.

That is one of our passions. And then we do everything else too. We do a lot of groups like multi generational groups as well. Cool. But you guys can’t see because this is audio only but quite a bit of Disney swag in the background. It’s really cute. And I have to say, as an agency owner who has ICS it’s kind of diff it’s always been difficult for me to answer our specialty too, because when I’ve brought on ICS each of them sort of identifies their own niche. And so it’s kind of, you know, I feel like a queen bee, so to speak, sometimes end up saying, well, we do everything and then so it’s like, well, what does that mean? And it’s like, well, because I have an IC who does this? And I have an ICC does this. So that’s always sort of a hard question to answer and I think you answered it beautifully. So thank you. Yeah, and hard question right off the bat. And and actually I am moving in a direction of bringing on ICS that are a little bit more geared towards something that we can keep everything in house should someone not feel comfortable chart, you know, doing one destination, but somebody else would.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
So cool. Yeah, we’ll have to talk about that.

Denise Lorentzen
Yeah.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
So I guess my next question is, and this, you know, I think the people listening, are going through this in their minds right now, possibly. Why did you decide to bring on sub agents or ICS?

Denise Lorentzen
I think ultimately, it was because I enjoy helping and mentoring those that are wanting to get involved as well. I remember when I was first new, and I had a couple people stand out to me and kind of held my hand and, and I wasn’t with an agency right away, I was kind of doing it on my own. And it’s very difficult when you don’t have that guidance. So I, I want to be able to give that back and help others grow their business and develop it and mentor them and and teach them.

Teach them the things that we’ve learned the long and hard way. So I enjoy doing that I enjoy monitoring them and and having that bigger picture. It’s definitely a lot of blood, sweat and tears, it takes a while to develop. Yeah, and I don’t I don’t.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
And this is part of the reason we wanted to have these conversations on the podcast, I don’t think a lot of people realize, when they’re considering this business model, how much work it is, it’s not just you, you find, find somebody, and then they just go you write, even if they’re experienced in the travel industry, you still have to train them on how you do things in your agency or consortium or if you’re hosted as well. So you have to be ready to do some mentorship and training, even if it’s a minimal amount. Yes, if you’re not comfortable, and you don’t have the patience for that, you really need to reconsider the idea of pursuing this business model.

Denise Lorentzen
So I totally agree.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Yeah, I’m glad that you mentioned that, like your motivator was helping people and train them because it is a huge part of of this, you know, yeah, yes.

Denise Lorentzen
Yeah, you have to want to lead or, um, and it doesn’t have to be massive. But for me, personally, my big picture is not a huge agency, it’s a small boutique agency, but you have to want to put that time in and that energy and to, to mentor them, because that will all be without pay. And you have to look at what’s coming down the what’s coming down the way, you know, it’s it’s going to pay off eventually.

But for me, that’s the beauty of it, you know, to see their wins, and and to be able to celebrate with them. So,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
no, you make a good logistical point. I mean, especially if you’re bringing on brand new advisors, as we all know, it takes time to build up your clientele. And then as we know, further, nobody gets paid until that travels done. So yes, get that commission split that, you know, agency owners usually use as their, you know, justification for having ICS. It takes time. So it’s definitely a long game. So you need to go into it with that mindset.

Denise Lorentzen
Yes.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Okay, so that brings me to a really good question. Well, it’s a good question to me. I don’t know if people think it is. But I guess the question is, are there any important lessons that you learned in the process of bringing on other agents that you think people should be aware of as they’re considering this business model?

Denise Lorentzen
And, you know, it could be anything from a very specific technical thing to just a very broad mindset thing, feel free to share away.

Oh, I think one of the first biggest things is value of your time. And make sure that you set up your program, the way that you feel that you want to be valued or paid, because there are other agencies out there that will bring on ICS for for no charge, just as there are agencies that don’t charge a service fee and some that do. So it’s, it’s a model for me. I had to I want my IC’s that come on to have skin in the game and I don’t want them to just think it’s nothing and so I had to find the right balance of putting a monetary value. So I played around with that. I mean, I tried different prices and everything and right now, you know, we have it kind of set where I think that it works for us where there’s a little bit of a larger fee when you join you got your training

Then you have a monthly fee. Um, that to me is probably one of the biggest things is make sure your systems like that are set up ahead of time. Because if you start changing them as you go, then the message set could could not be very well, you know, like, especially if IC’s start talking that and then also your splits like what do you make sure you you are happy with all of that

Take some time and actually talk to other business owners that are doing it to see what they’re doing. I found that most of us were around the same in the split. And I think those are the two most important things. Other than that your your other systems

CRM, that was one mistake where I went in with one, I started with one and then I changed to another. And then yeah. And so finally, I’m just I’ve settled now on something and all the other things I will make, be like, if they want to use it, they can but this is the one main thing they have to use, you know, so there’s no right or wrong answer out there. I mean, even with systems, there’s no right or wrong system, everything has its own value. And it’s just what works. But really take the time to figure out those kinds of things first and put all of that in place.

Yeah, and I mean, the reason why is like if you try to change something like a CRM, it’s one thing when it’s just you by yourself and virtual assistant or whatever. But if you try to change it with even one IC or two or, you know, dozens,

yes,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
you have to retrain them and you have to, you know, reinforce and even

Denise Lorentzen
And all that data, you got to move over and and if so,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
yeah, we’re not saying you know, don’t fix the system, if it’s broken, it’s you know, we all know that sometimes you have to make those difficult decisions. But, I mean, I guess what we’re trying to say, and I don’t know, if you’ve experienced this, if people have come to you for advice on bringing in ICS, when people come to me, usually I find that they have a lot of work to do in their business, or on their business before it would be appropriate to bring on ICS. You know, they’re, they don’t have a contract put together, they don’t have, you know, an SOP, or standard operating system for their client care services. If you can get that stuff solidified and documented before you bring on ICS, your life will be 1000 times easier.

Denise Lorentzen
Yeah, all the forms for onboarding, if you’re trying to grab them as you go, which I did, I had someone come to me and say, I really want to do this, and I was planning on it. But I wasn’t quite there yet. And when she came and it was just like, Oh, you know, this is a sign and so I scrambled to get all that together. So yeah, all the logistics, how are you going to onboard? What’s your training, like, I’ve changed my training several times over, you know, it’s just it and now I’m in the process of can like I’m adding to my training. And so anytime that I choose to do something for them, like a little mini training, I’m, I’m now in a process where Okay, we video it or we you know, we record it, and then on it goes into the library of the rest. So now I’m developing more training as I go. Having all those ideas and lay them out, like actually lay him out. I use Trello board now and, and lay out everything that you want to do on each subject. And your you know, one for your onboarding, and what forms are you going to be sending? And what’s your contract going to be like? And

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
yeah, I have a trello board too.

Denise Lorentzen
Embrace it, but I do love it now.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Yeah, Imean, whatever system you want to use, it’s fine. Just make sure it because the more people you bring into your sphere of your agency, the more responsibility you have. And yes, something happens to you. Or even if you’re just on vacation, you need to have that documentation in place so that everything doesn’t come to a screeching halt, you know, right? It’s not sexy. It’s not exciting. It’s super boring. Nobody wants to do it, but it’s necessary.

Denise Lorentzen
And I know that they can’t see this, but I actually take everything. Oh, and because I’m I’m a solar entrepreneur, right. And my fear going into it was with all these processes. What If something happens to me, so how so make sure that as part of your planning, of getting all that set, you have to have backups and what you’re going to do, so I basically take everything and print it and put it in here. So I’ve got, you know, are copies of our like seller travel or insurance policy, and just all of that. And then every year, I freshened up all of our information in one. And so it really pre planninga lot of pre planning.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
So you guys didn’t see it, but I’ll just try to describe it to you, she had this really pretty black and white floral designed binder, colored tabs. And I think we might have to have a another podcast conversation about the contents of that binder one days,

Denise Lorentzen
I basically have, again, you can’t see it, but like all of our, you know, anything that’s like business related policies, our bonds, our DBA, everything is copied in here.

Yeah, and I mean, again, if it’s just you, you know, you, you can probably keep that stuff in your head, I know where my, you know, sellers have travel licenses. But if you’ve got seven agents working under you using that sellers of travel, they need to know what that number is at minimum. So, again, it’s it’s not just about you. So organization is key in this business time. Yeah. So my question, my next question for you is, do you actively recruit icees? And if so, how do you differentiate, differentiate yourself from other host agencies? And if not, how did the How do you end up with ICS?

So, um, over the last year, is where I started doing Facebook ads,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
okay.

Denise Lorentzen
Prior to that, a few of them came to me from referrals, or they were a client. And then so it kind of that kind of happened a little more organically. But when I knew that I actively wanted to grow, and not just wait for one here, one there, I put together a plan. And I do Facebook ads, I find that that gave me the best results. And then whoever I bring in, you know, I interview them, and we go from there, if it’s a good fit, as far as when I do the recruiting or the Facebook ads, I was doing it any time prior. And one thing I learned is to bring it on in, in batches or like certain times of the year, because if not, you’ll be constantly like spitting in the same things over and over and over. So I find that I’m like, this is third quarter. So I’m going to actively start putting the ads out soon, and then bringing them on and be training in the fourth quarter. And then so every other quarter is where I’m going to kind of do that. And that way. Normally, it’ll, for me personally, I wanted it to coincide with when it’s typically wave season, pre COVID. And when we’re typically on our, you know, more busy, I don’t want to be having to train 10 people all at once. And so I’m trying to get into a rhythm that way. So I would say that’s really important is to think about your times, don’t just do it anytime, because sometimes that is a little too overwhelming. And so that’s my main focus right now. And I’ve tried Pinterest, but I haven’t gotten anything from there yet. Couple have been word of mouth, but mainly Facebook ads is as where I got it. And as far as what different differentiates us.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
We both had a hard time with that.

Denise Lorentzen
I mean, you and I have known each other for a while we have wonderful friends in this industry. And so all of us are equally great. And we all have something to bring to the table. So I think it it’s about connecting like when I get on the phone with someone and we start having a conversation and I can hear their passion and and it connects for me I think I’m going to come from a place of we’re not just going to be transit like a transaction we were going to be there as a family so that I the people that I want to bring on are going to enjoy being a part of something and and kind of be in that family feel.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Cool. Yeah, I like that and it works perfectly with your your family travel.

Denise Lorentzen
Exactly. Actually backtracking a little bit to the bringing them on through Facebook ads. I actually did Several types of ads. And I found that when I used a Disney focused ad, bringing them on, like, Are you the Disney go to, you know, friend everyone goes to, then I was getting more much more. So then those people came in with a connected love. Hmm have a destination or product. And then from there I have been helping them to develop and not put all their eggs in one basket. So don’t. Yeah,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
sorry, go ahead.

Denise Lorentzen
Just don’t I not to focus on the one subject or the one supplier, but the whole family kind of focus? Yeah,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
yeah. That one Disney agent I had on my team, we worked on that quite a bit too, because? Well, there’s lots of reasons and we don’t have to go into that. But I like to call Disney the gateway drug to travel agent, because so many agents come into the industry as Disney specialists,

Denise Lorentzen
no.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
And then they brought it out. So it is it is funny that you noted that like a very specific marketing example. So

Denise Lorentzen
it definitely is, because when I did general ads, I didn’t get nearly the amount of interest. So I’m like, okay, that’s where it is. And that’s cool. And then like I set them up, when we train, we start with their Disney training and their training for me. But then I started immediately, you know, talking to them, I make them like choose their top five suppliers. Like, that’s a good training, like, give me five suppliers, and then those are going to be the ones you’re going to be like your go twos.

Mm hmm. That’s a good idea. Yeah. Okay, so I have two more questions. And I feel like they’re all kind of related. So I’m just going to kind of ask them to you, at the same time, you tell me where you want to go with what we’re okay. Where do you want to go with it? So do you think the icy business model or the queen bee business model is for everything? Or everyone? And I guess a better way to ask that is, what are some good characteristics for someone who’s pursuing that model? And then just generally speaking, do you have any specific advice for those thinking about recruiting? ICS?

Um, so I don’t think it’s for everyone. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you do have to have a passion for wanting to leave, but the train and mentor and help, you have to have that passion, because there are times where you’re gonna get questions, and you’re not gonna be able to do your own thing, sometimes I find that my stuff isn’t getting done as quick maybe, and because I’m working on things for them. So you’re going to want to have that drive and that desire to to grow. Um, I have learned, personally, that I am actually enjoying that the more I get involved and do more, I’m actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought. So that’s one thing. And I think that you can, you don’t have to be huge, you can build that model if you wanted to have a few. So it’s not as overwhelming. And you enjoy that to some extent. And then, but just you got to find your right, your right place in that, like, how many is good for you? And what do you vision, your agency being like, because, because if you’re an active seller yourself, and you get too big, you’re not gonna be selling anymore, you know, you’re going to need to be focusing on all the, the work stuff. And as far as advice, I mean, I think everything we have talked about is actually getting everything in place. Mm hmm. And, and don’t, you’re going to make changes as you go, because that’s what happens. But try not to try to be set up somewhat before you bring that first person on. That way. You don’t have to be learning how to handle it, learning them, training them, and then changing things as you go.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
great advice

Denise Lorentzen
Be prepared.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Yeah. No, and I’m, I’m so appreciative of having this conversation with you. Because, you know, you really made me think of things differently too, like your, the way that you bring people in and what kind of waves

Denise Lorentzen
Yes,

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
no pun intended, because we tried to avoid bringing them on for wave season, probably. But yeah, no, that’s a great idea. And just, um, you know, I I’ve said I’ve shared similar experiences for sure. Yeah. So it’s really cool to talk to you and I want to thank you again. And here we’ll share your information how people can get in contact with you. If anybody listening is potentially interested in joining Denise’s team. You know what, we’ll have those that information in the show notes. And any final parting words, Denise?

Denise Lorentzen
Um, you’re not alone? Yeah. Yeah.

I mean, there’s there’s a lot of people that get into this, this industry and feel alone, but getting into the right groups, you’re definitely not alone. And there are other owners that are completely willing to, to hold your hand throughthat setup.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Yeah, you were telling me beforehand, I don’t know if we want to name them, but to other people I know of who are wonderful people and agency owners. She regularly talks to

Denise Lorentzen
Yes.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
And when I started my, you know, queen bee model, I had a couple people that I talked to, to, you know, work through all those kinks. So

Denise Lorentzen
having having your people forming those friendships and groups and, and groups like KTA, you know, being in groups where, you know, you can be vulnerable, you can ask for questions, you’re gonna get real help. You’re, it’s it’s all everyone’s there for the same reason. So I highly recommend getting involved in that. So

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
yeah, definitely. Thank you. Thanks for your endorsement of those means a lot when we get people as awesome as you given us your stamp of approval. So yeah,

Denise Lorentzen
it’s it’s definitely I couldn’t go back to not being parts of groups. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And there’s different groups out there for different reasons and everything and finding your own home is is good, but really, I think that people shouldn’t have to feel like they’re alone in trying to navigate it.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
You can’t You can’t do it alone. Yeah, well on that note, you are not alone. We are all here for you. You listeners, you should know where to find us. If you’re not on our public group, which is totally free. Check us out at the travel advisor training and mentorship group in on Facebook. And of course you can always find us at Kinship Travel Academy dot com and we will, as I said, share Denise’s information. Thank you so much again, Denise and great day,

Denise Lorentzen
you too.

Ashley Metesh-McCoy
Bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply Travel Biz CEO Podcast: Part 3: Bringing on Independent Contractors with Ashley Metesh-McCoy | Kinship Travel Academy Blog September 2, 2021 at 6:58 am

    […] 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. […]

  • Reply Travel Biz CEO: Part 2: Bringing on IC's with Michele Schwartz | Kinship Travel Academy Blog August 26, 2021 at 5:54 am

    […] CEO. This week is Part 2 of our 3 part series on bringing on IC’s into your travel business.  Last week 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. […]

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