I ran my own business in North London for 42 years. We were a traditional high street travel agency selling everything from coach tickets to around the world packages. At our peak we had six branches and offered our own tailor-made packages, looked after a number of major corporate accounts and business was good. With time, the difficulty of running a sizeable business started to tell and we sold some branches, slowly consolidating the company into one large shop. Control was now better and staffing, which was a major problem in the past, became easier to deal with.
With the onset of the internet, ‘old dogs’ had to learn new tricks and as things became much more competitive with ever increasing new legislation, life started to get complicated.
Even with just the one office, I found myself having to be a ‘Jack of all Trades.’ The many legal requirements to do with licencing, bonding, ATOL etc. meant that I was working 6 days a week (more than my staff) and found that just the day to day running of the business took up more than 50% of my time. I had constant business worries, some of which were out of my control such as leases, rents and rates. My stress levels increased and I started to dislike a job which I’d always loved.
I wanted to have time to talk to my clients and to look after them personally, but I found this impossible as there just wasn’t enough time in the day and I always found myself rushing things. Because of this, I rarely gave out my business card because I knew I would not have the time to look after them personally.
It got to the point where I decided that enough was enough, I didn’t want the stress and headache of running a high street business any more. I found it difficult to keep on top of constantly changing regulations and in particular the forever changing financial criteria of IATA, not forgetting all the IT and back office issues.
I decided I wanted to get my life back - time to spend with my family and time to enjoy my young grandchildren, and this is what I have found since joining Travel Counsellors. I still run my own business, but I no longer have worries about licensing and regulation changes, technology problems or back office issues. In the past everyone turned to me to solve their problems, it’s now a great feeling to know that if I have a problem I can turn to Head Office for any assistance.
It took me about three months to realise that I was no longer stressed. I still feel guilty every morning when my wife leaves for work. The fact of the matter is that I have rediscovered my passion for an industry I love, and now have the time to look after my clients giving them the personal service they deserve, whilst enjoying life.
The proposed scrapping of the SBA (small business ATOL) will hurt some agents very badly. As business becomes ever tougher to make a profit, this is just another ‘nail in the coffin’ for small travel agencies.
All I can say is that I am glad I don’t have to worry about such things anymore.