Luxury travel entrepreneur Jack Ezon is a bold thinker who keeps his eye on the future. Wildly successful during his tenure as president of Ovation Vacations, Ezon earlier this year launched the pioneering luxury travel agency Embark.
You may not be ready to be a pioneer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from Ezon, who sees big things for forward-thinking travel advisors who strive for excellence.
“This business is a dream business for anyone who’s really passionate about it. If we could all rise the tide together with excellence, we will all be successful, really helping each other rise together. We want to stay relevant as an industry, not just as one company,” Ezon said.
Travel Market Report asked Ezon to share his advice for agency owners, managers, and advisors. Here’s what he said.
1. Look to the future.
“Don’t look at what’s happening today, prepare for tomorrow. The worst thing I hear people say over and over is, ‘I’m too busy for that.’ You can’t be too busy for tomorrow, because there will be no tomorrow. You have to invest in tomorrow,” said Ezon.
2. Set aside time to be proactive.
“Take 30 minutes to an hour a day and focus on tomorrow, or focus on marketing, or focus on calling a client that you haven’t spoken to and offering something to them. And if an hour a day is not going to work, take a half a day once a week. But invest in being proactive and not reactive,” Ezon suggested.
3. Elevate your assistant – and don’t ever call them that!
“This is something I’d change right away: Don’t ever have an assistant. An assistant is always going to feel like an assistant. But if you elevate them and give them a track of where they’re going, they’re going to step up. Set them up for success,” he explained.
Ezon also suggested ditching the job title of assistant. “We call them concierges; nobody ever wants to deal with an assistant.”
4. Lay the foundation for great customer service.
“It all boils down to your people. If you invest in a great customer-centric culture and great training of your people and supporting your team to do that, the customer service piece will follow,” Ezon noted.
At Embark, Ezon said, he considers it his job to support his frontline agents and “to inspire them to make that client wow.”
5. Understand your product, your value, your market.
Ezon said: “Know what you’re selling and be very clear about your value in the equation. And focus only on the people that are going to pay for what you’re selling, not the marginal people.”
6. Pay attention to emerging opportunities.
Don’t just look for today’s market opportunities, Ezon advised. “Look to where that’s going to be five years from now.
“I get calls all the time saying, ‘I booked a two- bedroom suite at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris – I didn’t want to bother you; it was 11 o’clock on a Sunday night. But could you please get me into the Louvre when it’s closed and do a scavenger hunt for my kids?’ That’s where it’s going.”
7. To scale up, identify your values and processes.
Most travel advisors struggle to expand their businesses after they hit $1 million in sales, Ezon noted. “They become too busy to go out and generate more business and generally cannot yet afford a full-time assistant.”
Yet scaling up successfully is difficult. “The key is to clearly articulate your core values and standards and then carefully outline your process for consistency in training and delivery,” Ezon said.
Embark’s approach is to have a pool of trained advisors plus a concierge available to help independents build up their businesses methodically without significant investment, he said. “There’s a cost to it, but at least you have a trained person that you can scale up with.”
8. Invest in yourself and in your people.
Lastly, Ezon said: “There’s just not room for mediocrity. If you’re not committed to investing in becoming the best and in continuing to learn to be the best, you’re going to be a disservice to yourself and to this whole business.”