Almost 20 years ago, travel advisor Jo Kennedy took the daunting leap into the home-based world and radically changed her life forever.
Kennedy began working with Flight Centre in 1990 at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown and quickly climbed through the ranks, landing a team leader role at Flight Centre Wintergarden in the space of just a few years.
But her life changed when she gave birth to her twin sons in 1994. After a few years off, Kennedy took stock and decided she was ready to take the next step in her career: becoming an adviser at a premium travel brand.
She joined Travel Associates in 2000, drawn by the lure of tailoring luxury experiences for high-end clients and the appeal of offering a bespoke service backed by solid foundations.
Kennedy tried working part-time for a while but realised her young boys needed her at home.
Not one to be deterred, she decided to back herself and became a home-based agent.
Since then, her business Kennedy & Turner Travel Associates has grown to employ eight consultants all working from home.
We sat down with Kennedy to discuss the ins-and-outs of home-based life and find out how she had benefited from taking the leap.
Travel Weekly: Why did you choose to work from home? What would you say are the main benefits?
Jo Kennedy: I rejoined the travel industry after I had my twin boys and finding the perfect position wasn’t easy as work/life balance was a key driver for me.
Travel Associates offered me the opportunity to work from home and in 2000 this was not nearly as easy as it is today. The computer system, the wage model and the infrastructure were all being developed, persistence back then for me was important. Now, over 18 years later, I can safely say it was the best decision I have ever made. I have the ability to be my own boss and manage my time. The systems are always improving and I can work from anywhere by just dialling in.
TW: With so many home-based agencies around, what drew you to the Travel Associates brand?
JK: I had worked with Flight Centre brand before and when I returned to work after having a family, I was told about the Travel Associates brand, I knew it was a perfect fit.
Our job is rather simple it is to make our clients’ travel dreams come true and with the support and backing of Travel Associates and Flight Centre, I believe this is easy.
TW: Can you tell us a little about how your ‘virtual office’ works?
JK: My office is made up of a number of home travel advisors, we meet on a regular weekly basis via either google hangouts, zoom or just mobile phone merge and often wholesalers join into these meeting for an update. My team can dial in from anywhere, even sitting watching their kids playing sport, or on hands-free in the car. As a Team Leader, I need to be flexible with my team who are juggling many things.
If someone is unable to attend a meeting we either take notes or record the meeting so they can catch up later. I also arrange one or two mini-conferences each year to improve on what we do, the last one was at Qualia, Hamilton Island. I am always available for advice and coaching for my team, this is something that I enjoy doing.
TW: How do your clients benefit from the home-based model?
JK: Being home-based means no interruptions, it means you can focus more on delivering for your clients. We make appointments, which allows us time to plan our clients’ bespoke itineraries.
You can meet with your client anywhere, but let’s face it, sometimes our clients are time poor and a Skype call with them or a call can often solve many things quickly.
TW: How do you maintain your client base and generate referrals? How has Travel Associates helped you achieve this?
JK: As a premium adviser, I maintain my client base by providing a service which exceeds my clients’ expectations.
I like to surprise and delight my clients and with my Virtuoso connections from around the world, this is certainly not hard to achieve.
I believe referrals come naturally once you have given your client the perfect holiday, with the little extras that they would not normally have received if it had not been for your expertise. Our marketing team send our award-winning “Inspirations” Magazine to our clientele quarterly, along with various EDMs regularly offering our clients travel ideas to inspire. Travel Associates is also now a proud sponsor of Opera Australia, this partnership will be a great benefit to the brand.
TW: How do your agents show they’re worth booking with instead of booking online?
JK: When clients book with an adviser from Travel Associates, we encourage our clients to stay in contact and in turn, we also check on them while they are away. This high touch proves to our clients the value that we bring to the table.
We are not just booking takers, I really believe that the holiday experience we provide, starts from the first call and initial planning through to when they depart through to their return home.
We ensure our clients are constantly updated throughout their travels – letting them know if there is a strike, bad weather, a medical emergency, and we are always a text, email or phone call away.
We really want to make it a smooth, effortless, exciting and a memorable journey. What a great industry we work in – our clients come home and can’t wait to thank us and often bring gifts to show their appreciation.