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If you can't make it

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I remember like it was yesterday hearing the following words at the home of two Russian immigrants in Chicago. The husband was now an Emergency Room Surgeon and his wife was a successful travel agent. Their home was modest yet very beautifully furnished.
The good doctor said after passing the rolls at the dinner table,
“If you can’t make it in America, you can’t make it.”

Those words stuck with me ever since.
That was over 20 years ago and I think of that sentence every time I present to a room full of travel professionals. With a little poetic license I now put a different spin on the same belief.

“If you can’t make it in the travel business, you can’t make it in business.”
Now that I have your attention I will substantiate my thought process. How can I say this with the competition being what it is? Whether home-based or not, travel agents grow on trees — they are everywhere. The Internet makes it easy to book trips on one’s own. Suppliers are contacting travelers directly and doing end-runs. The Big Box Stores are cutting prices. Nobody wants to pay fees and commissions are going the way of a New York Mets win. And you are telling me if I can’t make it in this business there is something wrong with “me?” Explain!

Calm down and try to stay with me. First of all, try to forget all that mumbo-jumbo about big boxes, Internets, suppliers and charging for your labor. Focus on a few facts that will get you thinking straight. By “straight” I mean productively.

Fact #1: You don’t have to buy anything. Excessive overhead is why most start-up companies eventually go out of business. You have zero inventory. You have no product or raw material investment. Your overhead is (and should be) extremely low. This is a major benefit for you. You cash easily control your expenses.
Fact #2: You have immediate access to all of the products, destinations and modes of locomotion that every single one of your competitors has. The “world” is absolutely and unequivocally at your finger tips. It is an even game board.
Fact #3: Your marketplace has limitless boundaries. There is 7 billion people in the world (and counting) from which to target. If you don’t think people are moving around these days I want you to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why are smart people continuing to build huge ocean-going hotels and more River Cruise ships?
2. Why are airlines cramming more seats into less real estate?
3. Why can’t you find a parking space in Newark Airport’s Long Term Parking Lot?
Fact #4: People today are fed up with the BS. They are looking for somebody who knows what they are talking about and who they can trust. The window of “opportunity” is wide open while your competition is whining and boring the marketplace to tears.
My fellow entrepreneurs, both young and old, your problem is not the Internet, or the market, or the price of gas. Your problem is that you have not decided to “make it” yet. Your problem is that you are not comfortable with the rules of the game and you are not skilled yet at your position. You are not doing enough of what needs doing and in all probability, you are starting to pretend that your business is supposed to be easier than it is. In some cases, you may not even know what you need to do to become successful in the travel business.

If you are interested in busting a few moves in your own personal “happy dance” perhaps it is time to sing a few bars from Michael Jackson’s famous ditty, The Man In The Mirror. “If you want to make your business a better place, than look in the mirror and make a change.”

If two Russian immigrants came to America not knowing our language, and managed to serve a fine meal to a stranger in a beautifully appointed home in Chicago, than you too can make a go of it in the most fun, rewarding, and interesting industry our country has to offer.

If you want some help, (and I know you didn’t ask,) send me an email at and I will show you what I can do for you. Maybe it is time to make a change.