Nicole Edgar

TravelManagers

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Where did you grow up and where are you based now?

I grew up in North Dandenong from birth, until I got married in 1997, when I moved into the ‘marital’ home that we built, in Narre Warren South, where we still are living today.

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’? 

As I enjoyed sport back in my school days, I wanted to be a ‘PE teacher’, as really the only two things I could relate to back then were teachers and sport.  I laugh at that now, as I rarely have the time or inclination to exercise!

When and how did you transition from working for someone else to working for yourself?

Unfortunately, in a previous travel agency job, my fellow colleague and I were subjected to constant work place bullying.  My boss, a franchise owner, was also dodgy, unfair and was totally unethical in his business dealings with customers, and with his staff.  He was the kind of boss that treated his staff like crap, but sucked up to the customers walking in the door.  I had no respect for him at all, and should have listened to my gut feeling and women’s intuition when I first went in there for my job interview.  I knew it didn’t feel right.  But I talked myself into it, as that position was only an 8 minute drive from home each way, compared to upto an hour and a half in my previous job, so I accepted the position there, for the start of the worst nine months of my life.  Then, due to a total misunderstanding on his part, he sacked me, and I was unfairly dismissed.  Looking back now, that could have been a blessing in disguise, as I learnt so much, and have grown so much from that experience.  I promised myself then and there, that I would never be a doormat to anyone, I would always stand up to bullies, I would always stick to my morals, ethics, be fair, treat people the way I’d like to be treated, and do what’s honorable and right.  Fortunately, I picked up another travel agency job, with another chain store shortly afterwards, where I stayed until I had to resign to have my first baby, as I hadn’t been there a full year to entitle me to receive maternity leave.

I briefly left the travel industry in 2003 to start my family.  Back then, there were no job share or part time travel agency jobs, so the travel industry was losing all of it’s experienced female staff, young mums who were starting their families, in droves.  For the next 5 years, whilst raising my young family, I worked part time in a bank as a teller & sales consultant; in a medical centre as a medical receptionist, and finally, as a ward clerk in the emergency department of a public hospital, where I am still working part time today, 8 years later. 

But they were all just ‘jobs’ and only a means to pay the bills and support my lifestyle and family – I had no passion for them, like I have for travel, when I get to creating and organise someone’s dream holiday.  By 2008, the mobile travel agency model had begun, and I started up with TravelManagers in January 2008, working out of home, being my own boss, making all of the decisions, working around my family and other commitments, getting that work/life balance right and not having to commute to work.  I no longer had to work for someone else, or report to a manager, as I only had myself to answer to.  It’s been the best professional decision I’ve ever made in my life, and on many levels, one of the best personal decisions too.

What’s your why?

To enhance my clients’ overall travel experience, so that their entire journey is more than just their actual holiday. 

Knowing that I play a big part in making their dreams and bucket lists come to fruition, by organising that unforgettable holiday, creating all of those magical moments, exhilarating experiences and a lifetime of fond memories, is a really rewarding and positive thing to do.

What do you love about what you do?

Travel is exciting!  Everyone loves to talk about travelling and an upcoming holiday.  Like me, they’ve caught the travel bug, and it’s contagious.  And a holiday is something that everyone looks forward to. 

Working in the travel industry is exciting, and it’s forever evolving.  It’s a very positive and rewarding profession to be involved in, and of course, the perks include some amazing holidays and destinations that I get to experience for myself!  And being mobile, as long as I have internet access, I can literally work from anywhere in the world with my laptop, and earn an income, whilst I travel!

‘Travel’, though, is the big unknown, and is totally unique to anything else that you can buy.  Travel is intangible – you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, touch it or sample it.  You can only imagine, dream and envisage what your perfect holiday will be like.  Unlike any other product or service that you can buy, you don’t reap the benefits and get to experience your travel purchase, until weeks, months or even years later. 

I love sharing my passion for travel with my clients, and instilling their own travel bug and desire for adventure.  I enjoy getting to know my clients, and putting together a totally customised and tailor-made holiday itinerary, that is perfectly suited to them…their needs, their wants, their likes, their tastes and their budget.  I enjoy planning their holidays with enthusiasm and attention to detail, as if their holiday was my own.  So, it’s a privilege and a honour to know that my clients totally trust me, are willing to invest in me, (as opposed to booking online, or through a travel agency competitor), and hand over their hard-earned money to plan, organise and book their next streamlined and stress-free dream holiday…which to them is ultimately a big pipe dream and the big unknown, until it actually happens.  I don’t take that huge responsibility lightly. 

And after they’ve returned, when they are looking through their holiday photo albums and travel diaries for years to come, knowing that I played a huge part in making their dreams come to fruition, and getting their bucket list items ticked off, is a really rewarding and positive thing to do.  It puts a smile on my face, and their’s, every time.

And the very best thing about my job?  Nobody else can get away with telling you ‘where to go’!

What’s challenged you most since being in business?

There have been a few challenges since I started my own TravelManagers’ business.  Firstly, having a 5 year break from travel, and leaving all of my previous clients behind when I started my family, I had to start from scratch with building up my client database.  I started with no clients whatsoever, and build it up to where it is now, mostly by repeats, referrals and networking groups.

Secondly, being a mobile travel agent and working from home. I don’t have a shopfront like a retail travel agency store does, therefore I don’t have walk-past traffic and potential business leads walking through my door. 

Sometimes the isolation from working out of home can be hard.  So can the motivation to get out of bed to do some work, or being able to prioritise to do work over household chores, or vice versa.

On the other hand, sometimes, because it’s my own business, I’m more invested in it’s success, and I’ll work extra long hours, more than your average 9 to 5 work day.

Working for myself, it’s very hard to have a consistent, regular income – some months are a lot better than others, and some can be a lot worse.  Try to budget a constant cash flow in your business to survive on, even during the off peak, quieter periods, to tie you over.

Another challenge is that I have to do everything – sell travel, accounting, documentation, invoicing, marketing, advertising, BAS/GST, etc., whereas in previous roles I did what I was good at – booking amazing holidays, whilst other people took care of the rest.  Even though I could outsource some jobs to outside help, I am a bit of a control freak, as my business is my baby, and I like knowing that everything is done, and has been done to my satisfaction level.

What are your greatest achievements to date?

My family – my husband and our two beautiful daughters, and the home we created together.

Creating and maintaining my own profitable and successful mobile travel agency business.

My ‘Diploma in Travel’ accreditation and qualification.

At our TravelManagers 2015 conference, I won the 2015 TravelManagers’ “Spirit” Award, and it’s description is:  “This award is to recognise someone who’s everyday attitude and principles inspire and impregnate the thoughts, feelings and actions of all of us at TravelManagers.  This award is for the person who lives, breathes and consistently demonstrates the heart and soul of TravelManagers.  This award is open to any person within or external to TravelManagers who has been fundamental to developing, maintaining and enhancing TravelManagers’ unique culture.”  This award meant the most to me, as it was aligned with my own morals and ethics.

I earned my “Masters in Cruising” accreditation – the highest cruising accreditation within the travel industry, which certifies me as a cruise expert.

* Nominated as a finalist in the 'Home Based Business' category, of the Casey Cardinia Business Awards for 2016

* Nominated as a finalist in the "Home-Based Business of the Year" category, of the 2013 Casey Business Awards

* Finalist - Business & Professional Services award 2012 (Casey Business Awards)

Casey Business Awards 2012

* Finalist - Business & Professional Services Award 2010 (Casey Business Awards)

Winner - New Business of the Year 2010 (Casey Business Awards)

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

* Be your true, authentic self – people like, respect and trust a ‘real’ person over a fake or two-faced one, and are more likely to do business with you.

* Value your time, your knowledge, your expertise and your worth – don’t discount or undersell your products or services, and charge accordingly for your time and expertise, even for family and friends.  Real friends wouldn’t expect a discount anyway.

* Loyalty is a rare commodity these days.  People will always shop around, including family and friends, and past customers.

* Trust your gut instincts and intuition.  If it doesn’t look, feel or sound right, run a mile.

* You can say ‘no’ to business and clients, especially those PIA (pain in the arse) ones, who always cause whinge and cause problems, always second guess you, always question you, who change their minds repeatedly, and try to screw you down on price. 

* Don’t try the hard sell upfront.  It’s a huge turn-off.  Build up the rapport, relationship and trust, and business will follow naturally.

What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make since running your own business?

Probably saying ‘no’ to some clients and their business, because they expected me to discount my prices and not charge my standard fees, which I’m always upfront and honest about.  If they don’t value me, my worth, my expertise, product knowledge and my time, they can go elsewhere, despite that I could use the commission from the sale.  They don’t work for nothing, so why should they expect me to?

What are some resources you or your business can’t live without? 

The internet – I can literally work from anywhere, all over the world, if I have internet access, and still earn an income whilst I travel.

My mobile phone – it’s got my life’s events stored in the diary, all of my contacts and clients’ details, photos, passwords, and I’m addicted to social media and using apps too.

Social media – especially Facebook & Instagram, as they are very ‘visual’ platforms, which is perfect for showing off picturesque travel destinations and inspiring the travel bug in people.

Networking business groups – they have been instrumental in building up my client database, assisting my business strategy, giving me fresh ideas, inspiring and motivating me, I get to get out of the house and mingle with likeminded business people, and they have increased my bottom line.

My website!

What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own business or change jobs to an industry/role that they’d love?

If you don’t have a passion for your product, service or industry, don’t do it – you need to love what you do, or else it just becomes another mundane job with little job satisfaction.

Know your stuff – be an expert in your field, have product knowledge, first-hand experience, and never stop learning about industry changes, new trends, new technologies, etc., that are relevant to your business and profession.

If you need to hire staff or outsource it, make sure they are aligned to your business’ mission, vision, values and ethics, as they represent you and your brand.

Step outside of your comfort zone.  Try new things, push the boundaries, think outside the square, take some risks.

Never stop learning – read books; listen to podcasts; do research; do online training courses; watch webinars; watch tutorial videos; attend seminars; listen to public speakers; ask questions; catch up with supplier reps; attend functions, product launches and industry–relevant events; & study what your competition does/doesn’t do.

Don’t forget to work ‘on’ your business, rather than just ‘in’ it.  Schedule time in your day or week, specifically to do this. 

What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?

Years ago, in my first job, I worked part time in a supermarket as a checkout chick.  ‘Neighbours’ decided to film there, so I ended up being the ‘checkout chick’ in their scenes, but even so, I didn’t get paid for it by the network!

What does your ideal day look like?

Weekdays - a sleep in – I’ll admit it, I’m a night owl, and definitely am not a morning person.  Wake up to a beautiful, sunny day.  Open all the curtains and doors to let in the natural light.  Walk my daughter to school with the dog.  Get home, check emails, do quotes, social media updates.  Catchup with colleagues for a travel industry supplier update for morning tea.  Return home.  Break for lunch & watch Dr Phil.  More emails, quotes, social media.  Check travel documentation, meet clients for coffee in a café to discuss their travel plans and/or hand them their documents.  Pick up my daughter from school with the dog, walk home & do more travel work.  Maybe in the late afternoon, I’ll head off to a travel industry function or product launch.  Otherwise, I’ll veg in front of the tv, visit a friend’s place or play on my laptop in the evenings until late.

Weekends – sleep in’s, maybe some shopping, brunch at a café somewhere, the beach or a bushwalk, some gardening, spending quality time with my family.

What’s one of your favourite quotes?

‘What goes around, comes around’.

‘Everything happens for a reason’.

‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page’ – St Augustine

‘Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport’.

Who or what inspires you? 

A beautiful, warm sunny day motivates me to get up, get going and get things done.

Hearing people’s inspiring stories, about where they started, and how they got to where they are today, whether or not they are famous, a celebrity or an everyday ‘ordinary’ person, especially when they overcame some challenges or adversity.

Being a proud Aussie - watching an Australian athlete winning gold at the Olympics produces happy tears every time & every ANZAC day I shed a tear, paying my respects, thinking of what those diggers had to go through and sacrifice for us.

Anything you’d like to add?

Keep at it, and keep trying – your definition of success won’t happen overnight, but it will start to happen if you keep on applying yourself.

Always under promise and over deliver.  Be accountable for your actions, including any mistakes you make.

There will always be high’s and low’s throughout your business journey.  Try to stay positive during the low’s and surround yourself with people that motivate you, give you fresh ideas, and inspire you, to pick yourself up.  In the quieter times, I always try to use that time to work ‘on’ my business, rather than ‘in’ it, which sometimes I don’t get the chance to do when I’m busy, or I even use that time to ‘spring clean’ my office, and tidy my paperwork and in tray.

Reward yourself on occasion when you reach your targets, get the business, secure the contract or make the sale.  It could be a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, movie, eating out, buying a new outfit, booking a holiday, etc.

Be personable, be yourself, and show some of your bubbly, outgoing personality to others.  I am always drawn to those people who are positive, friendly, outgoing, funny and upbeat.  And those that have no personality, are negative, blame everyone else for things going wrong, whinge, etc, I steer clear from.  Not only does their negative energy bring me down, but there is no way I’ll ever do business with them.

Finally, you are your brand.  How you look, present yourself, act, talk and interact with others reflects on you and your business.  As they say, you only get that one chance to make a good first impression.

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