Image: Noree Kahika (second from right) with personal travel managers (from left) Amanda Brady, Cassandra Zayonce and Georgina Grandi during the community service day at 2016 National Conference in Bangkok
Being a TravelManagers’ business partnership manager (BPM) requires an unusual skill set … the role involves being a business coach, mentor and source of motivation, inspiration and guidance.
BPM for Queensland & Northern NSW Noree Kahika recently celebrated her seven-month anniversary – and she has found it to be an inspirational journey of discovery. Here Kahika answers some questions to inspire and motivate PTMs.
Prior to TravelManagers you had 13 years in the travel industry, with almost eight years as a sales manager for Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and six years as a travel consultant/group travel coordinator. What motivated you to make the move to TravelManagers?
Moving to TravelManagers was the easiest decision I’ve ever made! As a sales manager with Uniworld, I dealt daily with travel agents (my territory held over 1,100 travel agencies) yet I found the passion and enthusiasm of the PTMs was unequalled. They were motivated and driven and while achieving similar sales growth as their contemporaries, they exuded a genuine joy and happiness with their work-life balance.
They were more open to training, suggestions and sales advice. I could clearly see self-employed contractors operating as home-based personal travel managers were the way of future and I wanted to be a part of a company that was spearing heading this relatively new sector of the industry.
What has surprised and delighted you most about the TravelManagers’ PTM concept?
- The average industry experience of a PTM is 21 years!
- Dedication and passion for travel are not just tag lines to a PTM – they are truly a way of life!
- Every single day I’m inspired by ordinary people doing the extraordinary – daily living their dream of running their very own successful travel businesses.
- I was told when I first started that each PTM was an Individual –iand they weren’t wrong! From young mothers to professional power couples, from those looking to work on their own terms to those who seek the ideal work-life balance – they are uniquely individual with one thread in common – their unrivalled knowledge, expertise and passion for the travel industry.
- The infrastructure and ongoing support to the PTMs from the national partnership office (NPO) is second to none! Whether it’s IT, marketing, fares & ticketing or finance – TravelManagers offers comprehensive support, training and guidance every step of the way.
It often takes time to become an integral member of a company. Was this your experience with TravelManagers?
I was immediately made to feel like one of the family – and I say family because TravelManagers makes you genuinely feel like family and not just a team member of a large company. My superiors and colleagues were genuinely interested in my thoughts and ideas and were extremely nurturing, supportive and encouraging throughout my first six months in the role, and continue to be.
I found these attributes were not exclusive to me but were principles shown to all staff and personal travel managers alike. Communication and education are also high priorities within the company and although I work remotely from the NPO, I still feel closely connected to everyone down at NPO.
The travel industry faces challenges every year. What in your view is the biggest challenge PTMs will face in 2017?
Motivation – it is certainly the key to running your own successful business. You can have all the knowledge, experience, training and passion you like but if you are not motivated or are too overwhelmed to implement those elements in your business then you won’t succeed. As a BPM, I see it as being a part of my job to work with the PTMs in tackling their obstacles, breaking them down into manageable plans of actions and supporting and encouraging them to see those plans through.
As a BPM, what are the key aspects of your role?
I am a business coach, a mentor and a trusted and objective source of motivation, inspiration and guidance. It’s my role to be impartial, fair, to be honest, to be a straight shooter when they need it and to show them I’m there in their corner cheering them on when they need that too.
It’s my job to be insightful, thoughtful, caring and creative. To foster an environment where the PTM can feel safe to share their ideas and I can advise, guide and recommend suggestions and initiatives to them. It’s my job to believe in them wholeheartedly, to see and understand their vision for their business and to genuinely want to help them to achieve that vision and bring it to fruition.
You have 50 PTMs in the Queensland/Northern NSW region, how do you effectively communicate with them all?
I will be in contact with the PTMs every day via email, often via phone. I officially meet every PTM individually at least twice a year for business planning and coaching sessions. Additionally I organise weekly cluster meetings, which are diverse in their focus, ranging from supplier product updates and training, PTM workshops, industry events, travel destination and business days to social gatherings and networking.
It’s evident you love what you do … what is it you most enjoy as a BPM?
Mentoring, coaching and assisting the PTMs with their business and watching as they make their dreams become reality. Seeing the PTMs thrive and achieve their goals. I love witnessing the PTMs overcoming obstacles and achieving goals their counterparts in the industry can only dream of.
You talk a lot about TravelManagers’ comprehensive support, training and diversity. Is this the company’s secret weapon?
TravelManagers is the only home-based model that has a significant ground support team with their BPMs. There are seven BPMs dedicated to each state, on the ground supporting their PTMs and they know their business, dreams and goals intimately. We are able to effectively foster, cultivate and initiate relationships with not only the PTMs themselves but between the PTMs and trade partners and suppliers.
The travel sector is always changing and with TravelManagers, the ongoing training and education is a critical priority. The company offers comprehensive induction for the new PTMs, and there is a plethora of webinars, training and refreshment courses, business coaching, mentoring, one-on-one consultations, training programs and supplier educationals on offer.
TravelManagers welcomes diversity and understands travel professionals are not all the same. Whether their specialty is corporate, high-end leisure, FIT, groups, families, cruising, package tours – TravelManagers offers the PTM guidance, marketing, expert knowledge and training for their selected field of expertise. The tag line “Individual as you are” is the living, breathing philosophy of TravelManagers.
What does success look like for you in 2017?
Assisting my existing PTMs to grow their individual businesses and encourage traditional travel agents to make the jump to becoming a personal travel manager – I know they will all say “Why didn’t I do this sooner!”