The CruiseOne franchise owner shares his wisdom with those just getting started.
Steve Faber says that he has heard, on average, that American workers have three different careers in their lifetimes. “If that is the case, I have overstepped the upper limit by at least two careers,” said Faber, CruiseOne Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist from San Rafael, California. “My work experience has included stints in film and television, direct mail, marketing, advertising copywriting and design, and travel journalism. Each of these work experiences included, at least one entrepreneurial enterprise.”
His last career, immediately prior to opening his CruiseOne franchise, was as a travel writer/photographer specializing in travel by sea. “Between my freelance assignments and my own personal vacations, I have been privileged to have gone on more than 100 voyages,” he said. “I decided that my travel experience in cruising put me in good stead as the foundation of a travel agency specializing in cruise travel.”
One thing he has learned from having built businesses is that the main fault that leads entrepreneurs to difficulty at best, failure at worst, is thinking they know more than they do.
An excellent way to learn the ropes is to work as an employee for an established company before launching an entrepreneurial business in the same industry,” he said. “An equally effective option is a franchise, where the turnkey framework and structure are already set, and the franchisee can exploit his or her strengths and knowledge without having to develop the front- and back-office and branding foundation from scratch.”
His travel journalism experience introduced him to the public relations end of the industry, both within the cruise lines and at various travel publications. Here he became familiar with the CruiseOne model. “Additionally, I very much liked the CruiseOne business model, a large network or consortium of agents, all independent entrepreneurs, creating the buying clout of a large entity but with the consumer-facing identity of a ‘Mom and Pop’ operation,” he said.
His role of a travel agent ranges from counseling every detail and decision for newbie clients to being selective on advising experienced travelers. “I’m essentially an order taker for those who are savvy enough to decide on every element of their vacation,” he said.
He says that the most important skills he has for the job is listening. “No agent knows all the great vacation options and their details,” he said. “I have found that one of the best sources of information is the experiences of my own clients. First, they may have discovered destinations or tour operators on their own that I had never known about, and, secondly, that those recommendations come from people whose judgment I trust. That is how I have learned about destinations I have not had the privilege of visiting myself, and of a number of small niche operators.”
Faber works at home, which he says requires a vigorous work ethic. “It is a lot easier to tackle a daunting workload solo if that work is all in familiar, even routine territory,” he said. “But, in order to expand one’s business it is necessary to tackle challenges in new, unexplored areas of endeavor, often totally outside one’s comfort zone.”
In his everyday life, Faber says that he works with vacations prepackaged to one degree or another – cruises, tours, resorts and the like. “But on the request of regular customers or people my regulars have referred to me, I have taken on such disparate trips as a California Coastal family automobile trip and a multi-country European journey linked by rail travel,” he said.
He offers some advice to those who are going on a job interview for a travel agent position. “Leave money out of the discussion,” he said. “Concentrate on your knowledge of travel, geography, and the segments of the travel industry you have a particular knowledge of or passion for. In the first place, travel agenting is much like travel writing, they are both based on advocacy of travel choices for people whose demographics mesh well with that particular type of travel. Also, nearly everyone – myself included – start off with high expectations of the rate of building a client base and the speed at which their efforts will achieve profitability.”