Since 1994, Travel Counsellors has been providing highly personalised 24/7 travel experience for both leisure and corporate clients. The brand scooped an Amazon Growing Business Awards accolade recently, so we caught up with CEO Steve Byrne to hear more about the company so far.
The business aims to support its clients with technology, back office processing and support, and customer and other data driven insight and advice to provide a perfect travel experience.
According to Byrne, the ethos of the business is: “To always put our people at the heart of everything we do, to do the right things by people, to care for our customers more than anyone else and be the best at everything we do by constantly seeking to learn and improve.”
For the company’s HQ in Manchester, a typical day consists of its 300-strong support team working across all areas to support oversea staff – the brand has over 1500 self-employed Travel Counsellor franchisees and is now operational in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and UAE.
Travel Counsellor’s staff themselves complete a week long induction at the offices, and can also pop in for specialised training.
“A typical day for one of our Travel Counsellors will be very varied,” said Byrne. “The flexibility of working from home allows them to structure their days around their customer needs, and gives them an enhanced work-life balance.
“They build up special relationships with their clients so will often be organising little extras to make their holiday special.”
At this year’s Amazon Growing Business Awards, the travel experience services provided by the North of England-based company saw it scoop the prize for Growing Business of the Year – Larger Company (Turnover £50m+).
When asked about his greatest successes, the organisation’s strong growth was right up there. Byrne was particularly proud of taking Travel Counsellors from a UK travel agency to an international travel company with a turnover at the end of its last financial year (Oct 31 2015) of £416m.
But of course, growing so quickly does not come without its challenges, and he is keen to ensure that as the business continues to expand it continues to innovate and remain willing to change in its approach to travel experience when appropriate, as well as protect what is working.
“The focus now is developing the talent in the business to help take it to the next level, and working on defining the culture and operating style so we achieve consistency and continue to appeal to high performing people.
“Managing the challenges that come with rapid growth has been the greatest ongoing challenge.”
That aside, the company has worked hard to overcome other, isolated challenges as a consequence of the credit crunch and other external events. “During these times, we have had to ‘dig in’ and work even harder to keep everyone focused, positive and motivated.”
When it comes to his top tips for other businesses to follow in his footsteps, Byrne has two pieces of advice: hire good people, and have goals.
“I think culture drives behaviours, and behaviours drive performance. So, you need people who buy into your culture and will protect it and enhance it. My fundamental learning in not unique and is common I think, and this is: only take on and keep the very best talent and make sure they have a voice.
“Have a plan. Set clear business goals and allocate accountability, so that everyone is clear on their objectives and how they contribute to making the business a success.”