Hard to believe I started Tye’s Tours in Aug of 1992 that was 26 years ago. The packaged travel industry has changed and evolved over that time period as have I, and the company. What my vision for Tye’s Tours was 26 years ago is very different then was has evolved.
I am constantly asked “Why are you still putting in the long hours?” “Why don’t you go to work for someone else where you could make lots more money with your industry knowledge?” “How do you handle the stress of dealing with the public?” “Do you have an exit strategy?”
When I was in college I was an active member of the UMass outing club. I began leading trips and realized I was very good at it. That is when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was majoring in Hospitality management and business, I loved being in the kitchen except for the summer, but I hated being indoors all the time. I thought I wanted to be a forest ranger, but there few jobs available at that time in that field. By the time I left college I was addicted to travel. I wanted a job where I could travel for the rest of my life and share my adventures with others. I went overseas and studied International Business in England, signed on to an expedition traveling the African continent overland and knew travel was the industry I wanted to be in. When I came back to the USA I took a job selling paper products, as I did not know how to become a tour director. There were no training schools in the 70’s offering this career path. I went to Travel School and became a travel agent, in no time I started working with groups and soon became the group sales manager. I found out that if I could find groups that wanted to travel, I could go with them as a tour escort. By accident or fate I was now on the path I wanted to be on. I spent two years in this job and could not wait to get out. It was not a pleasant experience traveling to Boston every day and I did not like the people I was working for.
I went to work for one of the major New England Tour companies, who gave me the ideal job as a sales person and as a tour director. I was making a good living in sales, traveling and seeing the world. I was on a new adventure all the time. In 1990 there was a change in management at where I was working. I was told that I was making too much money and I had to choose either one job or the other. I could either be a tour director or in sales. My new boss never understood I was good at sales, because I was passionate about sharing my travel adventures with anyone that would listen. Money was not the motivating factor and never will be. It was the constant learning as I traveled the world that was my motivation. When I spoke to groups they wanted to join me on my adventures. I had the opportunity to change the perception of the world as my customers traveled on my adventures.
It was back in 1992 that I was constantly being told my ideas were nuts. It was at this time I realized I no longer was a good fit for this company. My sense of ethics, morality, right and wrong was different from my colleagues. I learned what I could and it was time to move on. I went to travel management school and was ready to take the world on.
It was not long before I realized I was really good at leading tours but lacked the management skills needed to run a company. I was at constant odds with my staff that saw their roles as very different from what I envisioned. I expected my office staff to close sales and they thought they should be paid waiting for the phones to ring. In the early days of the company I dealt with fraud, embezzlement, my staff poisoning the well with my customers, employee revolts, I was not a good manager. By 1994 I was an active member of the National Tour Association where industry colleagues would teach me what I did not know, I did not know. I could not wait to get to meetings and conventions where I learned so much from my colleagues and the educational sessions. The all night conversations after the work was done with colleagues, gave me the foundation I was lacking. The mentoring I received allowed me to grow, evolve and adapt.
It was at this time the industry began a rapid change, the airlines stopped paying commissions, and my belief was that small group travel was the way of the future. Everyone was once again telling me I was nuts, and would be broke if I continued on this path. It turns out I was right and as I have always said you need to keep an open mind to move forward.. I love what I do and that is why I put in the long hours. If I want to travel I can. The opportunity to create new adventures for my customers awaits me each day I go to work, and if I choose to join their adventures I can. This week I was out on tour with new customers who had never tasted a fresh lobster, or been on a sail boat, there sense of joy is why I put in the long hours. The idea that these experiences were my doing drives me. On another trip I was with customers from the UK that were very appreciative that I took them off of the highway to show them the countryside. They shared that the land where they live is totally flat, and how they enjoyed the country roads, even though it made a long day. They were so appreciative that they had all the time they wanted at Yankee Candle and got to ride the Thunderbolt coaster. It is these smiles that are my rewards. When I work with youth groups and can negotiate special fares so that the maximum number of kids can participate drives me. The knowledge that I am changing the world one tour at a time while spreading compassion and understanding around the globe is what drives me. If you are not an entrepreneur you will never know the satisfaction of being your own boss. The profit or loss you make, the creativity you input, determines your success of failure. As long as you pay the bills you can work when and where you want, there is no one saying you have to do this my way. As far as managing the stress of dealing with the public, it is all about managing the stress rather than letting the stress control you. It is a challenge when you have customers that choose to send you attack emails on a constant basis. It is a challenge when the customers tell you that you are not wanted and treat you like dirt. Most of my customers appreciate what I do and my team does for them. We don’t internalize the negative; we accept that it is part of being an entrepreneur. We do try and figure out what the real message is the customer is trying to share with us. As far as an exit strategy, I enjoy what I do and as long as I have my health, I hope to be sharing my adventures until I die.
Thanks to all of my customers for the first 26 years. Hope to be around for the next 26 years. I am always willing to share my accumulated knowledge with my industry colleagues. Knowledge that is not shared is knowledge that is lost.