Important Priorities

Okay, I know. “Important priorities” is redundant. Priorities denote importance. So what is important to you? Ask yourself what your priorities are. Do we think about that very often, or is running around putting out fires the basis of our lives? Is doing as little as possible and being comfortable the basis of our lives to where that is the only priority we have?

Here’s an exercise: Keep track of what you do for a day or a week or a month. It can be a rough accounting. At the end of the day or week, think about what you did and for approximately how long. It might be something like this:

This week, I slept 58 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) 53 hours, I relaxed (or had fun or did nothing-much: aimless television, aimless reading of newspapers, magazines, novels, aimless internet, aimless conversations and socializing, being with friends instead of with family, etc.) for 36 hours, I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 16 hours, I shopped for two hours, and I’m not sure what I did for the remaining three hours.

If this were your accounting, what would anyone think are your priorities? Sleep is good and making money is important. Eating is necessary. Can’t fault you for that. Then again, do you sleep to live or live to sleep? How late did you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday? 58 hours equates to more than 8 hours per night. Do you do the minimum necessary to get a paycheck or are you always getting better and becoming of more worth to your present and future employers? When it comes to discretionary time, it looks like you don’t care much about accomplishing anything. Your priorities are to be comfortable and relax. That’s about it.

If we don’t set priorities, we have them anyway. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.

Someone who has purposeful priorities and takes control of her life instead of letting life drift in the wind might have an accounting something like this:

This week, I slept for 55 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) for 53 hours. Included in this time I spent seven hours improving myself and showing my supervisor that I am doing more than is expected so that I can be promoted and paid more. I relaxed (relaxing reading, television, internet, socializing) for 12 hours. Most of this was pleasant time and fun with my spouse and with my children rather than in isolation and irritation if anyone bothered me. I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 17 hours. The whole family helped prepare the meals and clean up afterwards, and we talked during meals about school, goals, dreams, accomplishments, and so forth. I shopped for two hours. I spent 10 hours in introspection, spiritual pursuits, general self improvement, becoming expert at skills and talents that interest me, helping to improve the human condition as much as I can, improving our community, and so forth. I spent 10 hours directly with my spouse and with the children, other than having fun and talking to them at dinner, helping with homework, helping them prepare for life, cleaning the house and yard together, etc. I spent six hours in physical exercise. I spent three hours making sure my papers, receipts, finances, books, memories, and so forth are organized.

Did you know you could do so much in a week if you just had and acted on priorities?

If someone were to look at this second accounting, what would they think of your priorities? It looks like you’re trying to improve yourself so that you are always employable and so that you can make good money. You spend time getting to know yourself, improving yourself generally, keeping yourself healthy, and in helping others. Family is obviously important to you, and you certainly understand how important it is to train and help your children and stay in tune with your spouse. Organization so that you can get more out of life is a priority for you.

In this second accounting, even though there was relaxing and having fun, doing nothing or wasting time or being comfortable at the expense of getting better were not seen as priorities.

Priorities help us get the most from our lives. We can accomplish more. We can get further. We can even relax, socialize, and have more fun with priorities. I’ll say it again. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.

This week, let’s think about our priorities. Are they a tool we use to get where we should be, or are they something we pay no attention to? Let’s make sure we are going somewhere and that we are using priorities to get there.

Travel Seller’s Compensation Program

In an era of unpredictable economics and profitability, travel agencies must lower base salaries to truly affordable levels – and yet still be able to attract high quality agents who can service increasingly knowledgeable and demanding customers. The key is to pay incentives for excellent service and revenue generated above an agreed-upon threshold. Agents become personally accountable for meeting their goals and earning an incentive. If the agency has budgeted properly, it should be able to pay base salaries and earn a profit. Incentives are only paid out if agents have earned appropriate revenue levels (2.5 x revenue vs. salary).

Making Pay for Performance/Variable Pay Work

Any major change in pay and incentive structure must be sponsored and enthusiastically supported by senior management. Senior management must enroll employees to focus on results: employees must truly change their behavior in a way that results in greater agency profits.

Any change in compensation will encounter resistance. Change must be managed. The communication plan must address this continuously. Generally speaking, a pay for performance incentive plan will succeed if it is focused on goals

o over which employees have control,
o that employees understand how to achieve,
o that can be objectively measured,
o that can generate regular feedback.

The plan must address both base compensation and incentives. Employees must understand and accept the distinction between compensation and incentives. Employees must believe in the basic equity of base salary levels before they will buy in to a pay for performance incentive system. Annual compensation surveys can help agencies assess their pay levels against comparable companies and relevant labor markets. Equitable base pay decisions must reflect:

o Technical and leadership skills
o relevant prior experience
o Track record of performance
o Equity with peers having comparable experience, skills and performance levels
o Available budgets

There must be a transparent rationale for employees with similar evaluation ratings receiving different base pay:

o Job content/responsibilities
o Time in current position
o Organizational performance of the unit
o Sustained performance over time
o Levels of work experience (internal and external)
o Possession of critical skills
o Education or training

Although equity with current employees must always be considered when bringing in new hires, employees must also understand why some new employees are hired at higher base salaries than existing employees. Salary decisions are based on consideration of a wide range of factors, including skills, experience, marketplace conditions, local competition for particular types of roles, etc.

It is very important to make sure employees are being compensated for doing the right thing. Incentives must be aligned with such corporate or agency priorities as:

o Ensuring all agencies are profitable
o Leveraging preferred supplier products
o Reducing employee attrition
o Using technology to improve service/productivity
o Focusing on productivity
o Customer satisfaction

Each incentive represents a part of what it takes to increase profits. Obviously, if incentives are going to be aligned with a strategic priority, it is necessary to measure that priority. You can’t reward what you don’t measure. Revenue goals and preferred supplier sales are easily measured and rewarded.

Travel suppliers will always try to lower expenses to stay competitive and alive. Travel seller compensation represents the lion’s share of the agency’s costs, so they must focus attention in this area to show a positive impact on profits. Moving a portion of travel seller compensation from a fixed cost to a variable cost will help achieve this goal. Aligning the pay program to the organization’s strategic goals will help keep the travel sellers focused on the desired outcome.

A combination of the pay for performance/variable pay programs described above for full time travel sellers plus carefully designed compensation programs for outside sales representatives and independent contractors will lower an agency’s expenses and contribute to greater profitability. Implementing any such program requires time for employees to adapt to the change; agency management can facilitate this process with effective communication, training, and persuasion.

Travel business consultants such as Travel Business CPR will investigate the best compensation programs and design one for your agency(ies).

Work Less and Travel More

For any number of reasons people, and perhaps yourself, believe international travel is expensive. This is a common misconception. Never forget, travel can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. The cheaper you make it the longer you can stay away. Cheap doesn’t have to mean nasty and constantly skimping on things, another misconception.

Pause for a moment and conjure up images in your mind of where in the world would you rather be right now. Then think to yourself what is stopping you from going there. At this point most people will say money, money is stopping me, not having enough, bills to pay, etc. What is really stopping you is you. Your decisions or your excuses.

Excuses are the primary reason none of us achieve what we are capable of.

Sure you can’t just up and go right now because of money, bills and commitments you may have but if you start planning now, re adjusting your priorities, habits, spending now and make a commitment to yourself, your dreams can and will become reality. Just set a date say twelve months from now and draw up a simple plan that will guide you financially and that will help you to remain focused upon your goal. Planning and sticking to the plan is the key. So many people don’t do this, then they wonder why or make excuses as why they failed. Without sticking to a plan you will lose your way, your focus will slip as will your savings and your dream to travel will remain exactly that.

The following is a quick outline of some travel tips on how you may structure your plan.

Take control of your spending – Sounds obvious enough, but how? Work out exactly how much you spend on everything, rent, bills, food, insurances etc. Hopefully it is less than you earn for the remainder you must put aside for your trip.

Now that you know where all your money is going (sometimes this can be a shock) it’s time to see where you can make some spending adjustments that won’t impact too much on your life style. In other words stop buying crap you don’t really need to get by like new cloths, DVDs, computer games, TV’s or whatever. Remember the more you save now, the more you will have for travelling which means you can stay away longer or live it up more when on the road.

You must make your upcoming travels your priority. Until you do, you won’t save enough, you won’t make the necessary adjustments to your spending, and you won’t make it to the airport. Make it a priority, because like I said your travels will open your eyes and change your life.

Set a date and stick to it – Again obvious enough but many people make their goals a moving target then wonder why they don’t reach them. Fix a date that will be appropriate to your financial situation and then stick to it. Write it down and stick it on your fridge or something. This way you see it every day and in turn helps to keep you motivated and focused.

Don’t leave it to the last minute to book your flight. The longer you leave it the more expensive it will get. If you can, book at least six to eight months out from your set date of departure.

Make a list of things you must do before departure – By this I mean financial cut backs you can make, bills that will need to be paid up and maybe even closed depending on how long you intend to travel. Mail redirects, notify bank of your travel plans, copy your travel documents etc (these things are covered later)

Make a list of things to buy/pack – Obvious this one I know though a good packing list will prevent you from loading yourself up with stuff you don’t need or maybe only use once. The lighter you travel the easier it will be. Revise this packing list so as you can cut back to the bare essentials. Think of the part of the world you are visiting and then pack accordingly. Common sense should tell you what to pack and what not to.

Begin planning your trip – Write out a list of places/countries you must see, must do experiences and how much time roughly to spend at each. A short term traveller will likely plan out the entire trip to the day and pre book. A long term backpacker will not need to be so exact with their travel plans as time is not such an issue and their travels will generally evolve as they go.

Stay focused – Read up about your destination. Not only does this give you some vital information it will also help keep you focused and excited about your upcoming adventure and do not leave buying all your travel gear till the last minute. Not only could you forget something, though you should not if you made a list, actually seeing your new travel gear building up gets you pumped up for hitting the road, which in turn helps keep you focused and on target.

The hardest part is often making the decision to jet off on a long overseas adventure, the second hardest part is keeping your resolve, sticking to the plan, being strict on yourself with your spending, doing the extra overtime (if available) for the extra holiday money and possibly as it was for me, throwing in a well paid job that I actually did not mind doing. But guess what… it was worth it. That seven months of travel changed my life and to top it off within a week of my return home to Australia I got my old job back and so I started saving all over again.

Most decisions have their risks attached to them. They seem daunting to begin with and they feed your doubts, though never let the concerns of money stop you from either going or worry about not having much, if any cash left after when you get back for it is your travels that lay before you, here and now that matter and who knows what opportunities await you both on your travels and beyond all thanks to taking a risk and embarking on an awesome holiday.

Remember, the biggest risk in life is not taking a risk.

The following would have to be one of my favourite travel related quotes:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Confucius

I look forward to sharing more travel tips with you in future articles