Here at Travel Counsellors, we see people from all walks of life come through our Travel Academy programme – including Melanie Warren, who’s building a successful business after joining us in November 2022.
Our ‘One Year On’ series focuses on some of our amazing business owners who are just 12 months into their franchise journey – but who are already proving that with determination and hard work, it’s possible to turn your dreams of owning your own travel business into a reality.
We caught up with Melanie to find out how being a Travel Counsellor compares to her previous career in healthcare.
Hi Melanie! Tell us more about what were you doing before Travel Counsellors, and what prompted a career change?
I worked for the NHS for nearly 20 years as a senior biomedical scientist in haematology. After a long time in the same place, I just knew that I needed to try something else. I investigated other companies and sent off various applications, but Travel Counsellors stood out to me.
In my previous job, I disagreed strongly with how things were run and how people were treated. I was off work with anxiety, and during that time I read a book called ‘4000 weeks’, which is all about how many weeks the average human has in life. It was a game-changer for me.
Why did you decide to join Travel Counsellors?
I had initially applied to Travel Counsellors in 2019, but then the pandemic hit and I was needed in the NHS. However, I had a friend whose husband is a Travel Counsellor, so I spoke to him and a few other franchisees about their businesses. I was impressed! I was offered a business opportunity with another so-called ‘travel company’ but there was no comparison. I then attended a Discovery Day at the Travel Counsellors head office last year, and that sealed the deal.
How have you grown your business over the last year?
In those first few weeks when you are ‘released’ into the world with your own business, it can be incredibly daunting! It’s up to you to make things happen, so being proactive is absolutely key. You must be relentless with self-promotion and back yourself all the way.
Build a social media presence, however slow and painful it feels. Initially, you assume that friends and family will be super supportive and book all their travel with you. In reality, that’s unlikely to happen. I actually found it much easier dealing with clients that I didn’t know while I was still building my confidence.
Secondly - referrals, referrals, referrals! As Travel Counsellors, we’re told the importance of this all the time, but it really is essential for the growth of your business. Also, every client should be treated with the same level of service, regardless of their budget, because you never know who they may recommend or refer you to. I’ve tried lots of different approaches to generate customers. Some have worked, and others haven’t. It really is a learning curve in terms of what works for you, your business, and your customer demographic.
What’s the best thing about being a Travel Counsellor?
For me, it’s the flexibility that it allows me. I work the business completely around my family and their needs. I also love the community aspect and the camaraderie. My induction group are still incredibly close and we support each other massively. It’s really important to have an excellent support network, not only to boost you when you’re low, but to celebrate the highs that only another Travel Counsellor really understands.
How would you describe the tools and systems at Travel Counsellors?
They’re excellent, especially if you’re not a tech whizz. They’re very intuitive and easy to use. Plus, the help guides that are available are great. The initial training also caters to all levels of IT knowledge, so it’s not that overwhelming. Of course, it helps that there’s always someone in the community who you can reach out to for help (literally 24 hours a day!).
How has your life changed since becoming a Travel Counsellor?
My life is massively different now that I’m a Travel Counsellor. In some ways, it’s unrecognisable. I’m definitely more present for my children, although it’s very easy to allow yourself to be constantly available. When you’re working from home, it’s tempting to ‘just do a bit more work’. The work-life balance is definitely something that I’m still working on!
I think as a business owner, knowing that every enquiry, success, and win benefits you directly is a huge motivating factor. It’s a massive pressure to leave a salaried role to build a business. It’s a huge undertaking and the financial implications shouldn’t be underestimated. However, as I see my little business growing and building momentum, I know that I’m building a better life and future for my family.
What’s it like being part of the Travel Counsellors community?
I love the Travel Counsellors community! The support is overwhelming – from other franchisees, my induction buddies, and my fantastic mentor. It sounds quite cheesy, but they are honestly the most welcoming, lovely, helpful, and warm bunch of people that I’ve ever worked with.
How would you describe the support from head office?
The support from head office is fantastic - from Ben and Dawn as the trainers, to the Business Development team, the New Franchise team, and the lovely team of people who respond to my many queries.
I love going to head office for a takeover day or event of some kind, as everyone is always incredibly warm and welcoming! Even with issues that don’t necessarily fall into their remit, people are always willing to help and are incredibly supportive.
Our doors are always open, Melanie. Finally, what are your goals for the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months, I’m hoping to increase my client base, referrals, and overall business network. In an ideal world, I want to double my sales from my first year as a Travel Counsellor. I hope my business continues to grow so I can reap the benefits of all the hard work and passion that goes into the work that I do and love.
Are you thinking of taking your career down a different path? Just as Melanie proves, you can be a successful Travel Counsellor even if you’ve not got experience within the travel industry. We give our franchisees all the tools, support, and training they need to hit the ground running, no matter what their background. Get in touch with our New Franchise team today and find out how our Travel Academy could work for you.