Marine Corps veteran Mike Richards turned to the Small Business Center in January 2016 to start a business that matched a passion he and his wife Teri share. They have been enthusiastic travelers—especially cruising, since Mike retired from the service.
Over many years and after many cruises they developed a love of cruising and traveling. They want to share their adventures with others, so they purchased a CruiseOne\Dream Vacations franchise. The Richards chose a CruiseOne\Dream Vacations franchise because of the dedicated support and veteran’s discount they offer.
Both Mike & Teri have full-time careers, as well as run their company, Your Time Vacations, in the evenings. The Havelock-based franchise specializes in all facets of travel to include cruises, land tours, resort vacations, and theme parks. Mike & Teri focus on providing a vacation experience that fit the client’s dreams. “We listen to our customers’ excitement and expectations of their dream vacations,” said Teri.
Their key revenue drivers include solution-selling, incentives, value-adds, personalized client service. Their key profit drivers are upselling, group travel, upgrades and honesty.
While they have enjoyed doing business with something they love doing, they have experienced challenges. Seen and unforeseen challenges are something all start-ups should anticipate and be prepared to respond.
Past challenges included getting their name out, staying focused and being patient. Because they are a home-based business without out the benefit of visibility and meeting space, they’ve had to be creative in publicizing their business and serving their customers. “You have to stand out from the competition, so people know who you are,” said Mike. So, they brought a cargo trailer and turned it into their mobile travel display.
Their current challenge is taking time to go the extra mile with current clients, while spending enough time prospecting for new clients.
The Richards’ number one future challenge is to continue bringing in new clients.
When starting a business, the couple advises, “Don’t quit your day job.” They work every evening and weekends to move their business forward toward the ultimate goal of it being a full-time job in a year’s time. Additionally, they can be found at area events such as MumFest, and other area festivals promoting their business.
Additional advice they offer to other entrepreneurs:
- Make sure you are financial stable and realistically estimate start-up costs.
- Set realistic goals – Early on, the Richards set the goal at 10 bookings per month, but in reality, they experienced 1-2 bookings per month. Now after three years in business, they are starting to reach the goal they set early on.
- Be honest with your customers. Also, if you don’t know the answer, let them know that and tell them you will find the answer.
- Be willing to continue to learn – Continue to take courses and learn about trends in your industry.
- Be patient.
Your Time Vacations also provides a special service in partnership with nonprofits who want to raise funds in a unique way. They can plan and organize a fundraising cruise to raise funds for your organization.
They can also create a Members Page for a company, organization or group with exclusive offers.
The Richards have been married for 33 years and enjoy being in business together. They complement each other with each of their unique traits. Mike and Teri have four children and five grandchildren.
For more information, visit their website > http://yourtimevacations.com
Deborah Kania, director of the Small Business Center at Craven Community College