Every week we will profile winners of our new Agent Excellence Awards. Harvey World Travel shop manager Gail Lister, winner of the Midland/East of England best manager large agency category, tells her story.
Overseeing a team of seven staff is never easy, but when morale starts to dip following a buyout, a good manager needs to take decisive action.
That’s what happened to Gail Lister a year ago when the branch of Galaxy Travel she managed, in Old Catton, Norwich, was sold to Harvey World Travel.
Gail said: “Galaxy Travel was a strong brand in East Anglia and we felt proud to be a part of it; we didn’t know much about Harvey World and the team was anxious about the change.
“We were underachieving and our sales figures dropped, which was very unusual for the time of year.”
Gail called a meeting and encouraged staff to talk about their worries.
“I could see that people were not happy. Everyone was moaning, but they weren’t moaning to me. I held the meeting in a nice environment – got pizzas in and allowed them to be as honest as possible about how they were feeling.
“After that, I asked Geoff Blagg [former Galaxy Travel managing director and, following the takeover, area sales manager for Harvey World] to visit the branch.
“He explained how big Harvey World is and how the company works. Once the girls had been reassured their jobs were safe and once we understood what was happening, we took the changes on board and had a positive outlook.”
A year on, the team is hitting its targets and is pleased with the changes Harvey World is making.
“Harvey World has introduced more products, including a bigger range from Norwich Airport, which is where many of our customers want to fly from. It’s invested heavily in marketing and radio and TV advertising and we’re proud to be part of the organisation.
“As a team we all get on very well and we socialise with each other too.
“I was really proud to win the award. It’s good for the shop and for Harvey World Travel.
Gail’s top tips on surviving a takeover
- Encourage the staff to talk about their worries.
- Focus on your life in the shop and try not to worry about what is going on at head office.
- Don’t look back. Focus on the future and encourage staff to move with the changes, such as working with new preferred suppliers.
- Encourage staff to sell. Once they see their targets are achievable, they will feel more positive.
- Book training sessions with new suppliers so staff feel more confident about selling unfamiliar products.
Getting to know you
What makes you a great manager? I’m a busy person, very organised and I listen to my staff. Everyone in the team is different and you have to learn how to manage them individually, get to know them and nurture them.
What’s your favourite destination? Either Australia or Indonesia – I’ve travelled widely in both.
Where would you like to go next? South Africa – I’d love to do a safari and visit Victoria Falls in Zambia.
What’s your best booking? It was £35,000 with Virgin Holidays to Florida – a staff incentive for a local company. The owner books his holidays here too, and often has a £10,000 budget. He wants the best, but it’s fun booking his restaurants, shows and helicopter transfers.
What’s your next career step? I’d like to move up to regional manager. I’m keen to progress in my career.