Lisa James talks to Jean Smith, manager of the Falkirk branch of The Co-operative Travel, winner of Travel Weekly’s Agent Excellence Award for Best Manager, Large Agency, Scotland

Jean Smith, manager of The Co-operative Travel Falkirk

Jean Smith loves her job so much that she even pops into the branch on her day off to make sure everyone’s okay.

Not that she’s spying on her staff of six. “They know it’s not that I don’t trust them – I absolutely do,” said Jean, who is manager of The Co-operative Travel’s Falkirk branch. “But I want them to know that if they need me, I’m there for them.”

It’s this commitment to her team and her job that has led to the Falkirk agency becoming the top-performing The Co-operative Travel branch in Scotland, and earned Jean a nomination for Travel Weekly’s Agent Excellence Awards by her regional manager, Caroline Clark.

Caroline, who has worked with Jean for 12 years, described her as a dynamic manager.

“Jean combines her excellent management skills with her knowledge of the locality and the travel industry to ensure she and her team provide the very best service and price in Falkirk. 

“She also concentrates on what extra profit could be made from upselling and embracing dynamic packaging. Her strength and determination have rubbed off on the team members, who are proud to work at such a special branch.”

Caroline said Jean is always looking at new ventures and ideas to expand the business. She holds regular events for clients, has a stand at local holiday shows, ensures she has eye-catching window displays and, over the past few years, the shop has become well known as a cruise and tailor-made specialist.

Although Jean, who joined the Falkirk branch 12 years ago, worked her way up to regional manager, she chose to return to the shop front. It’s a move she does not regret.

“Selling is where I want to be and where I excel,” said Jean. “I love being in charge of the team. They have all got different skills and personalities, but they all work well together.”

Being nominated for the Travel Weekly Agent Excellence Award was a big honour.

She said: “It is lovely just to be nominated, and to know that your boss thinks highly of you. To actually win was a dream come true – I was gobsmacked.”

Getting to know you: Jean Smith

What’s your favourite destination?

Anywhere on a cruise ship, as you get to see so many fantastic places in one holiday while getting pampered along the way.

Where would you like to go next?

New York for some Christmas shopping, as I am a bit of a shopaholic and could spend hours in the fabulous shops as well as visiting all the amazing sights.

What’s your best booking?

A round-the-world cruise for a couple who just came into the branch to buy some euros.

What makes a great agency?

A great team of people who are passionate about what they do and committed to putting customers first.

What’s your next career step?

Having already done the regional manager role and come back into the branch, I have no desire to move anywhere. I love the job I’m doing right now and am privileged to work with a fantastic team.

Jean’s tips for travel agency managers

  • Be passionate about what you do and lead by example.

  • Be consistent in your approach.

  • Give lots of praise.

  • Understand your team and what incentivises them.

  • Say thank you often – without my team, my branch would not be the success it is.

The 2008 Agent Excellence Awards