There is an army of support staff at Not Just Travel’s head office, which helps its franchisees focus on selling holidays. Benjamin Coren paid them a visit.
People from all manner of backgrounds come to Not Just Travel’s Bournemouth headquarters to complete their training before venturing out into the world of travel selling.
Maureen Savage, a new travel consultant from Glasgow is on her final day of the week-long training at the centre, where 42 support staff work.
She joins from a background in travel having worked for Thomson and British Airways as cabin crew. “I eventually decided I wanted to work for myself and after a lot of research, Not Just Travel really stood out for me,” she says.
Every recruit – whether they have experience selling travel or not – comes to head office to train after their initial investment, which can range from £11,000 to £30,000. When Travel Weekly visits, there are nine people finishing the programme. Classes can be a maximum of 10 and sessions are held every three weeks.
Maureen is one of many recruits – all owners of their own businesses – who walk through the doors of the company, built by Steve Witt and Paul Harrison.
The duo met in 2008 after investing in a property company selling and letting apartments in Spain, but this came just as the recession hit and both lost “a lot of money”. In 2010, they began Not Just Travel and The Travel Franchise and in 2013, it quickly grew to 150 franchisees and now has more than 600 agents.
Behind the doors of the headquarters are the people working behind Not Just Travel’s homeworkers, or ‘travel consultants’. The operations teams here assists them in the day-to day admin, enabling them to focus on selling.
Witt said: “We provide the extra tools to help them grow their business. We’re creating entrepreneurs. More than 90% of the people who join Not Just Travel are not from within the travel business. When they sign up, they are required to do online training and then they come here for a week’s residential training.
“We guide them through their first six weeks out there, and after that they have a mentor.”
The mentor is someone who has been in the business for at least four years. They help with everything from sales techniques to finalising bookings, and offer support seven days a week.
Lorna Brown leads the operations and bookings team, which processes bookings and liaises with consultants if there are errors – and provides support via WhatsApp.
Consultants who make the most bookings – NJT’s top seller turned over £2.2 million in the last financial year – have a dedicated member of the support staff to help them with things such as paperwork and admin. Witt adds: “Some consultants can do as much business as an entire high street branch.”
There is also a team that looks after the back-end of bookings, ensuring everything runs smoothly, and is headed up by Pilvi Pirinen. She said: “We catch anything that needs more attention. This could range from upgrading seats on flights to cancellations, [or] any amendments. We try to make the travel consultant’s life easy.”
The marketing team works on franchisee recruitment and with suppliers to source deals. It runs 10 training events in the UK each year and organises Not Just Travel’s Millionaire’s Retreat, which involves 100 franchisees travelling to a luxury destination for a networking event.
“We do two [retreats] a year at the moment. The last one was to Portugal where we took out 102 people,” Witt says. “Everyone goes on at least one and that’s when we see their businesses skyrocket. It’s an opportunity to get their feet under the table and we have a host of speakers.”
The accounts and finance team ensures consultants are paid their commission. Consultants, usually self-employed, are educated on VAT and tax, but the team ensures everyone knows what they need. Heading up the legal and compliance team is NJT’s longest-serving member of staff, Claire Smith.
The sales team helps consultants close sales. Witt said: “We have a mixture of travel consultants, some are full-time and some are part-time, so the team here can help if they can’t commit all their time. One consultant could bring a lot of sales in and will need help from the team to finalise them all.”
Up close and personal
Elaine Clark, head of training and onboarding
I joined… two years ago, but I’ve been in travel for 20 years. I started as a sales manager for Co-operative Travel in Plymouth and after 10 years went to a Virgin Holidays concession in Milton Keynes.
I really enjoy… providing sales training as a lot of trainees don’t have any. It’s nice to see people who have a passion for travel and to see them be successful.
I love travelling to… Las Vegas because it’s not real, I can watch Elvis walk down the road with a Transformer.
Claire Smith, head of legal and compliance
I joined… about 10 years ago. I’ve been here from the very beginning and I’ve seen it grow.
I really enjoy… how no day is the same. Every day something changes and I think “wow, that was quick”. In the beginning, things were slow then it all took off.
I love travelling to… New York, it’s so big and I am obsessed with taking photos of buildings. It’s like London on a bigger scale.
Ben’s day at Not Just Travel
Not Just Travel is on the up with more than 700 people signed up to its programme and is currently recruiting at head office. The office space is
huge, with Steve Witt and Claire Smith, who have been there from the start, comparing the early days of being in one room, to today in nine rooms across two floors.
I was struck by the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes at Not Just Travel’s headquarters to help all their consultants focus on selling holidays and
ensuring they are at the top of their game.
It was great to be able to meet nine new recruits on their training day and talk to them about their training, finding out where they had come from and discovering their passions for travel.
Stressing a continued investment in Not Just Travel’s people, co-founder Paul Harrison said: “The level of investment we put in people is to get them over that fear and initial lack of belief, and once we do, we see them fly.”