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Great post, Bret.  I can imagine some of the difficulties of managing a small, but far-flung group such as yours.  I think you agenda was perfectly appropriate.  While brainstorming ideas for the future is essential, with your almost unique business model, social integration time is time well spent.  As the leader, it is essential that you get to know your staff much better than  an email presence or telephone voice.  I can imagine that the logistics were difficult and expensive, but you've likely already discovered the unmeasurable value.  Best wishes.  

1 year, 4 months ago on In the Trenches: Setting the Agenda

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Nice story, but... the operative phrase seems to be "...cannot be made to..."  Face the facts, boys and girls, Flag Officers but never issue direct orders to their enlisted assistants.  Rather, the express wishes.  Any enlisted aid who wishes to keep his/her job, is most attentive to those whispered wishes, whether it be how the underwear is folded, when the cleaning is picked up and how that non-entraining martini is made.  That the top officer (and his Mrs.) handle all of the on-official details themselves is absolute bull shit.  And as for the "upstairs" routines, you can bet your pocket money that 1) Mr. And Mrs. Admiral Mullen did not employ private, outside help and 2) Mrs. Admiral Mullen did not personally change the linens on Mr. Admiral's bed!  Get a grip!  

1 year, 11 months ago on Why Mullen had cooks at his house | The E-Ring

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Great article, Brett.  In my view, the MOST important point  is KNOWING your clients and their travel-related details.  Everything.  How a travel professional got into your system without your firm's learing that they held elite status on that airline is beyond my understanding.  You and your associates have learned a valuable lesson via this example, but the broader questions remain open.  In your situation, the initial intake of a new client should include every scap of treavel-related detail about that client, including not just personal preferances, but frequent flyer acccount numbers and even crredit card numbers.  Some clients may be put off by revealing that much personal detail and perhaps it might take two interviews to collect everything.  In a crunch, when your services aree REALLY needed, you and the cl ient should not be wasting valuable time swapping account numbers, but making the calls necessary to execute Plan B, or, in the case of the client, racing to a different gate.  When everything works as it should, you will have a Plan B waiting, and before your client is even aware that there is a problem.  Your is an impressive service, on that I think of as insurance.  Best wished for continued growth and success. 

2 years, 1 month ago on In the Trenches: Getting Feedback from Partners

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Spot on!  Your personal effort should remain on growing your business - and training your employees to do the functional work - and without compromising the service.  You ARE on the right path and I'm sure that your business will grow.  Slow  growth i s not a bad thing, especially when the results are solid over time.  No need to rush.  If you are able to fund the growth from income and earnings, so much the better - as you retain absolute control.  For a first generation business, especially in the 'service' industry, this is far more important than you know.  If you've got a good product (you do) enhance it and become the best (you are very close).  I enjoy reading about your successes and your slow, steady growth.  Keep up the good work and please, keep us posted!!

As noted in other posts, I use a different assistant group and I believe in loyalty.  When/if I need to change, I come to Cranky.  The regular posts about your business and how you have developed it over a few years are not really advertising, but they have a similar effect; I know who you are, I know what you do, I know that you are deadly seriouious about bith service and growing your small business.  You have a few competitors, but not many are as serious about both service and modest growth as you are.  If I need a change, Cranky will be my choice.  Best regards, -C.

2 years, 1 month ago on In the Trenches: Making the Case for a Full-Time Employee

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 @AXXel Knutson

 Oh, not so.  Some, even most recognize an excellent service when they see it and a re quite happy to pay a fair price for same.  I don't currently need Cranky's services, but if I did, perhaps flying a very unusual itinerary or during a period of known bad weather, I'd pony up the bucks in a flash.  My expectation is that his troops would use all of their contacts and resources to keep me moving, but not perfection.  Short of some gross screw up - like repeatedly not answering the phone or sending me to the wrong destination, I **cannot imagine** asking for a refund.  Relationships like what this small business offers are built on trust - and that is a two-way street.  Their responsibility is noted above.  Mine is to pay their fee and to not play them against other similar services, for whatever purpose.  (If I had time to play one against another, then I'd have time to do all of the detail work myself.)  All customers are NOT nuts.  The vast majority are honest folks, seeking a product or service and *very happy* to pay for same. -C.

2 years, 7 months ago on In the Trenches: Our Money Back Guarantee

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Amen!

2 years, 7 months ago on In the Trenches: Our Money Back Guarantee

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I'm always sorry to read notes like this, posted by agents who are doing thier very best to offer a valualbe, quality service.  It must be doubly difficult for you employee, the one who did the leg work.  Still, I believe that a reasonable MBG is necessary in a business like yours.  The rare thug will open an encounter intending to screw you, but y ou should be able to weed-out most of them.  For very busy folks or an inexperienced traveller, your services are worth far more than their cost.  In the end, you last sentence got it exactly right: "...just the cost of doing business."  Hold your head high, march with pride and attend to that next client's needs. 

2 years, 7 months ago on In the Trenches: Our Money Back Guarantee

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