3000 Miles and A Few Lessons Learned


By Justin Buchanon, Fire Starter Brands LLC

Have you ever taken a trip across the country, only to realize that you might have found a new opportunity that is both completely unexpected and refreshingly personal? This perfectly describes my adventure as the newest member of the Fire Starter Brands team, joining our sales mission to meet with tour operators in Chicago last week. With less than 10 days in the office, I had to hit the ground running.

Here's a taste of what I learned...

Having worked in a number of industries prior to making the leap to tourism, I was immediately struck by the sincere, supportive and dynamic relationships I saw between our team, clients and the operators we met. With so many destination, activity and supplier options, high volume travel planners rely on their relationships to help decide which vendors to use and places to visit.

As an attendee on this sales mission I was able to build personal relationships with highly respected motor coach operators, DMO representatives and the tour operator contacts we met. In addition to the actually sales calls, talking with other participants helped me learn that this industry has a lot to offer and one must be willing to be pro-active if they wish to see the rewards. A great example of that perseverance was when one of the program participants wasn't feeling so well as we walked into an appointment she'd been looking forward to. She didn’t let that stop her from reeling in her big fish. She walked away from that meeting with a new RFP from a company she'd been trying to work with for years. Watching our clients, mission leader and these operators build trust, rapport and new business connections inspired me to help others do the same. 

"You'd be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap!" - Dolly Parton

Making sure these sales missions run smoothly takes an incredible amount of work behind the scenes. We alert operators to our upcoming trips, send emails, make phone calls, generate specialized maps to identify our most efficient routes and qualify our operator network to ensure that each appointment will be beneficial to both the suppliers/DMO's attending and, as importantly, to the operators with whom we'll be seeing. Then our internal support team takes the lead in reconfirming appointments while our team on the road focuses on ensuring a smooth and seamless execution of the mission itinerary. It's not easy.

These sales missions are obviously an opportunity for operators to learn about new places to go and things do to from our clients directly, but they're also an opportunity for our program participants to explore these strategic markets. I was surprised to learn that our team thinks ahead to find great local restaurants for us to stop at for lunch, places where we could pick up fresh pastries for our earlier appointments and the most scenic routes so that we could enjoy the trip as much as we could generate new leads.

When you work with the right people, there will always be something to learn. Whether out on the field, during lunch at an amazing bistro, sneaking in a cocktail with clients before dinner or stuffing one's face with deep dish pizza, those moments help build the relationships that make this industry work.

It's one thing to know that Fire Starter Brands is leading the charge to help connect industry suppliers, DMO's and resource providers to more than 4,000 high volume travel planners; it's another to realize how personal this business is to those with whom I now work. To see the level of care, attention to detail, amazing relationships and sincere friendships that have developed from our work is really inspiring.