When you talk to people attending a conference or industry event and you ask if they are having a good time, you expect to hear the participants talk about the content and what they are learning. And at the Book More Travel Workshop (BMTW) last week I heard lots of great things from the participants about the material presented from the stage. They loved what the speakers were sharing with them. And they got a lot out great information from the panelists who spoke about social media, fees, and groups.

But the thing that they all mentioned that I think even surprised them: the connections they were making with other people. You go to a conference expecting content, not community. But connecting with people is a huge benefit of being involved in industry organizations and participating in events.

I know there are a lot of you who cringe at the idea of going to an event with the intention of connecting with people. I promise you there are amazing agents out there who feel the same! Find one another! But don’t be afraid to connect with someone who pushes your boundaries a bit. It’s good to have someone who makes you stretch and see things in new ways.

Finding someone to fill this role will not only improve productivity and profitability, but morale as well. It is incredible to know that you have someone out there who understands and who has your back.  For many the connections made will be there for the entire year.

Before BMTW there were some agents I talked to who said, “It’s wave season, there is no way I can get away for two days.” And I totally understand how all-consuming wave season is. Sometimes it is hard to eat lunch, let alone leave for two days. But if you could take two days out of your year – just two days – that are guaranteed to make you more productive and profitable, wouldn’t you do it?

What if you met someone who was a great partner for you? Perhaps you share similar business philosophies or your niches are the same. Or maybe you just really click. This would be the kind of person you check in with on a regular basis. You keep in touch on social media, you Skype, or perhaps you are old school and actually talk on the phone! You have someone who not only supports you and your business like probably lots of your friends and family do, but they actually GET what you do, the challenges you face, and the opportunities ahead of you.

The bottom line is that we all need a community to thrive. No travel professional is as successful operating completely own their own as they would be if they had a great tribe or community.  So, you know it is important, but where do you find it?

You have probably attended industry events or perhaps even a consortia or host agency conference in the past and met people you really clicked with. Dig those business cards out and reach out to them. Schedule a 30-minute phone call or Skype session with them. Just reconnect with them.

Or perhaps you don’t have past connections to reach out to. So where can you find a community? Check with ASTA and see if there is a chapter in your area (if you are in NC, there is a newly re-launched chapter and I can share info with you). We would also love to have you join our sister education company, GIFTE (Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs). You will be able to connect with hundreds of travel professionals as well as tap into lots of great information. All for less than $20 a month.

Being part of travel agent groups on Facebook is popular for a lot of people, but you have to carefully vet those groups because some are better than others. But you also need “real” people that you can connect with on a deeper level. And no matter how supportive your friends and family are, there is nothing like having someone who works in the industry and knows the issues and even the inside jokes!

If you are an agent that is out there on your own, this is especially important. Those agents who choose to go it alone are walking a particularly difficult path because they have to be everything and do everything. For you to succeed, you have to have a great team surrounding you, whether that is an assistant (or more than one), employees, or just fellow travel pros who provide guidance and direction. (And if you wish you had an assistant and don’t think you can afford one, check out this video on how to give yourself a raise.)

Bottom line: it is a lot more rewarding and profitable to have a community to go on this entrepreneurial journey with you.

I challenge you to think about who makes up your travel agent community. Who do you look to for advice? For inspiration? For support when you’ve had something crappy happen? If you have trouble thinking of who these people are, this is your call to build your community. Make it a priority now so you are more successful – and happier – later!