One of my most frequent pieces of advice to new owners, new agents, new entrepreneurs:
Guard yourself & don't grow TOO FAST!
While I call myself a "Disney Travel Agency Owner" in the title of this series, it's important you know there is NO such thing! I own an agency which specializes in Disney Destinations & Cruises. Much like we grab a "kleenex" when we really mean tissues, "Disney Travel Agent" is a part of the venacular. I invite you to read all about why using an agency which claims to be a part of, employed by or otherwise on the inside track with Disney is a bad idea. LATER! First, read the rest of this article. I wrote it just for you.
Over the years, I've found out time and again all that really stands between me and success is showing up.
Seriously - just show up & you're ahead of almost everyone else competing against you. JUST SHOW UP!
Another item I've learned and relearned and relearned as I've looked around me: Those of us who are WILLING TO FAIL when we are TRYING NEW THINGS, well......there is really no stopping us.
And since I showed up & I tried new things, then when I failed I still chose to get up and keep on trying, I succeeded.
I succeeded BIG and FAST. Crazy level fast. I went from 3 families traveling in one year, for my one trip, to over 300 traveling in our group to Walt Disney World. I experienced my first Free Dining Modification day & this time, I was ready. Or, at least I thought I was. You see, I had a plan. I had a greater purpose. I had a need to succeed & prove to myself that I could. Plus, wasn't I doing a service, in providing this trip for families who didn't think they could afford a trip to Walt Disney World? Wasn't I doing amazing things, providing half of all the commission that came in to a local charity that took care of children who were sexually assaulted? Heck, Yeah I was!
Did you know, you can't drain all your resources at the same time & have anything left to give? Of course, you do. We ALL do. It's one thing to know this & another thing entirely to live it well. I did not live it well, when I started riding my wave of success. I kept pulling from my emotional energy, my spiritual energy & then one day..... there was nothing there. I had nothing left. It hit me like a blast of dynamite. Yes, even my failures like to think BIG!
I'd stayed up too many hours without catching up my sleep, worked too many late nights solving problems, then I always woke early to mother my 3 little children. I'd spent too many conversations brainstorming with my husband, and not enough showing love to my husband.
I was up late one night, after the most important people in my life had all gone to sleep. Again. The house felt so quiet and lonely, in a way that it only can when you have too many hours of work ahead of you and nothing to look forward to but more work, followed by more work, with no end in sight. I had managed to rob myself of all the joy of my success.
CUE THE TEARS
In my quiet kitchen, I reached into my never-ending bags of emotional resources, physical resources & spiritual resources.
Every single one came up empty. Completely empty.
I sat there, in my quiet kitchen with my little office nook, and I cried. I cried the tears of a woman lost in the mess she has created. I sobbed.
Then I woke up David.
Do you do that? Wake your best friend from a sound sleep, when you have an epiphany or a breakdown? I do. My best friend is my husband, David, which made it very convenient. I still remember how he looked, when I woke him up. As a firefighter, sleep is precious and I typically guard his with the jealousy of a lion. Not this night, though. This night, I was the one stealing his sleep.
As he sat up, turned on the light & worked to listen, I was reminded how David loved our company from the moment we opened our doors. His love had grown, year after year. And here was his wife - the founder and visionary - telling him she just couldn't do it, anymore. She was empty. She needed to stop.
David said No. He was determined not to let my dream die.
Yes, my pots were empty, but his weren't. I hadn't ever asked him for help, except for processing the massive pile of final papers right before we traveled each September. He reminded me of this, and he also reminded me I had asked some people for help. What about them?
My Hosts - Amy, Kim, Charlene & Denise
When our group grew to over 400 in just 2 years, I realized I couldn't adequately greet and care for each one at our meets onsite, and I'd asked some of our most loyal clients to step up and help me host. I bought them light up crowns and compensated them as best I could. And of these hosts, I had a few that truly impressed me.
I wrote these amazing souls an email. I accidentally included some hosts that had not done a good job onsite, showing up late & causing drama and chaos, but that's a story for another post. Today, we'll focus on the 4 who did step up and help me with my next chapter. To my great relief & joy, they ALL accepted! I could write 100 posts about these women & all they've done for me, and I will. For now, let's find out how I failed next, shall we?
Have you picked up on my constant theme? I hope it makes you feel better about yourself - truly, I do. We ALL fail if we ever plan to succeed. If you have failed, join the club! The HUGE club!
As my life seemed to be coming back together from its' unrivaled state, I began to have bursts of energy to complete other projects. One day, while David was at the station, I dealt with a very messy & physically intense project outside in the Texas heat. No, I didn't get heatstroke. I've lived here most of my life & know how to avoid that one. What I didn't realize was I had a health issue bubbling up & I didn't know it.
Apparently, you can get so many gallstones they pile on top of one another and turn into a sort of (I'm going to apologize for this word before you read it) sludge....... I'd been to the dr. & they'd done a sonogram of my gall bladder to see why I was having strange pains, but the sonogram was clear. Why? Because my entire gall bladder was full. You couldn't see the stones, because my body had already broken them down into this (again, I'm sorry) sludge.
When you don't know this is happening, the sludge begins to leak into your pancreas & the poor pancreas is so confused, it does something truly horrifying. Your pancreas will begin to digest itself. Yeah, you heard me. My body began to consume itself. And guess what, the pain is worse than having a child without anesthesia. So much worse. It's called pancreatitis & when they figured out how bad off I was, it was 2 surgeries and a long stint in ICU for me.
Besides the fact that stress and eating badly had contributed to this illness that had me in ICU for so long, I had also managed to create
another problem during the transition of booking so many clients to taking these same clients and passing them to the new, Fabulous 4 ladies who'd agreed to help me regain my sanity. Namely, I didn't pass any.
I was terrified to give up my precious clients. I took such good care of them, how could anyone do the same? It took being in an ICU for me to finally reach out to Denise, who took care of everyone. She probably did a better job than I did, really! Learning to trust and delegate was obviously tough for me, but I'm proud to say I listened HARD to that difficult lesson & I don't micromanage my people. I'm never tempted to treat these amazing businesswomen as my employees or minions. They are powerful, incredibly people & they continue to prove it to me, every single day.
I'll be back in the new year with more confessions, including how many enemies I (accidentally) made as I grew, what it felt like to have our first real tastes of success and finally, what it's like to be an established owner with a supportive family & company of people. Spoiler Alert: I still fail BIG! In the meantime, click on the photos below if you missed the first 2 sections.