Doing Sports Travel Right, with Jay Smith

Episode 102

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Jay has been in the travel industry since 1974, beginning his career operating camping programs for students throughout North America. Jay moved to Massachusetts in 1987 with his family and shortly after started up Sports Travel and Tours. The business first began with group trips primarily for baseball and expanded quickly to include most other major sports. The business has a specific niche, tapping into the passion of the sports fan experiencing games and events live. Jay also serves on the executive committee of NTA, where he has served in a number of capacities, including board chair. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jay Smith about the importance of seemingly random conversations and just being willing to talk to people. Opportunities abound when you are open to a conversation. You never know where those casual chats might lead. Jay has built a thriving travel business on this simple principle. What You Will Learn:
  • The beauty of TTP and TTMP (Talk To People, then Talk To More People)
  • How to exceed people’s expectations so they return to your service
  • Diversifying to weather changes in the market
  • Learning how to get to “yes”
  • Using co-opetition to play to your strengths and let others play to theirs

How to Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

For Jay, being in the right place at the right time has played a big role in his career. But being there is just half the equation. As I was glad to point out, if you work hard, you’ll be lucky. If you’re in the right place but don’t strike up that conversation and then follow through – opportunity can be lost. This is a people business – so whether the opportunity is with potential guests, other players in your market, or DMOs – connecting with people and exploring the potential for working together is the name of the game.

Getting to Yes

Jay’s business has a great relationship with the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, they are the official travel company of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But that didn’t just happen. Jay didn’t call up people in Cooperstown and get that gig. He developed a relationship over time, and gently but persistently did not take “no” for an answer. That’s what it takes sometimes to get to “Yes.”


Intro: 00:00 Welcome, you’ve arrived at destination on the left with Nicole Mahoney, learn from the experience of travel and tourism experts who use collaboration and creativity to attract more visitors, strengthen their marketing programs, and reimagine how their industry does business. Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on time.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 The left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry. That is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Jay Smith. Jay has been in the travel industry since 1974, beginning his career operating camping programs for students throughout North America. Jay moved to Massachusetts in 1987 with his family and shortly after started up sports travel and tours. The business first began with group trips primarily for baseball and expanded rather quickly to include most all other major sports. The business has a specific niche tapping into the passion of the sports fan experience in games and events, live. Jay’s passion has always been to create and deliver programs that make other people happy. What an awesome passion. Jay, thank you so much for joining me. Oh, come on. Six or seven sentences is not enough to really know everything that Jay Smith has to share with us. Um, but I, I’d really like to have you expand a little bit about your own story and your journey. I find it gives so much more context for our listeners as we go through this conversation today.

Jay Smith: 01:41 Yeah. Starting out running camping trips for students throughout North America. I actually majored in Criminal Justice, heading towards probation work for juveniles, so I kind of still along those same lines except the juveniles as adults

Jay Smith: 02:00 them and keep them in place. My first entree into this whole industry, and little did I know it was actually in high school. We had a whole slew of kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old that we bought tickets to a concert and there were some people, some kids had driver’s license, some didn’t, some had cars, some didn’t. And I don’t. I have no idea what got me to do this, but I called up the local school bus company, a charter school bus, found out the rate and ended up walking around the cafeteria with the hat and asking people if you were going to the concert, the Nassau Coliseum, and you want to have a ride. It’s five bucks and everybody can throw a dollar in for the tip for the driver. Now, I wasn’t had a clue. I didn’t travel a lot as a kid. It didn’t go very far.

Jay Smith: 02:49 Guy named fly flying a plane until I was and did go on vacation, so I didn’t really have any background gratuities or any of that stuff, but somehow I walked around and collected five bucks from everybody and we ended up leaving from the center of town. People from both ends came together and we filled up. We filled up a school bus and headed to the concert and on the way back because everybody was starving because that’s what you are when you are still starving. Now at the end of it, back then [inaudible] 78. So I ended up giving the, the tip to the driver and said, what’s the chance of you stopping that Burger King or Mcdonald’s one or the other and, and Loganville a driver, you know, money talk back then and it still does today. We stopped for something to eat and that was my beginning beginning into this whole world of travel and I did not have a clue back then.

Jay Smith: 03:42 It’s not like I woke up one day and said, oh, I want to be in the, you know, travel industry. So that’s how I got started. And then the camping program was really, um, kind of almost by accident as well as most things in life are. I finished up college. It was working on a horse farm in May. And when a visit to my family ended up getting invited out for a quick beer. It was my birthday and a friend of mine said, Hey, can you take out for the, you know, for, for birthday drink. I was sitting next to some other guy that I didn’t really know. I knew who he was, but didn’t really know him very well at all. You happen to go to my high school and we started talking and long story short sound, let me about this incredible trip that he was taking for eight weeks around the country with kids, blah, blah blah, and I was like, wow, that sounds hard.

Jay Smith: 04:33 Awesome. I would love to do something like that. I haven’t got the summer, summer to do it. I was in college so he took my number I never thought would ever call me and he ended up. I was working part time at a drugstore in the town. I grew up. You took my number. He called the place up and he called me the next day and he said, you know, they have two slots left. This is the guy you need to call. And I ended up getting a leadership counselor type job on this trip. One thing led to the neck roll the clock forward a couple of years and I was heading out for another summer and happened to stop in the main office to find out what my assignment might be, be the person who started it all off. It was actually starting to grow in leaps and bounds because most programs back then, Nicole only ran hotel type programs for students.

Jay Smith: 05:24 They were not camping experiences other than outward bound type stuff. And um, the guy who said, you know what, we’re in our third year, I need some help, uh, do you have time for a cup of coffee before you head back to Maine? And three hours later and six cups of coffee, I was on my way back to Maine with an opportunity to get involved on a fulltime basis. And that’s pretty much been history since. And staying in this industry, it says, you had said it earlier, it’s, it’s, if you have to do something in life to be able to create fun for others, create smiles and happiness. If you got to do something in life, it’s a great. It’s a wonderful thing to do. Everybody in this industry knows how much work and effort that it takes to do that. And it’s not always necessarily fun, but the end result is definitely a fun product and it’s nice to always see smiles when that happens.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:17 I love that story and I love that it started with a concert bus. Kind of funny as you’re telling that story. My daughter did the same thing this past summer. Of course he used my credit card to rent the bus, but she almost turned a profit, but she had like four no shows, so she just broke even. But

Jay Smith: 06:41 who might be listening to this knows there are times where you put things out and it’s Mark Hoffman, the sports leagues or vacations coined a phrase years ago. I’ll never forget. And this is a business of passion business of making a ton of money.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:00 Oh, that’s awesome. So, um, I, I just, I love how it goes from, you know, the concert bus to the, um, to the camping camp counselor type of thing. And then you find your whole way kind of through your journey now owning your own business, sports, travel and tourism. Before we dive into the questions for our listeners’ sake, can you talk a little bit about sports travel and tours and exactly what your business is. I know we mentioned in the bio that it’s about sports, but it’s a lot more than that.

Jay Smith: 07:36 It’s mostly spectator sports. We do do some participatory, whether it be golf or things of that nature may once you coordinate what we all do, you pretty much can do anything. Um, but we, we have stayed into that niche of taking people to games and events. We have a couple of great partners that we work with. We’re the official travel company that National Baseball Hall of fame. We worked with the football hall of fame 10, 15 years or so. So we’re the provider for numerous or sports provider for numerous large AAA travel clubs that keeps consolidating. Um, so as far as the sports piece of the business, uh, the way that all happened, that was, you know, most things in life happen just right place right time. I was actually called by an acquaintance of mine years and years and years ago who was working in Manhattan and an advertising firm and I was actually running those camping trips and he, um, he had a question for me.

Jay Smith: 08:39 He said, you know, I got your name from a mutual friend and we’re doing a pitch for these sports books, uh, and we’re trying to get the Gig to promote these 10 sports books. It was with Simon and Schuster back then, and he said to me, do you think it’s possible to combine getting to games and events along with vacation? And I will never forget my line because this our work. I said, anything in this world is possible as long as you have time, the energy, some knowledge, and you need one more important thing is the money. I said, you can do anything. Uh, so again, roll the clock forward real quickly. We put together three itineraries on paper. I priced them all out, had them all done and there was an east coast, the West Coast and the Midwest program. He did the pitch with his company to work on this, uh, uh, the marketing of these books.

Jay Smith: 09:32 And part of the concept was to create a sports club and part of the sports club. What was the availability of taking these trips? Well, the company never bought into the whole concept. They love, they didn’t get the Gig and he called me back and said, you know, I’m really sorry that it put the time and effort into this thing, but they didn’t buy it or not doing it and thanks for your time. And I said, wow. I said, it’s all done already. I said, I haven’t had hotel contracts. I was all. It was all wrapped up and I said, do you have any, you got any time? And he said, well what are you talking about? So we talked it through real quick. He was the advertising side of things and I was the operational side of things. We were in two separate locations and the beer, we put three programs, we put just a, we had 99 people total amongst the three programs and that’s how sports traveling towards actually got it’s beginning. It was totally by a converse can totally just taken the opportunity to say let’s give it a shot. And it worked. Claim to fame out of all of them, the way we got that out the door with from a marketing and we were able to get a little itty bitty piece was about 10 lines in the back pages of playboy jumpstart. I won’t tell you what the picture was above the playboy.

Jay Smith: 10:56 That’s what actually got us the first pr that we were able to launch this thing and got us the numbers of people that we needed and that’s pretty much how sports traveling towards, you know, got, got its beginning steps.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:08 Wow, that’s awesome. I’m hearing a theme here because it’s all through conversations. You had the conversation with that with the high school friends and found out about this trip and you had a conversation, a lot of coffee with the Guidance Office by this conversation with the ad guy. That’s really awesome, but I think that’s a really good lesson, right? Because you never know where that conversation could lead you and being open to it and I’m willing to explore I think is probably key to what you’ve been able to accomplish it. That’s really great.

Jay Smith: 11:41 Anybody who may be listening in on this that may know me, I’ve said it many times in my life, don’t ever turn down a conversation because that’s how this stuff starts. That’s how everything works right place, right, and having some communication along the way. It’s the only. You can’t do it any other way. So I’ve been. I’ve been lucky, thankfully, very fortunate over the time,

Nicole Mahoney: 12:03 an event last night. It was a female leaders giving advice to young college students and one women said, work hard and you’ll be lucky, and I loved that because you really aren’t lucky. You work hard and there’s reason why you were able to have those conversations and luck doesn’t happen all by itself. You could attribute a little bit of that, but I don’t think so much

Jay Smith: 12:36 or a spouse or business partner. It’s always, you know, right place, right time for the most part. But I remember seeing. I remember listening to a motivational speaker years ago when he had a phrase, he said TTP and tmp. Okay. TTP was talk to people. The second part was p was talk to more people and that theme has stuck with me because that’s pretty much in this industry that we’re in, where we’re going to, when we’re in a people industry and, and it’s the hospitality world and you know, communicate and talk with folks. You’re not going to get very far.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:14 Awesome. Let’s dive in to the topic that we’d like to cover, which is creativity and I’m kind of understanding that the tourism and hospitality industry really is a competitive place. Um, and I’m wondering what you have done to help sports traveling towards standout from the crowd.

Jay Smith: 13:36 Tours obviously has its own niche. Just being in the travel industry and catering to sports games and events and bringing people’s. I think the one thing we hit is people’s passion in their heart. It’s one major difference between what we deliver and your standard want to call the standard type of a sightseeing or exploration or a hands on type of approach. It’s all experiences that everybody wants, but we’re really hitting either players love for a player or a team or something of that nature. What we have done within, we found some programming and niches within that niche. The rest of my competitors, I call them associates because it’s a fairly small fraternity, uh, and we do indeed periodically communicate with one another, have needs with one another to work with what other for hotel space or event x or whatever it may be. Um, so we found actually programming Nicole that other, the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily do, so we may still offer the said the big major events, the super bowls and the final fours and the Kentucky Derby Fund, Indy $500 and uh, the, the bowl games and things of that nature.

Jay Smith: 14:50 But we then ended up taking it one step further and just looked harder at what are other people not doing. So we’ll take our still our fair share of superbowl folks or bowl game people or certain games that people aren’t offering. But when, when, when the time came we were like, well, how can we negotiate all this? Keep, keep the numbers in check. So we’re also in our big major events. Our bigger competitors may be looking to bring 500 or a thousand people to a major event. We’re only looking to bring on ours. Yeah, a stronghold programs that we do the best with that nobody else is offering. That’s where we look for our bigger numbers. That’s pretty much how we have attempted to stand out from the crowd is offering, offering product that other people are not offering.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:42 That’s awesome. Can you provide an example of, of what that might be, where, where you find those kind of gaps, if you will?

Jay Smith: 15:50 Well, we, as we as an example, years ago we did run on a small base programs to go see the induction ceremonies for whether it be football or basketball or baseball or even hockey for that matter, to see that players that played their careers, the top, you know, dog so to speak, in their, uh, in their own domains. Okay. And on a yearly basis, there are induction ceremonies. They’re only once a year. There are more events than they are necessarily a game. Um, and we had run for a number of years, both more are for football and baseball. We had run our own program but not officially through the museums or the halls and at a point in time, I’ll never forget being with, oh, one of the point people now at the baseball hall of fame, he’s well up the chain at the stage in sponsorship, uh, end of things.

Jay Smith: 16:50 But I had said to him years and years ago, I looked at him straight in the face and I said, you know, it’s great that we have this working relationship. I appreciate all the effort that you put in and help us with. But before I leave this planet some day traveling towards needs to be hooked to the hip is the official travel licensed travel company, the National Baseball Hall of fame. It took us 10 years to get them to figure it out and work with us, which they did. And it’s been an amazing ride and an amazing relationship. We had the same thing with football hall of fame. We’ve done it with numerous other organizations along the same way. So that was just actually working, you know, working with people again, communicating to people and trying to continue to grow. Uh, okay, thought into something that was bigger and knowing that, that it could work, it just was not taking.

Jay Smith: 17:41 I think one key to in life is not taking no for an answer. And as you get more no’s, you’re getting closer to your yes. So keep on getting no’s and keep driving it. If you’re passionate enough about something, you just think it’s the right thing to do and it just takes time and effort to get other people to recognize that there is something, there’s something there, but people are all, you know, as you know, people are caught up. We’re all caught up in her own little world. So sometimes taking the time to actually, uh, listened to someone’s dream or listening to someone onset. So simple because they’re just not in the same thing. Everybody complains about it everyday. If we have any more diamond a day,

Nicole Mahoney: 18:26 you can take that lesson from a, you know, from any six year old. Never take no for an answer, just keep asking and asking.

Jay Smith: 18:38 Yeah, somewhere we do, we do. Along the way, you lose that. Again, I’ve found that some of the things that we are involved in or just the continued pursuit of, you know, attempting to continue to do our own programs better until the organizing bodies of, of what we were looking to join up with to work together better on an official basis, um, became reality that we work along with major league baseball, advanced media, uh, which is actually the governing body of work. All of the major league teams websites. You can’t do anything with any team and chill, you’re hooked to the hip. I’m with them. And it took us quite awhile to get the right contact. And when the time came we had to turn around a, we had to turn around all the documentation and everything we needed all within like two weeks. And the gentleman we worked along with on that particular project said, you jumped through, poops fast. I’ve been with this company with Major League Emmett’s called ml. Bam. I’ve been with ml, bam now for 15 years. I’ve never had any licensee do what you did and as quick a time as you did it. And at this point, he’s a great resource for us. We worked together famously at that point and now is an advocate for us when we moved to another project with another team, he works for us in order to be able to put the pieces together.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:09 That’s great. I think that’s really good learning lesson in that, you know, not only were you passionate and relentless about pursuing this, but once you got there, you demonstrated what a good, strong partner you would be right from the beginning, right at the gate.

Jay Smith: 20:28 That is a necessity. You have to literally, um, as far as I’m concerned, you have to jump through as fast and as quick as you can jump and make sure that you’re on top of it. Don’t drag your feet because, you know, it’s like anything else, it’s the impression that you leave and um, you people don’t necessarily have to, as I said, people don’t have the time to get it done on their own. And if you can work a system and work in their behalf to get it done a faster than they’re just going to look better on their side. Uh, you know, of what they are trying to support, um, you know, you with to begin with

Nicole Mahoney: 21:09 creativity. But I want to turn our thinking just a little bit. I love to ask my guests this next question which still has to do with creativity, but it’s really the creativity that comes from facing some sort of adversity or challenge. And I’m wondering if there is some adversity or challenge that you have faced over your career that you might share with us. And then kind of a creative solution that came, came from that,

Jay Smith: 21:37 you know, we’ve all experienced, unfortunately the downturn in the economy. We’re in the leisure travel industry for all of us as well as ourselves. The um, and the corporate dollars as well tended to dry up. People pulled back. We also face periodically. It hasn’t been in quite some time, but we’re dealing with the sports market in big league sports and every now and then players and slash or the, yeah, owners get to an impasse and they’re strikes and then all of a sudden you have a program out there that’s ready to go and there’s a strike on. Then there’s no game over, so we, for ourselves actually in order to be able to end that hasn’t indeed had both of these. Obviously both those things happened that we had a strike back in 1994 with baseball. There was numerous outages where people walked out and didn’t play for some certain amount of games.

Jay Smith: 22:38 So we’ve set ourselves by actually diversifying our program. Uh, we have, you know, I don’t put all of our, all of our, um, balls in one bucket so to speak. So if something does indeed sour in a given year, which sometimes that happens, you know, we had a couple of years ago with a, here we are, the official travel company, the baseball hall of fame, doing, you know, running 20, sometimes 20 slash 25 bus loads of people into a, a Cooperstown, uh, you know, for the, uh, for three, four, five day induction. And they always, there was nobody in ducted except for a couple of historical guys. And there was no, there was a ceremony, but there was nobody, there was no fans do come to cheer there. She had their player on a. So we had to be creative with a couple of other programs. We only did one or two departures that year and how to work around those.

Jay Smith: 23:31 So ways you really have to work hard eliminating the, the downside all in one type of a program and to be able to have different, you know, different buckets out there. The economy obviously was most difficult for everybody. We had to cut back and work a little smarter and you know, one on the outside. Once the economy turned around, although we did not grow back and leaps and bounds to where we were by working a little smarter and working a little harder and shipping in, talking internally and the programming that we did and do now, we actually came out stronger on the other end. We actually have better profits now on less revenue than we did in 2008 and 2009,

Nicole Mahoney: 24:18 which is always a bit that. Yeah, that’s definitely a good thing. And, and I think those are some really good examples because when those types of challenges present themselves, it does give you an opportunity to take a look. How can I, you know, kind of insulate myself from, from impacts from these types of things. And um, and I, and I love that you came out of that downturn smarter and more efficient and more profitable in the end.

Jay Smith: 24:43 Yeah. There are programs that we did that I don’t do as an example. We do know day trips anymore. Totally got ready to date the only. We have one actually I shouldn’t say totally. We have one locally. We have very little local business to our business. Yeah, based here we’re based in Massachusetts, but our client is all over North America, all over the world. Rarely, but for the most part North America. Um, and the only thing we do locally is we have a bus load to every home. Patriot game is he only day trips that we offer. We used to do 30, 40, 50 scripts a season for different sports. And I actually hired a, a, a finance guru. He came in and literally ripped apart the business down to the penny and we came to grips and said, you know, what, it nets out the percentage of profit, but the actual raw dollar that is left at the table for the amount of effort, but this is just not worth the time and effort that goes into it, especially on a retail basis versus a whole group buying program. A would that we would still do with a law firm or car dealership wants a whole bus load for one day with check in one entry versus building a one day trip. We don’t do day trips anymore and that was a major benefit of not taking that time and effort and putting it into programs that are just, you know, better.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:07 Yeah. That’s a, that’s a really great illustration of how that all works. Um, I’m wondering, Jay, um, who, who are your buyers? You mentioned the retail and I know a lot of what you do is retail where, where do you find your, your customers, you mentioned they’re all over North America.

Jay Smith: 26:22 Well, where do we find them or how do we find them? Where do we find them? We’re dealing obviously with a finite market, even though it’s large, it’s obviously the general sports fan in their families or a significant others, you know, as we tell people to period, you may have two people in a household and one is not the biggest than the other, but the games that we’re going to only three hours of a day. So if you’re in New York or Chicago or San Francisco or city in the country and even though you’re traveling and you’re not necessarily into that sport or game, well you know what, you’re in a great city in it. We always do stay in general city center hotels. So you know what, you either give it up for the three hours that the game is on or if you decide you want to go to a show or do something else, that’s okay too.

Jay Smith: 27:12 Because we sell flexibility and the other family member doesn’t have to necessarily participate in that particular game or event if they would prefer not to. Um, so our travelers are, are pretty far and wide. I mean, it’s, um, it really is a, you know, from eight to 80 and all in between an economically as well. We have people who know the affordability factor is there and then we have other people who sometimes will, will come with us and it’s eight or 10 years later and they said, you know what? I went, yeah, 10 years ago. I loved what we did and we’ve been saving ever since because we wanted to do it again. And there’s that side of the spectrum as well. Then, you know, the one thing we know for sure is that for the most part, the, the people who do travel with us obviously liked to either be like to go to that game or event or enshrinement. I really appreciate the and have the passion for the sport that they’re going for.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:09 Is there something that you are working on now? I’m looking into the future project that you might be really excited about actually expanding

Jay Smith: 28:19 product a little bit. Um, in the last couple of years we found that for years we were very happy when we found that we were running a, uh, in an industry, generally has eight, 10, 12, or 14 percent return rate of travelers. And that statistically in this industry is, is uh, is, is the, what’s the research shows. We were always hitting over 40 percent and in the last like six, seven years, we’ve been hitting 70 percent. So our travelers that come with us like what we do once we can whet their appetite because we do combine their passion with vacation. So it’s not always about the game or the sport. There’s time spent in the cities that we include other attractions, you know, if we’re in New York, we may go to Broadway, we were in St Louis. We may set up a, an excursion to the St Louis Arch or something of that nature that adds on the flavor of that particular city.

Jay Smith: 29:15 But we are finding that because people do like us and like what we do and the detail behind it, we now started expanding. Uh, and we’ve had a program a couple of years ago that was a Cuban baseball experience that we bought people to Cuba and had a, uh, not only games there, but we had a couple of the um, sports figures we had like the, um, if I said the name, it wouldn’t matter very much, but we had to mickey mantle of Cuban baseball. We had been then Derek jeter of Cuban baseball and we had the Walter to the history of, of the actually sports which very large baseball in Cuba anyway. Uh, and he actually joined us not only for an afternoon and a lunch, but he was so intrigued to the group. He invited us back to his apartment. We spent two hours sitting in his living room.

Jay Smith: 30:09 He was taken out photo albums. And so we’ve expanded our domestic program with some more international type availability. We’re doing a, um, a, a Japanese cultural experience to Japan that will include in some of the Nippon Baseball Games along with actually next year, Major League baseball is opening in Tokyo. And then we also are in a couple of weeks. We have a program that’s going to the Dominican Republic, we are taking our core group of travelers who have loved us and although we do take new people on those programs to uh, we are expanding the brand a little bit and adding on a couple of these other additional exciting programs that we personally have not necessarily always been too, but with lots of partnerships and being a partner in tap travel alliance partners, we’ve got a, the availability of pretty much offering the world. So with pulling in partners in working these programs together, it really works either well to expand some of the things that we’ve already been involved in.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:14 Sounds really exciting actually. Um, I had heard about the Japan program before and that sounded like a lot of fun, but the Cuban one sounded. It sounds really interesting too. So those all sound very exciting. And that was a perfect segue to my next topic which is on collaboration because you started to talk about how you collaborate with partners. One of the things I really like to explore is this whole idea of coopertition, which you’ve also mentioned already in our conversation, which is where competitors come together to create a wins bigger than what they can do on their own. So I’m wondering if you can elaborate a little bit and how you use collaboration in that way.

Jay Smith: 31:59 Well, I saw the handwriting on the wall, but we also do, other than our tour program, we do a lot of fit, as we call it now, flexible independent travel. Over half of our business actually is independent travel where we do the same thing as we do for group, except people go out on an individual basis, so we’ll ask them the questions of where do you want to go, how many ones, how many, how long, what type of hotel, what type of game tickets and this all this actually came about years ago. Somebody skip it, gave us a call after they had heard from there relative what a great experience they had on one of our trips and they came back and said, you know, we’re interested in going to see the Black Hawks play on a Friday night. The Bulls are in town on Saturday and the bears were in town on Sunday.

Jay Smith: 32:49 What kind of trip or we couldn’t offer every single game an event as a tour program and that’s how the independent travel all came about, so we started customizing programs. The normal travel agent might, but we put the sports tickets together and back then we did need a little bit more a reach for some of our partners to be able to offer more of these products to some of the Games and sports were not necessarily in our wheelhouse and I will never forget, it was an nta article that was written in. I actually was the main folk in the discussion and it was. It was an article on partnering and this was before partnering became a thing. This was prior to map. This was prior to people working in. Everybody was always, you know, I’m not going to share my clientele, my information with you.

Jay Smith: 33:41 I don’t want to. Meanwhile, with, with a website the information you’re giving everybody already, I’ve had conversation with people. What, why would you hide information? I said I can go online and go to any attraction place, find out who the point person is for that particular experience, give them a call and get the same identical information is already, you know, doing within your program. So partnering was going to be in necessity. I saw the handwriting on the wall way before it became a popular concept to do and it in this day and age, um, it’s just a necessity. People have certain expertise in certain, uh, in certain places and certain things and it’s extremely worthwhile obviously to tap their expertise. So, you know, I tell my office staff this all the time, if somebody in the office can do something in three minutes, that would take you 23 minutes, why not do it in three minutes?

Jay Smith: 34:41 Well, it’s the same thing if I have a partner that’s got some experience in a certain place or can coordinate something and you know, in a program and in a day that’s going to take me a week, why not use them for the day a, yes, you’re going to have to give a small piece of the pie up in order to be able to do that from a finance perspective. But how much more time are you saving on the back end by using that partner that you can explore and do other things. So it, uh, you know, partnering for me in regards to even my deemos and suppliers out there, I would not be able to keep in business without my dmo and suppliers. I mean they are worth all the rice in China, so to speak. Uh, it’s just tapping into the resources for any tour operator or travel planner that does not use deemos and suppliers, you got to be not because it’s from my perspective did my whole business is driven by those relationships. My staff comes to you with a question and I can immediately say, call this one or this one will go to this for the resource and what may take them days to research. I can make one phone call, one email and get the information that they need. Uh, and it’s just amazing. I would say the industry is just great and the suppliers and deemos out in the world who work hard and care to really important comment there.

Jay Smith: 36:10 Oh, are worth their weight in gold.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:13 Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Um, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about the product that you sell, but you do need those suppliers in order to put that product together. And I liked how you kind of talk about, you know, how important they are and how timesaving uh, and that, that’s, I mean, that’s worth money to your bottom line, right? Because then you can work on more profitable

Jay Smith: 36:41 that way unfortunately. And it’s also important to engage yourself in the industry from whether it be conferences or you know, out on your own travels. If you go into a conference, I usually will always add on a pre and a post to whatever I do a day and stop in and say hello to my suppliers. If they’re in the area that I can match a voice and a face and an eyeball to eyeball. Nothing’s ever. Electronics is great. Emails are wonderful. Everything in the world that we deal with at this point is just fascinating, but there’s nothing ever going to replace eyeballs, eyeballs, a smile and a smile and a hug and a handshake ever more that you can stay on top of that. The better off you are and your relationships without a doubt.

Nicole Mahoney: 37:31 I think that’s really great advice. Well, Jay, this has been a really fascinating conversation is I knew it would be and we. We actually pulled out so many golden nuggets, if you will. I love this ttp and t, t e, m p. I think I’m going to write that up and put it in my office for my team to talk to people and talk to more people. I love that.

Jay Smith: 37:56 It was from a gentleman. I forget his name. His name is Willie Jolley,

Nicole Mahoney: 38:00 Willie Jolley,

Jay Smith: 38:03 great guy, great speaker, incredible motivation. I think it was in an MTA years ago and I’ll never forget him because those, those things stuck in my stomach, in my life.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:15 That’s awesome. Well, and then they’ve worked for you over and over again. I think that if there’s one theme that came out of our conversation, it is to have a conversation and see where it leads. So I think that’s really, really awesome. Before we say goodbye, is there any final parting words that you’d like to share with our listeners that you wanted to say that maybe I didn’t ask you about?

Jay Smith: 38:38 No, I think in in a short period of time we did it rather quickly. I think it’s, you know, work work, work hard, work smart and use your resources and the end result of all of that is, is for all of us do your job and unfortunately in the world that we’re living, I’d say my, one of my biggest frustrations now is having to double back when people are not doing their jobs and that comes from either outcomes even on the supplier and Dmo side is that there are people, you know, we’re all so just jam with time and lack of it and it’s sometimes difficult when you don’t hear back from people and people are not following it through and it’s just becoming necessary task management system that we have. We date, date, date again and comes back to just a reminder to be able to it. It’s frustrating always. You want to actually send some money for something and you have to actually contact them to send them money. So I’d say in a closing theme is, is for anybody listening, you do your job, exceed expectations and that is just a huge focus at this day and age because that’s something sometimes.

Nicole Mahoney: 39:48 Yeah, that’s a great way to close out exceeding expectations and Jay, um, I’d say you’ve exceeded our expectations with this conversation. I really appreciate your time and we’ll look forward to talking with you again.

Jay Smith: 40:00 Okay, got it. And have a great afternoon.

Outro: 40:01 Bye. Bye. It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the left on Tom. During your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

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