Key Notes On Travel sat down with mover-and-shaker Tammi Ruffini
to find out how this quick starter went from administrative support to
travel agency owner in just four-and-a-half short years.
Agency: Owner of Envision Travel, a Nexion Canada affiliate
Based out of: Port Williams, Nova Scotia
Years in the travel industry: 4.5
Although travel has been a part of Ruffini’s life, her journey to agency owner began in 2015 with a single cup of coffee.
“I worked in health care for over 24 years,” Ruffini says. “I always loved travel, but I never saw myself as an agent. There came a point when I was done [with health care]. My friend Deanna Byrne (the then-owner of The Destination Experts) reached out to me. We met over coffee and she asked if I’d be interested in a job working in head office with The Destination Experts. I started doing administrative work and after a month or so I said [to Byrne], ‘I think I should be trained if I’m going to be helping agents; I need to understand what they’re dealing with.’”
Following the training, Ruffini started selling part-time on evenings and weekends, while balancing life as a single mother of two.
BUSY HANDS FIND PLENTIFUL WORK
After two years in head office, Ruffini had another life-changing chat with Byrne – this time, over lunch. Byrne challenged her to service her clients full-time.
“I had to decide: stay at head office and not sell travel or take a jump and go full-time as an agent,” Ruffini recalls.
The risk of relinquishing a steady salary weighed heavily on her, but she credits the support of her (now) husband in helping make the switch.
“It’s just gotten busier from there,” she laughs.
This past July, Ruffini faced yet another critical decision. Her host agency – The Destination Experts – would be acquired by Nexion Canada. Should she transition to an independent home-based advisor or should she start an affiliate agency with Nexion? She chose the latter, recruited 12 of her favourite colleagues and got right to work branding her new venture: Envision Travel.
PAYING IT FORWARD
This September, Ruffini will visit Mexico on a FAM trip – but not as an attendee; instead, she will be leading it. She has travelled to Mexico a staggering 24 times (climbing to 26 by year-end) and one of those past trips includes her own wedding. No surprise, Mexico travel and destination weddings have become her niches. And because Ruffini salutes her own mentors in part for her success, she pays it forward by supporting new advisors. Over the course of 10 days, she will share her beloved Mexico with agents who sell the destination but have never been themselves. Ruffini is an agent’s agent.
EXCELLENCE OR BUST
She is also dedicated to her craft and values professionalism – which explains her biggest pet peeve: advisors who don’t come to the vocation for the right reasons; those who become advisors for affordable or free travel while selling passively to friends and family. Ruffini argues this hurts the profession in terms of customer perception, which only compounds the industry-wide challenge of “educating clients on our value and what we can do as advisors.” She explains, “Those types of things bother me, because if something goes wrong, it makes the travel agent title [look unprofessional].”
Despite the challenge of promoting the profession in a rapidly automating world, Ruffini is optimistic – and her sales, growing book of business and positive reviews serve as testament. “People are turning to travel advisors more and more,” she says. “It’s just a matter of continuing to educate people about our worth.”
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