Robyn Flanagan, Wauchope Travel

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Robyn, you are the owner of Wauchope Travel, which is a member of HelloWorld, a leading Australian based travel agency. Can you tell us a little bit about your business’ history in the region?

We purchased Wauchope Travel in 2008, right at the start of the global financial crisis. It had been a Travelworld office and prior to that a
Harvey World Travel Office, and even prior to that a small local travel agency, so in some way or form we have been around for at least 45 years!  

There have certainly been big international changes that have affected the day-to-day running of our travel agency along the way; such as the Australian pilot strike, the global financial crisis, the advent of personal computers;
however, the basic premise behind our agency has not changed. It’s always been about helping people to have life changing experiences and to achieve their travel dreams. 

What do you love most about running your business?

What I love most about running this business is being able to deal with wonderful staff who have been so loyal to us over the years, as well as spending time with clients who are happy to be planning their exciting holiday. There are the odd times when we need to help someone travel for sad reasons, but mostly travel is a joyous purchase. Our customers are generally so pleased to be planning their holiday with their significant other or family, or perhaps heading off into the great unknown on their own.  

Booking with us means they are not really on their own though – they appreciate our support and contact throughout their journey.

My inspiration comes from those around me who run businesses and still have a life balance, particularly living in this beautiful area. I think you really do need to stop and smell the roses. I am always saddened when I see couples who always intended to travel, but suddenly are no longer able to. We are fortunate to travel to wonderful destinations and meet all sorts of people, but time and again it comes to me that there really is no place like home.

During your time as a business owner, what have your learnt about creating an environment where you can succeed?

You never really know what you are going to be dealing with, as each day is so different. One day it might be a huge European itinerary with cruises, flights, touring, hotels and all the detail in the world. The next might be a flight to Sydney to see a show or football match. The staff take a personal interest in why the customer is travelling, and we get caught up in the excitement of planning their journey. I attribute our success over time in business to our staff. They are the backbone of our agency. 

What do you think is the single most
important factor in running a successful regionally based business? 

Working in a regional area is a little different to working in a city. Here we get to know our clients personally. We know their family members and can often offer far more detailed advice, because we know their back story. We are involved in many local charities and groups and have a real sense of belonging in the area. We are also not restricted by a geographical boundary, as most of our clients contact us via email. We could be on the other side of the country or world and still be chatting to our clients by email or via Facebook.  

Have you experienced roadblock as a business owner? How have you overcome them?

One of the questions we are constantly asked is if the internet is hurting us. I think the answer varies from client to client. Some embrace it and learn from it, which helps them to be so much better informed, then they ask us to do the booking. Some ignore it and just leave their holiday planning up to us. Some people pick and choose what they are comfortable to book themselves, then they ask us to plan, book and organise the aspects of their holiday that they don’t feel comfortable doing themselves.  

It can be a daunting playground, and putting your hard earned holiday dollars through a website without knowing who you are dealing with can sometimes end badly. We are so well supported by good companies that we have used for years, and we pride ourselves on the number of repeat clients we have.  

What are you hoping to achieve in business this year?

I am already pretty happy with what we have achieved this year. We had the opportunity to open a new store in January in Taree. We have a wonderful team there who all have many years of experience in the travel industry. Taree is a great town, and they have been very welcoming towards us.

Is there a particular quote that you live by in business? 

In business as in life there is a Buddhist mantra: “This too shall pass”. I try to hold on to this whenever things get tough. There are always challenges to owning a business, but whatever conflict or situation you are facing one day, you can be sure it will come and go, and life will move on. 

And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be, and why would you invite them?

One business inspiration for me is Richard Branson. He took on Australia’s iconic flying kangaroo and gave us a real alternative – he continues to innovate and is so creative and non-traditional! 

Another person I admire is Andrew Burnes – he is the CEO of HelloWorld Travel and a real influencer in the travel industry. He calls a spade a spade, which is refreshing at that corporate level. 

If I could have lunch with these two men and my mother – my other business mentor – now that would be a business meeting to record! In her life, our mother’s mantra on business was always to treat your customers with complete respect, don’t park in their car space, and that manners matter. She would pull Andrew and Richard into line for a lunch to remember …

Thanks for your time, Robyn.

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