Opening an agency from scratch ‘has been one of my biggest achievements’, general manager Jennifer Lynch tells Juliet Dennis.
Q. ArrangeMY opened its first leisure branch, ArrangeMY Escape, in Worcester in January. How did it come about?
A. At an Advantage Travel Partnership conference I met Nick Scott, who had taken over ArrangeMY from his father. I was working as a branch manager for Regal Travel in south Wales and I planted the seed of opening a leisure agency. I jokingly told Nick I’d come and do it for him…and then he asked if I would do the shop from scratch. I had nothing to lose, so I upped sticks from Wales and came to Worcester in April last year.
Q. What was your biggest fear?
A. Not making it a success. I hadn’t done it from scratch before. We were lucky because the business existed already. It was a case of pulling together funds and getting an inter-business loan.
Q. What was the most difficult aspect of setting up the agency?
A. One of the hardest things was getting premises. We couldn’t find anywhere available that was big enough when we started searching last March. A lot of unoccupied shops still had contracts so we didn’t get a property until December. It was a fluke. I was walking past an empty British Heart Foundation shop, which looked like it had just been vacated, so we just gave them a ring and found out it was available. It’s a Grade II listed building dating from about 1690. It’s three storeys and we have a VIP suite for appointments, client evenings and training.
Q. What’s it like inside?
A. I designed everything, from the lights to the chairs and the coffee station. It is white and modern, with beige furniture and a lot of lighting. There are five desks, brochure racks the length of the first half of the shop and a big island in front of them, and we’re going to install iPads.
Q. How does it feel to have opened a branch by yourself?
A. Without a doubt this is one of the biggest achievements of my life. After being given an opportunity like this, I quite like the pressure of it. I am so proud, and feedback from customers
and operators has been phenomenal.
Q. How did you prepare staff to make sure they offered the right level of service?
A. Before we opened in January I had the team do a mystery shop to see how they were treated from the other side of the desk. They went to all our competitors – and no one offered them a drink. So we have a fridge full of prosecco and a coffee station with everything from cappuccino to herbal tea.
Q. What marketing have you done to promote the agency?
A. We are sponsoring a giraffe! It is part of a local campaign, Worcester Stands Tall, and there will be seven-foot-high giraffes perched around the city this summer.
Q. What next?
A. The long-term plan is to open more shops. Nick said to me during the first week we opened that we had an appointment to see another property. How we grow, and how quickly, will depend on how successful we are.
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