Getting the Most Out of a Mentor Relationship

by Richard D’Ambrosio

Originally posted on Travel Market Report. View Original

When you have the money to hire a consultant, a lawyer or accountant, peers may become a less urgent resource. But for many travel agents, the thoughtful advice of a mentor is the most economical and efficient way to propel their business and their career.

Beth Johnston, travel designer at Beth’s Beautiful Getaways in Pinckney, Michigan, has had multiple mentors on a variety of subjects since she launched her company nearly two years ago.

Tami Santini, owner/operator at Paradise Getaways in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been a great assistance to Johnston, especially helping her launch into her destination wedding and romance travel niche. Brianna Glenn, owner of Milk and Honey Travels in San Diego, helped with Johnston’s website.

And Heather Christopher has helped Johnston build her Hawaii expertise.

Once you think you found the right mentor or mentee, making that relationship work can be tricky when your career is a busy one, and life gets in the way.

Travel Market Report spoke with travel agents and industry executives to ask them about their experience both as a mentor, and a mentee, to help guide our readers in getting the most out of these relationships. What we heard should not surprise you, but likely needs reinforcing.

Establish trust early on
Trust needs to be established early between both parties, including a commitment to respecting each other’s time and establishing expectations.

Lisa Hoehn, CCTE, GTP, vice president of global corporate sales, Altour, Los Angeles, connected with Jenn Smukler in 2016 through an online, self-service mentorship program operated by WINiT, an organization focused on networking and career development for women in the travel, meeting, event and exhibition industries.

While the online system thought they were a match, it was that first call that set them up for success.

“It was such a fantastic first call. We built that trust very, very quickly,” said Smukler, director of sales, meetings and events at Ovation Corporate Travel, in New York. “I could hear that we were speaking the same language immediately, both from a professional and personal side. I knew we could have those difficult conversations about work-life balance, which is important to me right now.”

Carrie Clark, who today is a certified professional coach and office manager in New Jersey, credits her introduction call with Karen deKanter-Brennan as launching their mentorship towards success, as well.

“It was so quick to become comfortable with Karen. She was so welcoming and open to what I was thinking about, and what I wanted to learn,” said Clark. She chose deKanter-Brennan, vice president of sales and marketing at CorpTrav, Lombard, Illinois, for assistance in building her social media and marketing skills.

Heather Christopher, who has been a travel agent for about 11 years and credits much of her success to having had generous mentors herself, feels more trust with a mentee when their initial questions reflect knowledge about the subject matter they are inquiring about and a commitment to building a business.

“It’s pretty easy for me at this stage to gauge by their questions whether they are serious about being an agent, and whether it is worth my time to invest in a relationship with them,” Christopher said.

President of her own business, Heather Christopher Travel Consulting, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Christopher has at times been inundated with requests through Facebook groups, and so recently has grown very selective in taking on mentees.

Destination wedding guru and travel agent Lisa Sheldon sees a lot of new agents posting on Facebook asking for the most basic advice, and believes experienced agents with mentor inclinations should be careful.

“You get some agents who are all over the place with their questions, have no idea of the size of the industry, about the importance of focusing on a niche. It’s so easy to get sucked in,” said Sheldon, who also serves as executive director at the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association.

“Mentoring is so important, but if someone is looking to learn the basics, they should either pay for a mentoring program or pay for a host agency with professionals to advise them,” she said.

Set a schedule, but remain flexible
DeKanter-Brennan said she was very impressed with how, on their first call, Clark had predefined goals in both her personal and professional life, and a timeline for achieving these goals (approximately six months). They agreed to half-hour phone calls, once a month, with the option for questions and conversations via text or telephone when needed in between.

Also, Clark would have “homework” to accomplish and report in on at their next call, with deKanter-Brennan assessing her efforts and holding her accountable for staying on task.

Hoehn and Smukler settled on monthly calls, as well. “We decided that was realistic, given our busy jobs and living on opposite sides of the country,” Clark said.

“We also thought it was the right amount of time for me to accomplish things in between. Anything more frequent would have been too much. Anything less frequent would have made us a little out of touch.”

While establishing goals and a set schedule can be helpful, mentors and mentees need to be equally good at adapting to work and life changes.

DeKanter-Brennan got married in September 2016, in the middle of her mentorship with Clark. Wedding planning shrank her availability and mindshare during that summer. “There was a mutual respect for how busy life is, and we worked around it,” she recalled.

Prepare to just listen and not offer solutions
Like in all great relationships, sometimes all someone wants is a sympathetic ear to listen, and good mentors learn quickly how to either intuit their mentee’s needs, or openly ask about them. “The first key is being present. You need to turn off your technology, put your phone in your pocket or purse,” said deKanter-Brennan.

In her mentorship with Clark, deKanter-Brennan often would ask: “Do you need me to listen, or is there something I can help with?”

At other times, listening opens avenues for the mentee to solve their own problems. Good mentors are good listeners, said deKanter-Brennan, and they ask good questions to help the mentee find the answers they are seeking on their own.

Be prepared to step out of the mentorship for further growth
Mentors also need to understand their own limitations, and when it is appropriate to introduce their mentee to someone within their professional circle.

“I’m such a fan of referral interviews for something you are trying to solve that someone you know can help with,” said deKanter-Brennan. “It’s so important to let your ego step back, and say ‘I don’t know enough about this, but I can introduce you to someone who does.’”

Clark appreciated those referrals. “I didn’t have to get on the call and explain myself. And everyone had such a strong connection to Karen, that they had a commitment to helping me,” she said.

Stepping outside of the mentorship can also prepare both parties for the ending of the formal relationship, several subjects interviewed for this story said. But most, if not all, said the mentor/mentee experience formed lifelong bonds they still rely on today.

“I don’t think the relationship ever ended,” Smukler said. “I can go to Lisa with problems, issues, difficult situations, even now.”


Substantial Progress On Gender Balance Eludes Business Travel Professionals

By David Jonas

EasyJet last month took heat for gender pay disparity that it attributed to the preponderance of males among its pilots. The company also is paying its incoming CEO more than his female predecessor. If only such discrepancies were unique to easyJet.

Throughout the travel industry, women remain under-represented in executive ranks and boardrooms. In travel management, they’re clearly underpaid compared with men. This is despite their over-representation in many categories of industry employment as a whole.

The industry has made limited progress during the past five years. An examination of 20 top business travel suppliers showed…

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The Benefits of Mentors for Travel Agents

This article was originally posted at View Original

by Richard D’Ambrosio

Amongst the many luminaries the travel industry lost this year, a common thread frequently appeared in the praises and adjectives their friends and colleagues used to describe them: mentor.

Stacy Small, CEO and founder of Elite Travel International, called Susan Dale Tanzman, president of Martin’s Travel and Tours, “one of the kindest people” who “always took my calls and made time to answer my questions on any subject that affected the travel industry.”

Michelle Finkelstein Murre, at luxury travel firm, Azurine, talked about how Pallavi Shah had been her mentor for about five years, when Finkelstein Murre worked for Shah’s company, Our Personal Guest. “She taught me everything she knew about the travel industry, running your own business and how to succeed.”

“It’s important for us to find someone who we can admit to, that we are a little lost and can they help lead the way?” said Lisa Paul, head of marketing, and manager of global accounts at Kuoni Destination Management USA.  “It’s not because they have all the answers, but because they are a second set of eyes and ears for the challenges we face.”

Paul has been a mentor and received mentorship off and on over 26 years working in the travel industry. She also serves on the board of WINiT, a non-profit, membership-based organization that works to promote the careers of women in the travel industry.

Travel agents frequently claim that it was the care and concern of another person who helped them see their business find a path to success. But how do you find one?

The first step to developing a successful mentorship
The first critical step to developing a successful mentorship relationship is identifying what the need in your business or career is, Paul said. “Some people are tactical, really good at operations, but might need help with the creative marketing side,” she said. Fully accepting that gap and being able to focus on it in your search for a possible mentor will put a mentorship relationship on a productive path.

One step for your search should be a professional network, like LinkedIn, or an organization like WINiT.

WINiT, which is open to women and men, offers a “self-service” mentor program for certain membership levels, covering the travel, meeting, event and exhibition industries.

“You want to review profiles and study what roles possible mentors have served in, to assess if their experience and success indicates they might be a good match,” Paul said. If you are looking at a public profile like LinkedIn, is there any indication that they are active in mentoring or generous in their time by serving in charitable organizations? That might indicate their spirit of generosity if you have no idea that they might be interested.

“A lot of this is rooted in chemistry and gut intuition. Their professional personality, their brand, should send you signals that they may or may not be a good fit for you,” Paul said. In the WINiT program, mentors and mentees can “hand pick” their selection based on a quick match questionnaire.

First impressions are everything
If someone accepts the opportunity to think about working with you, that first conversation with a potential mentor needs to be concise. At this point in the relationship, Mentees should be able to articulate clearly: What are you looking for? How long and often do you think you need the mentor’s time? And how will you measure success?

Based on that initial conversation, and maybe even one or two calls or meetings with your mentor, “you should know if you trust and like them,” Paul said.

Trust is extremely important because both of you need to feel like you can be completely candid. If you or your mentor feel like the other person would be hurt about anything passed between you, they are not the right fit, no matter what their skill set is.

Lisa Paul offered the following questions for travel agents to consider if they think getting a mentor would help their business:

  • Are you ready to be mentored? Have you identified and truly accepted that there are things you need to learn, areas you can improve on? As confident as you might be, acknowledge you can never stop learning, even if you are on track and doing all the right things.
  • How much time do you have and need? Every individual and situation is different. There is no fixed frequency or set amount of time. Think about the scope of your goals and whether there are specific deadlines to getting there; and be clear about the commitment upfront with your mentor. At first, you may need a formal schedule. But over time, as your needs and goals evolve, the relationship could be open-ended.
  • Are you aware of your mentor’s needs? They may have offered to help, but you need to be sensitive towards the mentor’s demands on their time and schedule. The relationship can be mutually beneficial if you both are serving each other.

Small Great Steps: Driving Change for Women in the Events Industry

by Dawn Repoli

This article was originally published on MeetingsNet. View Original

As the executive director of WINiT, a nonprofit that provides career development programs and services for women in the meeting, event, travel, and exhibition industries, I spend a good amount of time reading about and discussing the gender pay gap. There is no shortage of research, writing, and opinion on the subject.

The Pew Research Center recently released a report illustrating that the gender pay gap has narrowed significantly since the 1980s, with (in 2015) women earning 83 percent of what men earn. An article published by a think tank, The Foundation for Economic Education, takes a critical look at the gender pay gap through an economic lens, hoping to illustrate that there is indeed some fact and fiction surrounding the topic. In certain industries, like meeting and event planning, women comprise the majority of the workforce so the topic of gender equality and career advancement is particularly pressing.

We must continue to do the research, ask the questions, and push forward for change, but we can simultaneously find opportunities—however seemingly small—to make a positive shift in the careers and lives of women. My work and the efforts of our members, leaders, donors, and partners reaffirm for me every day that the vision of a few people, when brought to life, can have a significant impact. The trick is transitioning vision into action by collaborating with individuals who share your passion and desire to make an impact for women in the industry.

Start the Conversation
Whether you work in a large global company or a small start-up, you have the power to build awareness and champion the career development needs of women in your organization. Partner with the right people—colleagues, a mentor, HR—and then bring leadership into the discussion. It’s important to be prepared to illustrate the issues you plan to address but also, more importantly, the proposed solutions, programs, and initiatives you want to implement in order to shift from conversation to action. In 2014, WINiT’s founder, Michelle (Mick) Lee, harnessed her discontent with the lack of female representation at a leading travel industry conference to create a nonprofit organization solely focused on the advancement, mobility, and visibility of women in the travel industry. She rallied her troops of professional and personal contacts, sharing her concerns and looking for insight and advice. Fast forward three years. WINiT has grown from an idea to a 3,000-member strong organization that has expanded to support the meeting, event, and exhibition industries. It all starts with a conversation.

Involve Men Equally
Some of the best advocates for women are men. Use your intuition and your own network—both within your organization and beyond—to connect both men and women who represent different functions and levels. There is significant value in having women and men share their experiences, challenges, and professional development needs in an open environment where there is a mutual respect and desire to change the status quo. “It is critical that men not only support but take an active role in advocating for women in the workplace. Having both male and female leaders involved not only helps facilitate change but also sustainability of initiatives and programs focused on women’s career development and advancement,” commented Ron DiLeo, president and CEO, In the Black Group.

Seek Success Stories
Look to organizations and individuals who have actively created and grown programs to affect change for women and minorities. Find out what initiatives worked well and then adapt them to meet the needs, culture, and objectives of your organization. Ask them to share their “war stories” because building successful, sustainable initiatives likely did not happen without some missteps. Learn from other people’s past experiences to create new impactful solutions.

Affecting real change takes time. You will hit road blocks and efforts may stall as you negotiate internal channels and politics. Be patient and stay the course. Every day, the WINiT program office and our network of almost 200 volunteers move forward together around the belief that we can create real change for women in the industries we serve. We know we are making an impact because of the stories our members share, the engagement of our volunteers, and the commitment of our donors. We’ve taken many small steps to get where we are now, each one critical to our success. Small great steps really do have the power to drive significant change. You just have to take that first step.

Dawn Repoli is executive director and COO of WINiT.


Business Travel and Human Trafficking – Raising Awareness and Making a Difference

Slavery is not a topic that is often thought as a relevant, ongoing epidemic. It’s something we are taught is a part of history, not a travesty currently happening all around us. Unfortunately, slavery and human trafficking are both far from being a part of our past.

This exploitation of men, women and children is something going on in every single state in all 50 states. In fact, more than 27 million people are trafficked across the world every single year.

Thankfully, organizations like ECPAT-USA work tirelessly to help combat human trafficking so we can see modern-day slavery abolished in our lifetime. ECPAT-USA is an organization that aims to end child slavery at the source.

Among many things, they promote corporate responsibility among private companies that have a strong focus in the travel industry. ECPAT-USA then goes on to teach methods to identify and prevent human trafficking in their place of workspace, during business travel, and more.

With such a widespread epidemic, it’s difficult to pinpoint things that the average person can do to make a difference. Thankfully when it comes to fighting human trafficking, there is plenty that you can do to combat it and create awareness. If you’d like to learn more about The Code and ECPAT, how they work together to raise the awareness necessary to end modern day slavery, and what you can do to make a difference click here.

ECPAT-USA is an organization that aims to end child slavery at the source. Among many things, they promote corporate responsibility among private companies that have a strong focus in the travel industry. ECPAT-USA then goes on to teach them ways to identify and prevent human trafficking in their place of business.

CorpTrav, a corporate travel management group, practices responsible, sustainable business travel and tourism by joining together with travel companies from around the world, including Sabre and Delta Airlines in supporting ECPAT-USA. Learn how to become an ECPAT-USA partner here.

By: Amanda Flower
View Original Article


Small Great Steps: Driving Change for Women in the Events Industry and Beyond

Visit etouches wethink blog for advice from Dawn Repoli, WINiT Executive Director and COO, on to making a real impact for women in the events industry.

View the full article by clicking the link below:

Small Great Steps: Driving Change for Women in the Events Industry and Beyond 
August 3, 2017
by: Dawn Repoli


The Role of Women in the Adventure Travel Industry

In a recent article in TravelAge West, WINiT Executive Director and COO, Dawn Repoli, shares her perspective on the findings of a recent Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) study on the state of women in the adventure travel industry as well as challenges facing women working in the travel industry.

Click below to read the full article:

The Role of Women in the Adventure Travel Industry
July 25, 2017
Dawn Repoli, executive director and COO for WINiT, gives insight into ATTA’s latest study on women and leadership in adventure travel
By: Emma Weissmann


How To Get The Most Out Of Supplier Negotiations: Four Tips From A Pro

by Richard D’Ambrosio

This article was originally posted at Travel Market Report. View Original

Travel agents rely on their suppliers so much that sometimes pressing for discounts and perks for clients can feel uncomfortable. Negotiations can be tense, and when emotions get in the way reaching a positive outcome is difficult.

Travel Market Report asked Michelle (Mick) Lee, founder of Women In Travel (WINiT), how agents can smooth out negotiations. Lee has been in the travel and hospitality industries for over 20 years as both a buyer and supplier. She is managing director of ARROW212, a hospitality project execution practice, and founder of WINiT, a womens’ leadership nonprofit.

Don’t take it personally.
Before anything, take your emotions out of negotiations and don’t read anything into the reaction you see in others. No one knows what someone else is thinking, so always assume positive intent, have an open conversation and move on.

If there is obvious malice, disrespect, or an inappropriate remark, address it head-on, in a non-emotional manner, and make it clear what won’t be tolerated. If it continues, have that person replaced and proceed with the negotiations.

Treat suppliers like clients.
Invest in supplier relationships in the same way you do client relationships, and shift your mindset to view suppliers as partners rather than service providers.

Follow the “3-for-3-for-3” rule; three levels of engagement that you tap into every three months, including the top three executives at the company––your account manager, their boss and their boss’s boss. Learn about what is important to them, and stay in regular contact with senior executives to show that you are paying attention to their company, the issues they are facing and the trends.

Avoid surprises.
In the spirit of treating suppliers as partners, make your expectations and plans known in advance. If a supplier does reject your terms, remember they likely have a good business reason.

Hold your line.
Don’t be intimidated if a supplier seems to have more leverage in a negotiation than you do. For example, Lee said, when an independent hotel next door to her office raised its rates by 20%, she activated her 3-for-3-for-3 strategy and brought everyone in on the discussion long before the negotiations started. “We made it clear that the gap needed to close or we would be forced to move our business. This was communicated at all levels in the hotel, to my six contacts, and well in advance of the negotiation.” When they failed to rescind the rate hike, she took her business elsewhere – and six months later the hotel called her back.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

There are very few instances when walking away is the only option, but when the time is right, be very clear and open about what is nonnegotiable. Do not bluff – make sure you have teeth behind it if you have to act.


How To Get The Most Out Of Supplier Negotiations: Four Tips From A Pro

WINiT Founder, Michelle (Mick) Lee, offers practical tips for handling the tricky art of negotiating with travel suppliers.

Click below to read the full article:

How To Get The Most Out Of Supplier Negotiations: Four Tips From A Pro
July 14, 2017
by Richard D’Ambrosio



When was the last time you invested in YOU?

We have all heard the riddle…

…and know the answer: TIME.

Life is busier than ever. Longer hours at the office, commute, kids, events,

volunteering, working out, bills – the list is long and the demands are many.

Time has become our greatest commodity. As a result, two things have happened.

  1. We frequently put ourselves last.
  2. We seriously evaluate every request for our time to determine its value
  3. against our rapidly depleting time bank.

As a small and lean organization, WINiT understands, first hand, the value of time. We rely on the generously donated time of our network of leaders and volunteers to create and sustain our organization.

Our Advisory Board, specifically, plays a key role in confirming our strategic direction and shaping unique programs that meet the needs of our Members.

“The WINiT Advisory Board is made up of successful leaders in their fields. They are involved with WINiT to share their knowledge, innovate, give back to the industry and propel other members forward for success; in other words, they lean forward AND reach back. WINiT is an organization that fosters professional growth; it creates transparent and open learning opportunities (online and offline) from members of all career levels, skill sets and generations.” Rana Walker, Founding WINiT Leader, Advisory Board Member, Principal and Co-Founder GR&AT Management

WINiT has remained consistent since we were founded in 2014, ensuring that we only provide programming that does not duplicate programs already existing in our industries. Our intention is to offer programs and services that allow Members – easily and conveniently – to invest time in advancing their lives and careers.

Thank you to our Advisory Board – Barbara, Doug, Peter, Kathy, Pam, Ron, Nina, Peter, Kurt, Craig, Dave, Kathleen, Paul, Christine, Michael, Steve, Rich, Cathy, Rana, Nancy and Beth –for driving the creation of our rich, differentiated career development and leadership programs that support our the three pillars of our mission.

  • Personal Development Webinars and Classes created in response to member requests for topics you wont find elsewhere
  • Automated Self-Select Mentoring program to address the specific needs of each Mentee
  • Speaking opportunities across the industries we serve to get more women of all levels on stage and out front
  • Job and Resume posting
  • Structured networking programs to ensure time well spent when participating

To learn more about WINiT programs and services, visit

“For almost 20 years my company has worked in the luxury lifestyle, travel, hospitality and event industries with most all associations. What first interested me in working with WINiT when I got the call from Mick, was the focused differentiation of programming and events. No individual or company has time to spend with an organization where there is not a return – even when it may be the right thing to do. WINiT got it right, is relevant and adds value” Peter Bates, President and Founder, Strategic Vision

Dedicating time to your own growth and development is time well spent.

I encourage you to read more, invest in yourself and invest in WINiT. Women Leadership in Travel, Meetings, Events and Exhibitions:

Power of 5. WINiT Differentiation & 5 Easy Steps to IMPACT

The WINiT BOD. Can they have an IMPACT?