Belinda Watkins, a mother of two runs her own very successful business as part of the leading independent travel company, Travel Counsellors.
Before I had my two girls I was a management accountant and had been in finance for more than 7 years – ever since I left uni. I loved my job and my career was going well but after having Lily and Poppy (now 4 and 2 respectively), like most mums, I wanted a way to continue having a career and also spend time with my children. Therefore it was a case of finding the right job or business which would work for me, and my family.
I decided that the best option was for me to start by own business working from home and as I’d always loved travelling, this is where I started looking first. Travel Counsellors was my first choice and it proved to be a really good one. I was sold from the start as they invited my husband along to my first visit to Head Office, demonstrating that they had a really strong family ethos. I really liked their core belief of going that extra mile to exceed expectations and look after their Travel Counsellors personally with the idea that their advisors treat their customers in the same way.
My initial concern was that I had no experience in the travel business, apart from booking our holidays of course! The biggest selling point was the Travel Counsellors Academy programme – it promised that the training would be in very small groups which sounded perfect. My travel academy friends and I are able to bounce ideas off each other and now we video call each other all the time to help each other out and of course to celebrate each other’s successes. Another big plus is that the person who trained us, our Business Development Manager, has been really supportive throughout my development and not just at the initial training stage.
Another reservation I had at the start was that I’d have a large drop in income and that due to my lack of experience there would be a lot of pressure on me to achieve aggressive sales targets right from the off. Travel Counsellors have been so supportive, letting me work at my own pace but at the same time motivating me to do the best I possibly can. They give me the tools to help me succeed. It really helps that there are plenty of people who’ve been in my position and shown that it can be done. In my first year I have recouped my initial investment, graduated as a Travel Counsellor and I have two happy girls too.
One of things that make Travel Counsellors unique is the people. I have met so many great people both on the Academy and at the annual Travel Counsellors conference, which was one of the highlights of my first year. Everyone I meet is really keen to give advice and support – we’re all on the same team and it’s lovely. The fact that Travel Counsellors is global company is really helpful as well as I can get advice and help from colleagues all over the globe.
A day in my life:
My days now are really varied; no one day is ever the same. The girls go to nursery a couple of days a week and it’s during this time that I get most of my work done. I love that my work is so diverse – one hour I could be working on an enquiry to the Galapagos Islands, the next it could be an itinerary to Japan. At Travel Counsellors it’s all about delivering the very best in customer service and building relationships with customers and this is what I love. I spend a lot of time talking to prospective
clients or catching up with clients who have just come back from holiday, it’s just like ringing up friends to chat about their holiday. I also spend time talking to suppliers and catching up on daily admin such as sending confirmation documents to clients or sending a ‘thank you for booking with me’ card.
My top tips on choosing a job after having children:
• Choose a job that allows you as much flexibility as possible – with children, your life rarely runs to plan
• Choose a company that will give you plenty of support and advocates a healthy work/life balance
• Choose a job that keeps you motivated. The happier I am, the happier the children are!
• If you decide to change your career, then choose a company that provides extensive, high quality training that suits your way of learning