When her children were young Beverley Kerr was forced to leave the travel industry due to inflexible hours. She has now been back in the industry for several years, during which time she has helped her company to award-winning status, been appointed director and become a passionate advocate for women returners.
That success was recognised this week when she attended the IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards ceremony in London. Beverley was a finalist in the Above & Beyond Award, sponsored by Avis Budget Group. The award is for women who have “truly gone above and beyond [their] role to help drive the organisation’s success”.
Beverley, a mother of three now grown-up children, had worked for several different agencies, including Thomas Cook, for around nine years after leaving school. Her second child was born with medical problems which meant a lot of hospital appointments. Beverley couldn’t find any job in the industry which would enable her to flex around her children.
She became a teaching assistant as it allowed her to take the holidays off, but she had never intended not to go back to the travel industry. Through word of mouth she heard that the managing director of the independent London-based firm Travel Designers was looking for someone to help him out for a month.
Beverley started in October 2009 as an administrative assistant and has stayed every since, going from strength to strength. She says she was “over the moon” to get a foot back in the door, but, like many returners, initially nervous about going back. She loved it, though, and was able to use all her previous experience to the job.
That experience meant that she moved swiftly into sales and she has since been instrumental in developing client relations, including growing an annual doctors’ conference from 20 delegates with a small profit of £1,200 per year to over 150 delegates with over £40,000 profit per year.
She has been able to use that success to advocate for returning parents, developing roles and establishing technology and processes to allow for flexible and home working within the business.
In the last two years the firm has taken on two more working mums. One was working long hours at one of the big travel firms and now does four days a week and an extra Saturday every other week. She banks the overtime so she can have more time off during the school holidays. She also works flexi hours, coming in earlier on two days and leaving earlier. Beverley says it works well for the firm as it means they can cover from earlier in the morning.
The other working mum is a marketing assistant and also works a lot of weekends, covering events at the weekends, so she can save time off for half terms. “It’s a win win”, says Beverley, adding that half terms tend to be quite quiet.
The experience has been positive all round, with the managing director coming round to the idea of utilising people’s different hours to the business’ advantage.
Beverley’s example had convinced him of the value of employing working mums and the returns to the business in terms of loyalty and productivity. Beverley argued strongly for her female colleagues, initially suggesting employing them on a trial basis to show the business it would work.
In the last year she has been promoted to the role of director in recognition of her contribution. She is contracted to work three days, but she is very flexible across the week and dedicated to growing the business. Her commitment has helped the agency to win best London-based independent travel agent for three years running. The business is also looking to grow and move to larger premises. More staff are on the cards and Beverley says the company is very much interested in looking at employing more working mums in the future.