Financial wizard Howard Scharf wasn’t originally trained within the travel industry, rather, he made the decision to join the business as the CFO of Travel 100 Group 15 years ago when he was looking for a life change. “The travel business has all sorts of good sides to it and was very appealing to me,” Scharf told Luxury Travel Advisor in 2009, when we profiled him in our September issue. Scharf bought the agency in 2002, and as it goes, the rest is history.
Today, as owner and president, Scharf focuses on running his company, using his background as a CPA. “One comment you hear a lot directed toward agency owners is the need to work on the business and not, necessarily in the business,” said Scharf in 2009. That mantra clearly works; last year, Travel 100 Group brought in close to $50 million in annual revenue, that’s double its revenue from 2009.
The agency, located in Kenilworth, IL and Chicago, has close to 90 consultants now compared to the staff of 62 it had six years ago. “Our business' primary growth has resulted from our staff’s continuous efforts to provide best in class service and support to our existing base of consultants, helping us to attract a good number of new but seasoned travel professionals in our local market,” says Scharf. The agency hasn’t just added new employees, but also has become a branch of Tzell and has thrived with their additional support, explains Scharf.
The agency plans on attracting new clients through referrals and tools and technology provided by the Signature Travel Network. Scharf also attributes the business’s success to his diligent office managers, Rosemarie and Rose. "I couldn't do it without them!" he says.
Since 2009, Scharf has extensively traveled, including a river cruise through Normandy, relaxing in the sunshine in Turks and Caicos; he also just stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya in Israel. Scharf is a big fan of the new property, pointing out its great location to Tel Aviv but its peaceful existence along Israel's beaches. Scharf also explains that he is fascinated with Japan, and in particular, Koyasan. While in Japan, he stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. But perhaps the most exciting trip Scharf has taken since 2009 is to Walt Disney World with his wife and two young children. “Experiencing your child’s first visit to Disney World and ‘seeing’ it through their eyes is an unmatched joy for any parent,” says Scharf.