Ruthanne Terrero

Luxury is reaching new levels of sophistication, and that’s a good thing. Business is booming for travel advisors. Clients are crossing trips off their bucket lists, taking last-minute getaways and even taking “obligation vacations,” to attend a friend’s wedding, divorce or “I’m turning 50” party.

It’s a good time to be a luxury travel advisor. Your business should be thriving on every level.

Warning: The competition for your clients is about to get more intense. New entrants are launching luxury travel businesses right out of business school. Former attorneys, investors and business executives are turning to luxury travel as a new enterprise, not as a hobby, but with plans to make lots and lots of money from it.

I’ve compiled these tips to keep you laser-focused and to keep your part of the luxury pie, courtesy of Kevin O’Leary, aka “Mr. Wonderful” on Shark Tank. He cuts through the fluff to tell entrepreneurs what to do, and what not to do, to beat the competition. Here’s a summary of what he had to say in an interview with CNBC co-anchor Tyler Mathisen.

1. Entrepreneurs serve their customers, shareholders and the business, and cannot let emotions get in the way. “The business comes first and you always have to do what’s right for it,” says O’Leary.

2. For this reason, you need to be ready to fire people who are not right for the job. “When you fire someone, tell them why you are doing it, otherwise they won’t learn anything from it and that’s not fair to them,” says O’Leary. “If you don’t have the courage to make these moves, you’re not the right leader.”

3. When should you terminate someone? “When customers and shareholders call me three times about someone, there is something wrong. The market is talking to you.” 

4. Typically more than 100,000 entrepreneurs apply for Shark Tank, so reaching Phase Two of the show is a big deal. O’Leary is appalled by how many who get there don’t know their numbers. “That’s unbelievably stupid. It happens more often than you would believe,” he said. Owners who clearly know their business plan and can prove that they are the person to execute it get to move on to the next level.

5. The best leaders set achievable goals that can be met quarterly. “Meeting goals helps morale,” says O’Leary. “People who can execute are what matters. Those who set goals, tell you what they are and tell me every three months that they’ve achieved it are who you want.”

6. Beware of those who cannot execute. “The worst thing is ‘vision all day long’” says O’Leary.

7. Be able to spell out your cost of customer acquisition vs. the lifetime value of that customer. “This should be the second slide in your deck after the first slide that explains what your company is all about,” he says.

8. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who diversify their risk.

9. “Good entrepreneurs know their weaknesses and surround themselves with great people,” O’Leary says. If he is considering buying a company, he’ll meet with the head of sales first because they know what the problems are with the customer base, where the opportunities are and where the bodies are buried. In his companies, the head of sales are always the most highly paid.

10. Lastly, always go with your instincts. “Every time I don’t listen to my gut, I lose money,” says O’Leary.

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