“I’ve always been a leader and never feared the challenges that are ahead of me,” says Jim Wiedeman of Valerie Wilson Travel. “I always speak my mind, when appropriate, with ideas and suggestions to make the office a better place to work. And not only are my ideas to improve the office environment, they are also to help in the increased profits for Valerie Wilson Travel organization.” With that great attitude and the hard-proof of annual sales of more than $2 million in 2015, it’s easy to see why he is considered a trendsetter at one of the top luxury travel agencies in the country.
As for his business philosophy, Wiedeman says it’s never a bad idea to stick with the classics. “I’ve bucked the current trend by adding a more human-touch element when communicating with my clients,” he says, noting a phone call, person-to-person meeting or a hand-written note can make all the difference.
Wiedeman, who joined Valerie Wilson Travel in 2011, works out of the Palo Alto, CA office, and has helped and watched the branch grow from three advisors to 12. He schedules the vendor appointments for his office and organizes roundtables so the entire staff has a chance to meet their suppliers.
“For me, the relationships I’ve established over the years are hugely important in the success I have achieved,” he tells us.
He focuses on high-end luxury travelers, who range from solo travelers to couples to multigenerational families. Many of his clients come from the Neiman Marcus InCircle Rewards Program with Virtuoso. While his sales vary between air, cruises, tours and FIT arrangements, he tries to stay with 4- to 5-star products.
The exception: “I also sell unique experiences for clients looking for something special, out of the ordinary. Sometimes those are not high-end but offer an opportunity to sample something new, pushing boundaries for them,” he says.
Prior to working for VWT, Wiedeman spent five years working for Bungey Travel and continued with the company until 2010. Before that, however, he made a most interesting career transition.
At Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, Wiedeman earned his BA in Business/Marketing, which was followed by jobs with several manufacturing companies. He ended up working for a company that specialized in the manufacturing of high-energy radiation inspection equipment, where they built the system for the inspection of new composite materials for aircraft and large installations for the inspection of Minuteman and Peacekeeper Missiles – nuclear warheads.
“In 20 years, I never have looked back and wondered or questioned my move to the travel industry,” Wiedeman says.
This past summer he and his wife, Paula, spent two nights in each Paris and Barcelona before embarking on the preview voyage of the Regent Seven Seas Explorer to Monte-Carlo. He will be visiting Sicily for the first time with five other VWT consultants next.
The personal travel is only an added benefit of the job for him. The true reward, he says, is getting to send his clients on those trips so they can enjoy those experiences first-hand.
“Selling travel isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life,” he concludes.