OpenDoors, A Travel Affiliate of In The Know Experiences
Trendsetter Michael Lerner hasn’t just created a travel agency in OpenDoors. Instead, he describes it as the parent company of a number of different (and innovative) hospitality ventures he has developed over the years.
Spanning travel management, a membership-based restaurant concierge app called I Know The Chef, a membership-based 360-degree lifestyle management division, and a consulting and investment arm, OpenDoors allows Lerner to serve a diverse clientele of 25- to 30-year-old entrepreneurs, 50- to 65-year-old business executives, multigenerational families, European DJs, fashion designers and corporate clients in the finance, banking and real estate industries. He develops high-end luxury lifestyle experiences for leisure, corporate and entertainment clients in major urban hubs, as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, Greece and Italy, running his business in a way he describes as “more like a family office than the traditional model of just being a commission-based broker.”
“I think that the traditional agency model puts me at odds with my clients’ best interests, where they have to spend more in order for me to make more money,” says Lerner.
Almost all of Lerner’s new business is referral based, and he tries to meet most of his new clients in person before beginning a working relationship.
“I look to work with individuals and companies that see the long-term benefit of the relationship and are not simply shopping on a hotel / trip-by-trip basis,” he says. “I also try to work with people who see benefit in more of the full service aspects of my company other than just travel.”
Lerner also attributes his success to his focus on building partnerships.
“Clients can leave you and vendors measure you on your booking numbers,” he says. “But when you enter the realm of loyalty and partnerships and community, those relationships start to mean a lot more.” Lerner says that he is even willing to pass on new business if it means his current clients might suffer, or to forgo commissions to get a client a better deal.
Lerner’s philosophy and business model is the product of a long career in luxury lifestyle hospitality. He started promoting nightclubs in New York City when he was only 15 years old and, in 2007, he helped start a private concierge company called Four Hundred, an experience he credits with helping him hone his skills of working with ultra-high-net-worth individuals. After Four Hundred, he focused on restaurants, opening 13 from 2011 to 2013, while booking travel as a side gig — a side of the business that really took off. He then linked with Ovation Travel, working with Jack Ezon to learn the business before moving over to In The Know.
Looking ahead, Lerner says he’s pursuing a conservative approach to growing his business that is more about developing relationships and opening up new avenues for working with existing clients than about adding new ones. He’s also ramping up his social media strategy, which he describes as an opportunity to “tell a story about a passionate lifestyle.”