Jenny Mikkelson is a leader at her agency, Travel Beyond, where she serves as vice president and acts as a mentor for her team. She also accounted for $2.4 million in FIT sales during the 2018 fiscal year for the agency, which is based in Wayzata, MN.
“I empower my team to make their own decisions, knowing that they are constantly backed by my support,” Mikkelson says. “I constantly encourage my colleagues to come up with better or smarter ways to work, while staying focused on delivering the exceptional customer service our clients have come to know and expect.”
Mikkelson joined Travel Beyond — then called TravelWays — as a receptionist while she was still in college, and over the 23 years since then she has worked her way up to the rank of vice president of the agency. “I worked in roles ranging from marketing, to accounting, to IT — and everywhere in between,” she says. “I knew that the more I learned about all aspects of the business, the more I would understand and appreciate the overall process.”
At the same time, Mikkelson credits the collaborative nature of her agency with her success, as well as the growth it has seen over the years: when she started with the company it had only six employees, but now it has 38. “The Beal family has curated a very special and unique culture of mutual support and respect,” she says, noting that company founder Audrey Beal has been her professional mentor. “We truly are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”
Mikkelson has also been recognized as one of Travel Agent magazine’s Top 25 Travel Agents, and she has appeared in Forbes Travel and in articles in The New York Times’ Travel Section. Her clientele is approximately 90 percent luxury, ranging from honeymooners to multigenerational families to retirement-age clients.
“I focus on destinations where I have ‘tip of tongue’ knowledge, including Southern and Eastern Africa, Australia, South America and Southeast Asia,” Mikkelson says. “My favorite and most successful trips come from the clients who challenge me to give them a real sense of exclusivity — and it has been interesting to watch the definition of ‘exclusivity’ evolve from the traditional ‘five-star accommodations,’ to become more about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences they can enjoy with a company like Travel Beyond.”
Mikkelson is planning to deepen her commitment to ongoing education through fam trips and industry events. Importantly, she is looking to use her research to ramp up her personal outreach to clients.
“Clients love to know that I am thinking of them, even when they don’t have a trip on the books,” Mikkelson says. “When I see articles or photos that I know would interest past clients, I send the information along to them with a quick note letting them know that I thought they would find it interesting.”
Mikkelson also tries to remember milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries, so she can reach out with a handwritten note. “These thoughtful touchpoints cost little, but they keep me at the top of my client’s minds,” she says.
Mikkelson also plans to continue to indulge her newfound love for running — this summer, Travel Beyond sent a running team to fundraise for the Wild and Free Foundation and support their rhino conservation efforts in Africa, which marked her longest run to date. “It was a great experience,” she says, “but it also got me hooked.”