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Referrals: the secret to building a successful business

Is setting up your own successful business as simple as being an “entrepreneur”? Fred van Eijk, MD Travel Counsellors Australia explains that it is so much more than that…

The Oxford dictionary’s definition for an entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” Well, I am sorry, but it takes a hell of a lot more than setting up your stall, taking a risk and hoping for profits.  Your profile and enhancing your profile constantly is key in any professional landscape.


Fred Van Eijk


The days of simply opening a business in a good location with the hope of acquiring a healthy customer base by chance, are over. You need to get out there, connect - on and offline - and build trusted relationships with customers and your brand ambassadors. When it comes to successful business, it’s all about referrals and recommendations.


I learnt this rule in my early twenties, when I made a gamble and opened my own travel agency. It didn’t take long to realise that my network, consisting of students and other young folk with limited funds to splurge on travel, was never going to be enough for me to build a stable and lucrative client base.


So I used my network of friends to tap into other networks; our parents, our parent’s friends, business associates of our parents and other keen entrepreneurs in my area. Reflecting on this, I am amazed at who I still consider a customer and that 30 years later, the parents of one of my oldest friends are loyal clients of Travel Counsellors, the worldwide travel company I have had the privilege of managing now for over a decade.


So, when it comes to start-ups, my mantra is simple; imagine there is a brand on your forehead all the time and that brand tells everyone what you do. My brand when I first started my business was “Travel Agent.” Every room I walked in to, every party or event I attended, people quickly learnt that I was that guy with his own travel agency. Now my brand speaks “Travel”.


My brand lets me start conversations about my passion for travel, the encounters I’ve had while I was travelling, and most proudly, about my job in supporting hundreds of experienced travel entrepreneurs, our Travel Counsellors, every day. Whenever I meet someone, I want them to instantly associate me with travel in every shape and form.


I want them to ask me for ideas and inspiration, or share their experiences and wishes with me. It’s through these conversations that I have on occasion been able to connect people with a Travel Counsellor. I use each and every opportunity to express my passion and expertise across Social Media, speaking at events, TV, radio, writing and even people I just bump into at a bar or café. They are all tools and outlets that I use to network.


Networking is everywhere and should be as natural and personal as possible. The brand on your forehead is extremely useful. Get it!  To find out more about the world of Travel Counsellors, contact our Careers Team on 1300 889 123 or visit our website.  


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 28 February 2018

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