Success Stories focus on veteran advisors and how they achieved success. Here’s a look at Ryan Doncsecz, groups manager of Bethlehem, Pa.-based VIP Vacations.
How did you get your start as an advisor?
After graduating from college in 2011 with a degree in teaching, the educational forefront was changing. While I loved spending time and helping our youth, the red tape and growing need to document standards in education felt daunting and somewhat tiring. Distraught after seemingly wasting four years of my life with a degree I no longer felt passionately about using, I turned to a major force in our industry – Jennifer Doncsecz [my mother and president of VIP Vacations].
After receiving training on different aspects of the industry it was clear that I showed promise in organization and follow through, had the ability to speak eloquently and could handle a multitude of tasks at any given time. It was a clear fit to [join] our groups department. After a few years, I was promoted to my role today – manager of VIP Vacations’ groups department.
How did you build your business over the years?
We focused on what made us unique and knowledgeable and used that to form our company ideals and niche. Superior planning in the fields of romance travel led to award-winning status with brands like Sandals and Beaches resort and ‘The Knot.’ This has given VIP credibility and ultimately helped drive more business and trust from partners and consumers.
What characteristics make you a successful advisor?
I’m a bit of a worrier. To put it in a more positive light, I’m a perfectionist with excellent organizational skills. I triple-check everything because not only do I want to make sure a traveler’s reservation is correct, but my brain doesn’t necessarily believe everything is okay unless I reverify the details.
I also perform on stage and behind a microphone frequently. The ability to “improv” and adjust on the fly is crucial. If an issue arises, we have to be flexible and thorough in finding a solution. I’m a good salesperson and have the ability to use my expertise and influence appropriately. I have no problem steering and pivoting when I know something may be better for all parties involved.
What have been your greatest challenges been?
Keeping calm in a fast-paced, volatile industry and reminding myself that I am not responsible for the world’s problems. It is very easy for me to understand the energy, feelings and emotions of others. This job can throw some ridiculously unexpected curve balls: weather delays, damaged properties due to hurricanes and hotel buyouts when reservations are already in place.
For years I felt the pain of not wanting to let a client down and not understanding that some travelers are just inconsolable. The desire of wanting to be liked by everyone led to stress and the inability to simply let things go. It has taken years to work through these emotions, and it still is something I internalize on a regular basis. Balancing a healthy work-life relationship and making sure to leave time for myself is so necessary.
COVID brought about a whole new level of anxiety. People were not traveling as our company was hemorrhaging money. This anxiety only heightened when every destination had differing and important regulations.
It is also somewhat difficult being the son of an industry giant like Jennifer Doncsecz. Despite how long I’ve been in the business – it will be 13 years in January –industry leaders occasionally still only view me as “the son of a legend.” I cannot tell you how hurtful it can be to be referred to as “buddy” or “pal” at age 34.
I challenge ‘higher ups’ to really get to know the individual they are working with, even if they are part of a bloodline of someone they already know so well.
What have your greatest accomplishments been?
Keeping the positive standards, expectations and viewpoints our industry and clients have had for VIP Vacations throughout its 30-year history. I never wanted to give anyone the reason to cry “nepotism” when it came to my employment and managerial status. This has inspired me to work my hardest on a daily basis to exceed the goals of our company and travelers alike.
I love when our company attends award events or wins accolades. It also gives me joy sharing my knowledge and thoughts on the travel world. I’m lucky to have made many friends in the industry. One relationship I value immensely is that of Eric Bowman at TravelPulse. His podcasts are informative, thoughtful, clean and fun! I thank him for giving me opportunities each year to co-host on his platform. I love working in entertainment and I’m excited whenever I get to speak at a conference or share information via video or podcast.
What tips can you provide advisors new to the industry?
To help get your business off the ground, find a focus and specialty that is interesting to you and something you already know about.
Organization is very important. Create checklists and trackers for yourself to make sure you do everything needed for various reservations. Outlook can create future reminders, and similar tools can be found on cell phones. Keeping track of payment dates, when you sent documents, when you need to gather pertinent information from a traveler and when you have to relay that are time-focused aspects of travel sales. I like Microsoft Excel and recommend creating spreadsheets where you can track your data and important dates so nothing is missed. There are also websites like Trello, where you can manage your projects with a clear workboard and roadmap.
Promote yourself! I’m not talking about sharing a sale on Facebook, but your personality, interests and hobbies. This industry is about creating connections, and having the ability to be seen as relatable with your clients is very important. Your travelers will want to know your stories. Combining all of these factors will help you make genuine relationships and a long-lasting clientele base.
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