Not Just Travel: Taking the leap into self-employment

Anne King is a Personal Travel Consultant and runs her own business through Not Just Travel; one of the leading and fastest-growing travel agencies in the UK. After working as a PA for 20 years, Anne’s life took a turn on a family holiday in Florida that lead her to change her career, buying into the Not Just Travel franchise in 2015. This month we met Anne to find out how she took the leap into working for herself, and how her mentoring relationship with Sally-Ann Cain has played such an important part of her success.

Anne’s journey from working for other people to going it alone, is an exceptionally personal one. She began her career working as a Beauty Therapist in Harvey Nichols and then worked on the Pictures Desk of a magazine in London, before she embarked upon a 20 year-long career as a PA. She spent eight years working as PA at a local council, but towards the end, redundancies started being made and employees had to keep applying for their own jobs again and again. However, a serious illness in her family in 2012 caused Anne to revaluate what was important to her:

“2012 was the year that changed everything. I was away for a month in America with my family and my stepson became very ill. One minute we were enjoying a holiday in Florida, and the next he needed emergency brain surgery. He is now very well and fully recovered, but it shook everything up. Your perspective just shifts, and when we came back home and I returned to work, I thought – do I really want to be applying for my own job again? There are just more important things in life.”

“I was the PA to the Deputy Chief Executive, and although he told me that my job was safe, it had become about more than that. The atmosphere was so miserable and depressing. When you’ve been through something as awful as we did in Florida, and then you try to go back to ‘normal’, your reality’s different – it was the third year of employees applying for our own jobs, and I thought ‘life really is too short to keep working like this’.”

Anne took redundancy in 2013 and set up as a freelance PA, working for a variety of clients. It was throughout this time that her friends and family, knowing Anne was a keen traveller, started asking for lots of travel advice, giving Anne the spark of inspiration she needed to look at another career direction.

“It all happened incredibly quickly. I searched for travel franchises, found Not Just Travel, and knew I had to go for it. I didn’t have the money to buy into it, but successfully secured a start-up loan, and then I was in! As a new franchisee, you have to go through some training first, but one of the big bonuses of being part of a travel company is getting to go abroad, so I had the hardship of enduring the training in sunny Marbella!”

“It was an amazing experience, there were around 30 of us – all new franchisees – and at the end of it you’re given a laptop with all of your contacts and suppliers, and you’re just let loose. It was very daunting, but the trip had armed me with the skills and the confidence I needed – now I just had to do it.”

Anne says, that although you’re working for yourself, input and inspiration from other people is imperative to your success, and earlier this year we matched Anne with Sally-Ann Cain, the Relationship Director of Barclay’s Bank and an IOEE Accredited Mentor:

“My mentoring relationship with Sally-Ann Cain has been so important. The franchise that I bought into has a wonderful sense of community, there’s lots of training and everyone there really helps each other, but you’re all coming at it from the same perspective. It means that you kind of get down one track, one way of thinking, which is why it’s so important to have someone else who is able to see at things differently and offer new ideas and fresh ways of looking at things, that you wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do yourself.”

“Sally-Ann  also holds me accountable – but in a lovely and supportive way! She makes me focus, which is so difficult when you feel like your To Do list is endless. If I’m overwhelmed that goals are too big, Sally-Ann helps me to break it down, and to plan and organise so that I can achieve them. You need someone in your corner when you’re setting up on your own, as you have no colleagues to bounce ideas around with. Having a mentor is invaluable.”

Anne says that being accountable is also one of the most satisfying and fulfilling parts of running her own business:

“You’re completely in charge of people’s holidays, and that’s a huge responsibility. But what I can offer my customers through Not Just Travel is a much more personal experience than you’d get through your typical agency. If they run into any problems with hotels or airlines, they can just contact me directly and I’ll be there to sort it out. I love being able to create an unforgettable or even life-changing holiday for them – I always find a way to contact a hotel and tell them how important the clients are, whether it’s an anniversary, birthday, or just a getaway, to make their trip that little bit extra-special.”

However, Anne says that the last couple of years have been a huge learning curve, and that working for herself has not been without its own challenges:

“You never get that Friday night 5 o’clock feeling where a weekend of freedom stretches out in front of you. I never get to the evening and close my laptop think ‘right, I’m finished work now’. There’s always more you can be doing, especially with the 24/7 nature of social media, but I love what I do, and for all the challenges of finding the right balance, I get all of the benefits, and my family do too. It took something awful to make me take that leap into running my own business, but since taking that redundancy, I’ve never looked back.”

Sally-Ann, Anne’s mentor, said:

“Mentoring is a great learning experience and teaches you things about yourself too. It is very rewarding seeing your mentee develop and the business grow. It is good to know that you are making a difference and I feel honoured that Anne feels the way she does about our relationship.”