TTG Top 50 champion Swords Travel enhanced business by launching a homeworking division. Abra Dunsby finds out more from Mark and Stuart Swords
To be crowned the UK & Ireland’s No. 1 Travel Agency during a pandemic is no mean feat, but Swords Travel’s ability to innovate and adapt helped it clinch the award last month.
One example of smart thinking at the London-based luxury agency is the adoption of a homeworking model – the Swords Travel Associate scheme – introduced by married owners Mark and Stuart Swords last September.
Mark explains how the pandemic shifted their attitudes towards homeworking. “We were a team of four before. Some employees had asked if we’d consider taking them on as self-employed in the past, but we’d always said no as we wanted to keep the structure of the business. The pandemic made us realise we needed to change and offer flexibility.”
Swords Travel spent time looking at different homeworking models before creating their own scheme.
“We asked ourselves what we’d what from a homeworking company and realised we didn’t want a traditional model, as in some larger companies homeworkers can feel left to their own devices, with not much team spirit,” says Mark, who adds that Swords’ homeworkers join weekly business meetings, communicate daily on Microsoft Teams, and even have a team bonding trip to Greece planned later this year.
Stuart adds their homeworking model is flexible, with members able to work from home, the office or even abroad.
Swords Travel now has a total of seven homeworkers, each with a luxury specialism, many of whom were recommended to them by trusted suppliers. They include Carla Hutchings, who was previously at If Only.
“She was a travel agent before being a business development manager, so she’s gone back to her passion,” says Mark. “Her first booking was worth £50,000, which is an amazing achievement.”
He adds that taking on the homeworkers has helped the five-year-old agency achieve its best ever March this year. “It’s down to their hard work and hunger for the business,” he says.
Marketing pro Stuart has created a Facebook page for each homeworker, scheduling content so that they can concentrate on selling.
“Homeworkers can struggle with time management, so we help them with marketing. The Facebook posts give them a base structure and then they can personalise their pages with their own content too,” he explains.
Due to the scheme’s success, Swords is looking to expand its homeworking team to 10, and hopes to establish new specialisms within the agency. “We want to explore different niches, and our homeworkers can help with that. For example, homeworker Ian Weir based in Kent is passionate about sustainability, which has led us to make various changes as a business,” says Mark.
Swords Travel offers its homeworkers a 60:40 commission split, with further performance-related tiers planned. While the earning potential is appealing, Mark says travel professionals are also joining for the support and lead generation offered by the agency.
“It’s about the whole package. We offer marketing, training, support – and we care about each other too.”