As Spear Travels home-worker Frank Jackson approached retirement in 2012 he needed a trusted agent to take over his valuable client list. So when his daughter Rachel Baber expressed an interest in swapping her career in air traffic control for homeworking, Jackson knew he’d found the perfect person.
Baber wanted a new role with flexible hours, so started visiting Jackson in his nearby Bedfordshire home during weekends and on her days off, to learn more about homeworking. “I learnt the ropes from dad,” she explains. “He’d show me the systems and how to deal with enquiries. He was a patient teacher.”
Baber officially joined Spear Travels in early 2013, initially working alongside Jackson in his home office, before he formally retired at the end of the year.
They are Spear Travels’ first and only father and daughter homeworking duo, although the current team of 17 homeworkers – known as “associates” – includes a husband and wife team.
The pair contacted all of Jackson’s clients to inform them that Baber was taking over, and many have continued booking with her, including a client who recently attended the Calgary Stampede rodeo. “Bookings like that are a real highlight, as it is fantastic customers have stayed with me,” Baber says. “He emailed to say he loved the detailed itinerary I’d made, and said ‘like father, like daughter’, which was really nice.”
It’s not just customers who have praise for Baber, as Jackson adds: “I’m really happy Rachel has embarked on something she really wanted to do, and that my clients are well looked after. I feel very proud of her.”
However, Baber hasn’t relied on the existing bank of clients, and regularly attends local networking groups. She also focuses on social media, promotes her profile page on the new Spear Travels associates website, and is distributing redesigned business cards and marketing collateral, which the firm launched to associates in August.
There are clear similarities between the pair, who both specialise in tailor-made trips and have a customer-focused approach. “We find out what the customer wants, and put them first,” Baber explains. “It’s worth going the extra mile to ensure they have a wonderful experience and everything’s perfect.”
It is an ethos that helped Jackson build his business, as he adds: “Building personal relationships is crucial, as success hinges on it. We both focus on flexibility, and I would always try to be available for clients whenever they called. Many stayed with me from the start, and I found word of mouth recommendations to be better than any form of advertising.”
Like Jackson, Baber frequently visits customers at home, and welcomes them into her home office. She normally works between 9am and 3pm while her children Francesca and Joe are at school.
“It combines my interest in travel with being able to fit work around my family, so it’s perfect.”
She is also able to utilise the wealth of travel knowledge gained during her career. After completing a BA Honours in Travel and Tourism Management at Bournemouth University she worked as an air traffic control assistant at Heathrow, where she met her husband Paul, and Luton airport.
“I did lots of flight planning to plot the journey of aircraft, and it’s similar to getting someone from A to B on their holiday. I also gained good geographical knowledge.”
While Baber says the pair “try not to have business chat over the dinner table”, she recently booked her father a trip to Cuba. “It was good fun, as he knows what he wants, but I was able to suggest things. We just put our knowledge together.”