In honour of Valentine’s Day and all things romantic, Charlotte Cullinan catches up with some of travel’s power couples to find out the secrets of their success
Owners, ItsSo Travel, Cambridgeshire
Working together for 11 months
Despite sitting next to each other for six days a week at their agency ItsSo Travel, Paul and Claire Welling have mastered the art of separating business and home life.
Claire explains: “We talk about work until 5.30pm, but unless we get an enquiry at home, we draw a line under it after that.” Paul adds: “You have to switch off when you go home, otherwise work could be all-consuming.”
After meeting through friends 11 years ago, the couple married in 2010. For the past 20 years Paul has run business travel agency, A Well Placed Conference, having previously worked in hospitality. In 2014 he moved into leisure travel and launched ItsSo Travel, initially working from an office in the couple’s hometown of St Ives in Cambridgeshire.
Last March the Global Travel Group member moved into a shop on St Ives’ high street, and Claire joined the team, bringing her customer service skills from working in the theatre and banking sectors.
They have their own areas of expertise, as Claire explains: “We’ve each found our niche and complement each other. I’m the chatty one and focus on the customer-facing side, and my niche is Disney. Paul is very detail-orientated and is good at tailor-made, bespoke itineraries, and he always gets it spot on.”
The pair have three teenage children and do a roaring trade in family holidays, as Paul explains: “St Ives is a small town, so clients favour family-run businesses and they can really relate to us.”
Directors, The Destination Lounge, Devon
Working together for seven years
When Ian and Jake Goodenough started working together at The Destination Lounge, they drew up an agreement. Ian would use his experience gained from working in advertising to make the phones ring, and Jake – who has worked in travel agencies since he was 15 – would handle the enquiries. “That was the deal, and the business has really taken off,” Ian explains.
The pair met through their shared love of amateur dramatics in 2005, and celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary last August. They have two young children and are still involved with the stage. Ian is acting in an Agatha Christie production and Jake is directing a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert musical. “At home we don’t normally talk about work – it’s mainly theatre and the kids,” Ian explains.
After launching the business in 2006, Jake ran things from home before Ian joined in 2011, and the duo soon moved into retail premises. The agency is now part of Advantage Travel Partnership’s Advantage Managed Services and has offices in South Molton and Ilfracombe, employing nine staff.
Ian is normally based at home and focuses on marketing, book-keeping and HR, while Jake is in charge of travel. Ian explains: “We’re not generally in the same office, and it works well because we do different things, and don’t stray into each other’s areas. It’s really important to have your own areas of importance in a business.”
Jake adds: “The best thing is that everything is shared, but it’s really important to keep communicating if we ever disagree.”
Directors, Newell’s Travel, Cornwall and Devon
Working together for 28 years
Roger and Helen Hawke will celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary this year – and have a fam trip to Portugal to thank for bringing them together.
They met on a self-drive educational around the Algarve in 1986, when Roger was working at Newell’s Travel and Helen was at Hogg Robinson Travel.
Roger went on to buy Newell’s Travel in 1989, and the pair married the following year and became business partners. The agency now employs 69 staff across 11 retail branches, plus a groups department and a business travel division team based in head office.
While the couple have two adult children, Helen says their team feels like “a big family”. She continues: “Our biggest triumph is our team. Having members of staff who have worked with us for 30 years is such an achievement.”
Last November they were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Travel Network Group’s conference. Helen says: “We took our managers to the conference and were all in tears on the night as all our awards are down to our staff.”
While Helen and Roger speak on the phone up to 15 times a day, they work in different offices. Roger says: “That’s the secret to working together. We complement each other, but we stick to our areas of responsibility. I’m based in Falmouth and do more of the administration, and Helen is at the sharp end – in the offices.”
Are there any downsides to working together? “There are none,” Roger replies. “We’re just a really good team.”
Proprietors, Southern Cross Travel, East Sussex
Working together for 44 years
Within a year of meeting in a pub in 1968, fellow travel addicts Trevor and Penny Bones had agreed to set off together overland to Australia. Trevor bid farewell to his training with the Merchant Navy, and Penny left her job in banking, and their journey helped pave the way to their first business in 1974, operating overland tours from Australia around the world.
“Trevor was driving and I was the courier,” Penny recalls. “It was our first time working together and travel felt really new and exciting.”
They married in 1976 and called Australia home for many years, and their three daughters were all born there. The Southern Cross constellation – which appears on the country’s flag – also helped inspire their next business venture.
Southern Cross Travel launched in 1984, and today Trevor is based in the Rye branch. Penny runs the Wadhurst office. They are joined by their youngest daughter and travel specialist Anneka, who was one of the 2014 cohort of TTG’s 30 under 30. “There’s lots of work chat between us when we’re at home,” Penny laughs. “But we do have date nights and we vow not to talk about travel.”
Trevor says working together as a couple has always felt “totally natural,” explaining: “We both love travel so much and still get excited by trips. We understand each other, so we know if the other is down and needs a boost.”
The pair struggle to think of any negatives to working together. “The only problem can be deciding who is boss,” Penny says. “It’s definitely me, though.”