Brownell (No. 35 on Travel Weekly’s 2022 Power List) recently promoted Kerry Dyer to chief development officer, a new post at the Birmingham, Ala.-based agency. Dyer will oversee marketing and talent development and, in particular, expand hosting and mentoring programs. Senior Retail Editor Jamie Biesiada recently caught up with Dyer to talk about her new role, what the future holds and more..
Question: What is your focus in your new position?
A: We spent a lot of time during Covid, when things weren’t selling, helping people run their businesses and prioritize their businesses. We helped clean out the closet while not much was happening, and now we know what they need for that next level.
There is a lot of focus on bringing our people together by region. And then another big part of that is marketing, whether that’s marketing to their client advisors and consumers and getting the message out about their business or marketing the Brownell brand. For example, after people decided during Covid they didn’t want to be lawyers anymore, they didn’t want to be the CMO (chief marketing officer) of Pepsi, they wanted to get into travel, we wanted to make sure we were there with mentoring program to get them there. Also, [marketing to] existing travel advisors who decided … they needed more engagement and support, so they knew Brownell was a place they could come.
Question: Industry-wide, I’m seeing a lot of hiring and promotions, especially in positions dedicated to supporting independent contractors. What are your thoughts?
A: I think people understand the power of the individual business owner under their brand and their company. Covid was an opportunity to slow things down for five minutes, however painful. But it gave people time to think and consider what will happen next. For us, we’ve had some projects out there that we were really planning to do in 2020 and 2021. Then those plans got shelved. I think this is also what is happening with [other companies] — They had these plans that they just couldn’t implement for two years, and now there’s a backlash of initiatives and goals that they’re finally able to implement.
Question: Has Covid brought any fundamental changes to the host agency model?
A: Covid was an awakening moment of “What do I really want to do?” Traveling is a big thing that people wanted to do. I think the level of people who are entering the travel industry are those who are professionals in different fields. While they are making that change, they want to be entrepreneurs. They don’t want to be employees. If this person was a CMO of a company, imagine what their compensation was. To be an employee travel advisor, you won’t come close to that. But if you’re an entrepreneur and starting your own business, the sky’s the limit on the compensation you can get.
I think that’s where the host agency idea has become even more prevalent, because these are individual business owners who want to create their own destiny, and that’s what it allows them to do. Everyone is really investing in that idea because it’s not just here to stay, it’s a huge growth opportunity.
Question: Are more changes coming for hosts?
A: Where we are starting to see investment is in the training component of it. We’ve had our mentorship program — our first class was in 2006, and I think we have class no. 26 starting in August. One of our plans that I was mentioning is that we need an evolution in that, and that’s something on our mind. Not to say we’re going to leave behind what we’ve always done, but what are people looking for that might be different? How can we get ahead of that game and accommodate? I think a lot of other people have gone into that field of training and helping people get into the travel business.
I also think there is more awareness of the importance of community. This is what Covid also brought to mind. Because you’re an independent contractor, you’re an independent consultant, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re home alone. We’ve always been very big in the community, but I see a lot of other agencies coming into this as well. How are we making people feel involved? How are we connecting with them to ensure they are part of the larger community?