There are certain critical moments that we, as leaders, have a chance to change our minds–to think differently in order to lead differently. And when we do, the outcomes for those we lead are extraordinary. In this episode, our Founder and CEO Jenni Catron has great conversation with Lindsey Epperly, founder of Epperly Travel and EntreTravel, about some of the mental shifts she’s made while growing her business, investing in her team and developing as a leader.
Lindsey Epperly wandered into the travel industry at the age of 19 by complete accident: she walked into a local travel agency looking for a brochure and walked out with a job planning honeymoons. She built up her book of business while attending the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) and launched her own brand through an entrepreneurship competition. Five years into the role, she desired to begin training and mentoring other agents and decided to launch Epperly Travel, a boutique agency based in Atlanta with a focus on a modern, innovative approach to travel planning. Epperly Travel has recently received the prestigious honor of the Bulldog 100 List, for 2020 representing the fastest growing businesses led by UGA Alumni. Over the course of her career, Lindsey has been recognized as one of Travel Agent Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30, Wendy Perrin’s WOW List Caribbean expert, and Jezebel Magazine’s Trailblazing 10. Lindsey’s greatest passion is mentoring others in business and, of course, traveling – usually with her husband, who just last year quit his job in finance to join the Epperly Travel team.
Lindsey is passionate about mentoring and training others in the travel industry, so much so that she and her husband recently launched a separate travel advisor training company called EntreTravel, an online training and certification program dedicated to teaching advisors how to run a successful travel business.
Some Highlights from Jenni and Lindsey’s conversation:
In navigating the transition from technician or practitioner to owner and CEO, Lindsey describes the theme of her leadership growth in the first 5 years of being a business owner as this: “learning to let go of control and let others who are capable step up and do their jobs and do their jobs well without me getting in our own way.”
When we realize our own capacity, we can place people in the right spots. When people are in the right spots, they shine.
When faced with the unexpected transition of a key employee and being blindsided by the flood of emotions that followed, Lindsey says she realized…
- We had a culture problem
- We needed to prepare for the work-life balance dynamic of working with my soon-to-be husband
Identify the experienced people whose advice and counsel you want to seek out.
“I realized I was good at asking for advice, but I didn’t realize how bad I was at asking for help.”
On seasons of growth that can feel overwhelming: “Your natural response can be to double down and do more, work more, but the better response is to pour into yourself.”
Some team culture shifts Lindsey enacted:
- Culture shift to eliminate bottleneck and to encourage team members to be open with and learning from each other.
- Recreate and environment for water cooler conversations in a virtual world.
- Self-leadership to focus on what only she could do–stepping out of the weeds in client facing role and into teaching, mentoring and training the practitioners.
- Lindsey created “Coffee and Conversations.” Sent them Epperly Travel mugs and starbucks gift cards along with an invite to meet regularly so she could pour into them as individuals.
- I am constantly evaluating what can I do to that’s best for the company.
- “In order to grow, you’ve got to constantly replace yourself.” Shannon Miles from Belay (a business mentor of Lindsey’s)
- When we hold on too tightly, we can slow growth.
The personal touch of connecting clients with an advisor who gets to know their needs and wants to match them to the perfect, customized experience. Then the follow up to provide additional answers to any questions and customized extra touches throughout.
“Systems should never come before people. Learn to serve your clients with empathy.”
“Our culture stems from my personal faith, and I work to be respectful to my team members who come from all walks of life. But it’s the reason I’m loving on people or wanting to serve them well.”
Consistently ask: How am I living out my faith in my business?
Stay in touch with how meaningful the memory-making work we get to do truly is.
Connect with Lindsey:
If you’d like to take a step toward developing the type of self-awareness we talked about today, we have a great FREE resource that I’d love to get into your hands. Click here for the 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership Assessment.
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Listen to Episode 33, “Change Your Mind–An Interview with Lindsey Epperly Sulek.”
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