what I've learned about working remotely

my old paper-and-pencil system of keeping track of bookings

When I started Ourisman Travel in 2006, I implemented a simple paper-and-pencil system. Each client had a manilla file folder. Inside that folder was a sheet with the client's basic information and preferences. Hotel confirmations, travel insurance certificates, etc. were also filed in the folder. But key to my system was the form above — a chronological list of each booking with tasks to be done.

Details for each reservation were recorded listing the name of the hotel, room category chosen, bed types requested, and room rate. There was a space in the middle of the form to record the Sabre PNR  and the confirmation number. At the right was a box to make note of special requests. There was even a checkbox to remind me to provide my IATA number to the hotel when making a reservation on the phone.

The workflow was quite simple. I filled out the form, then put the folder in a physical "inbox" on my assistant's desk. She would invoice the reservation and send a VIP email, tick off the appropriate checkboxes, then refile the client's folder in the file cabinet.

But as Ourisman Travel grew, my simple paper-and-pencil system became obsolete. We now had home offices in both California and Maryland. We hired assistants who lived elsewhere (Arkansas and Kentucky, at the time). Of necessity, our office became "virtual." Every client still had a file, but it lived in Dropbox. Every reservation still had to be invoiced and VIP'ed, but without an assistant sitting across the room, we had to invent something new ... and we did!

reservations in Paris and Rome in Ping Pong
It's called Ping Pong, a proprietary software platform being developed by our software designer to meet our specific needs. Ping Pong has replaced my paper-and-pencil form. When it's ready, Ping Pong will be made available to the entire travel industry.

When I fill in the details and enter a confirmation number, the reservation magically appears in the to-do list of the Team members who will take the next steps — invoicing and VIP'ing. They'll tick off those tasks when accomplished. It's just like my paper-and-pencil system, but everyone on Team Ourisman has access to the entire trip, even though we're separated by thousands of miles.

We have years of experience working remotely! There are now eight of us; we live across the country in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Arkansas. We are available constantly to one another in real time. With Dialpad, customers calling our main number are transferred to their travel advisor. With Slack, the Team stays in constant contact, asking questions or sharing ideas. Asana (project management software) helps us keep the details of complex itineraries organized. With Uberconference, we can schedule conference calls with clients and vendors, even sharing video presentations.

My verdict on working remotely? The members of Team Ourisman can be anywhere in the world, even when we're separated by oceans, yet it very much feels like we're one Team collaborating together, sharing the same space. Sheltering-in-place is no issue for us when we work with clients to plan their next wonderful trips!

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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