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Providing affordable travel accommodations to tens of thousands of clients worldwide
Brad Callahan is the president and CEO of Travel Advantage Network. For over 20 years, TAN has been dedicated to providing affordable, convenient, clean, and comprehensive vacation experiences to families around the world. The company gives clients the option to book travel destinations by region, date, or activity, and offers discounts through giveaways and excess inventory. TAN is an active source of philanthropy for the Baltimore community, and partners with a number of local charitable organizations year-round. Along with receiving an a-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, the company has earned the BBB of of Maryland's Torch Award, Maryland's Chamber of Commerce and Baltimore Business Journal's Business Philanthropy Award, and a SmartCEO Magazine Future 50 Award.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What factors matter most to you in terms of delivering your service?
BRAD CALLAHAN: I want to make sure that the product we are delivering to the consumers is going to be something that’s going to be satisfactory for them on their vacation, very engaging with what their vacation needs are going to be. We have one shot to help a family who’s taking a vacation one time per year to really get it right. If we stumble, if we get that wrong, we’ve now had a negative impact on their family that could linger until the following year when they get the chance to make up for that. I can’t replace the time if we get it wrong, so quality control is extremely important for us in the execution.
A personal passion of mine, though, is the acquisition of inventory, whether it‘s something that we end up purchasing through one of my other companies or if it’s something that we acquire through a leasehold or through negotiations with resorts. We want to make sure that we have sufficient quality inventory that’s going to deliver at a very high level for our traveling clients.
I’m most passionate and most excited about what we’ve done in this past year. We have purchased several new technology components and we’ve built up, essentially, a war room. We have people on site in our office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, monitoring clients’ vacations, taking a look at it, making sure that everything’s happening that needs to happen in terms of air temperature—if there are HVAC issues we know, about them before the traveling clients know; we know if there’re some lockout issues with the keypad system. This group is also there to answer any phone calls that may happen from an adverse reaction to somebody walking into the unit and—God forbid—they found some trash in the trash can already. They’ll call my client services department. We have this all wired in now with this latest technology and we have a dispatch model, so we can plug in with local vendors or some of my people that might be on the streets locally, so that we can get that response time down to as short as possible.
Q. Is the purpose of the acquisitions to build up the company’s services, or is it to expand into other service areas?
A. What’s been important for us over these last couple of years is really to be able to refine the service. We’re not so interested right now in a hungry, acquisitions mode, but we wanted to evolve the company. We’ve just instituted some new accounting software into our system. We’re rebuilding our web platform right now. This client dispatch model that we’ve talked about—we’ve put in here. There have been several foundational items that we found to be much more important over these last couple of years. We’ve done that and focused in on the service with the idea of driving our customer service scores even higher. So I believe we improved our loyalty factor. We’ve not done so much on the client acquisitions model—that’ll come in the next couple of years.
One of the curses that I have is to be a serial entrepreneur. Where I see an opportunity there’s the pursuit of a business. Part of the quality control we talked about was making sure that units are cleaned to our satisfaction. Any time we start to reach critical mass in a particular vacation area where we have enough properties, I’ll open up a cleaning company. That cleaning company will make sure that we take care of the units that are part of the Travel Advantage program to the highest degree. They also provide a higher level of customer service than we can find from independent cleaners. That’s one example of a satellite business that I’ve grown. The primary purpose is to take care of the Travel Advantage client, but now that I have staff and we’ve performed a cleaning service in certain areas. We can get out there and do some retail cleaning and pursue some profitable cleans as well as what we’re doing to take care of the Travel Advantage cleans.
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