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 do you hope to implement over the next five years? Will your client population change?
BRAD CALLAHAN: One of the things that we like to do is make sure that whatever the clients are looking for when they go on vacation we have within the property. Some of the things, such as WiFi or flat screen TVs, are common sense, but what’s the next generation going to bring? We’re not really sure just yet, so we’re trying to figure that out. Right now, it could be the introduction of some streaming movie services, or Netflix, or Amazon Prime, so when somebody goes on vacation they can tap in through Netflix to watch whatever series they’re watching on these big screen TVs.
So, five years from now we’d like to continue to refine that technology. We’d like to continue to improve the quality control aspects. We’ve continued over the years to upgrade the quality of the properties to not only provide a higher level of service for our entry clients, but for clients who’ve been with us for 10 or 15 or 20 years who are going through a different stage of life, maybe they’re looking for a higher level of property. We want to continue to elevate the quality of properties commensurate with what the client needs are.
Q. Where do you think your entrepreneurial drive came from? You mentioned that your parents divorced when you were young and that your mother became a single mother of three. What about your father? Was he also in business?
A. He had a high level of success in the county where we grew up. Unfortunately he passed before I was of an age to remember—I was probably 3 or 4 when he died. My uncle took over that business. My uncle was very well respected, a good businessman. I actually worked for him for a couple of summers growing up and I enjoyed that aspect, and I saw some of the things that his family could do, what they were afforded to do, that became aspirational for me, that I wanted.
On my mom’s side, she had one brother who was also an entrepreneur and started a hair cutting business in Georgetown, in D.C., and was wildly successful as well. So, on each side of the family I saw some entrepreneurial success that helped change the lives of people in my family. They became models for me growing up, and I said, “These are the lives that I want to lead.”
Q. What is the company culture like?
The culture in my company is starting to shift. For many years it was small, it was very family-oriented. I knew everybody extremely well. As we grew, I started to lose some of that connectivity. Even now, the office building that we’re in—we’re in two different buildings. So, it’s tough for everybody to stay connected.
One of the things that I like to do is once a week, grab four or five employees and we go to lunch and just get to know each other—no agenda other than sitting down, breaking bread, and sharing some stories. I still want to get to know my people very well and there are many things that we do within the company. We still have a summer picnic. We have the winter holiday party that we’ll do as well. We have a monthly all-hands meeting, where we get together, we talk; I want to know exactly what’s going on with everybody out there. We recognize various employees of the month through different programs. We have a book club every month. Somebody sponsors a book; 8, 10, 12 people get together; they’ll read the book; they get together at the end of the month and share their stories on that.
I think one of the most significant things that we do, though, is the Charity Champion: at the end of each year, we ask for volunteers each month for the upcoming year to pick a month and to pick a charity that they’d like to represent. Throughout the course of the year, that Charity Champion will put together events—they’ll do fundraisers, bake sales, auctions, bingo, whatever—and try to raise money for that particular charity.
There are a lot of ways that the company pulls together and the culture is extremely important to me. We want to stay connected. I want to make sure that we do keep more of an informal organization while still getting things done on a professional level.
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