Operations

New Mexico Operator Adapts To And Thrives In Change

Lexi Tucker
Posted on June 12, 2019

Deanna Ballard, CEO of World Travel Management

Deanna Ballard, CEO of World Travel Management

SANTA FE, N.M. — A lot has changed since the last time Deanna Ballard, CEO of World Travel Management, has been interviewed, but one thing hasn’t: Her ability to thrive in a business environment that’s constantly changing. She’s setting an example not just for females in the industry, but for those who desire to better themselves and their company.

On The Road Again

She chose to name her company World Travel Management to reflect her desire to take care of every kind of traveler, whether for business or pleasure. Sante Fe is a resort town, and tourism is a major source of business. She lived in Albuquerque for about 11 years, and moved to the Santa Fe area in 2014. “I wanted to do some event/destination management work, as well as help affiliates,” she says.

Originally running a fleet of all Mercedes-Benz vehicles, she’s since branched out to a variety of sedans, SUVs, vans, and a minibus for nine vehicles total. “We originally did a lot of work for the Four Seasons, and they used Mercedes-Benz so I wanted my fleet to compliment theirs,” she explains. However, 80% of the roads in Santa Fe are dirt, and she quickly learned using a Chevrolet Suburban is more effective. “It’s a little bit higher up, has four wheel drive which is great in the winter, and can handle destinations that might otherwise chew up tires.” She also has E-class sedans and a Sprinter. “We have to consider where our runs will take us and adapt accordingly.”

Climbing Tech Mountains

During her time in the industry, she says one of the biggest changes and challenges she’s faced is adapting to new technology; something many operators can certainly relate to. “When I first started, we were writing everything down and making our own email confirmations to send back to clients. Now here we are today with apps, software, and portals…I keep telling myself ‘change before you have to.’”

Tech has also brought about an interesting challenge other industries are struggling with in her service area as well: Lack of strong Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity. “Sometimes companies host events in really remote locations, so affiliates might say they are having a hard time reaching a chauffeur. In reality, it’s because the infrastructure just isn’t there.” The state also has a movie production tax incentive, but the lack of strong internet connectivity made it difficult for big productions to function. She says it was so bad at one point, the mayor of Santa Fe declared a national emergency for bandwidth and applied for federal funds to provide more.

Paving The Way For Future Female Leaders

Ballard considers where  runs will take a client and adapts accordingly.

Ballard considers where  runs will take a client and adapts accordingly.

Ballard says one of the best parts of being a woman business owner is interacting with older female clients. “Many of my customers in this area are older women, and there are plenty of times when I’m speaking to them and just see a look of admiration on their faces. It’s really inspiring when you tell them you’re the owner and they look at you almost in awe. They’ve seen the evolution of where women have progressed to today.”

Unfortunately, she still has experiences where she’ll be getting a car worked on and get the “honey, just let your husband explain that” reaction. “I’ll be getting tires and they’ll ask me, ‘ok, what department are you in?’ It’s like they automatically think there’s no way you’re the owner.”

However, she does think women in the luxury transportation industry have made great strides over the last few years. “People are starting to realize women rock in this industry. We need to let that develop and spread,” she says.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Working in the luxury transportation industry is a 24/7 job, and at times you can feel like you are handcuffed to it; but that doesn’t mean you should give up. “I don’t get angry or upset at the things I used to. If there is something that happens, you take that info and realize this is a lesson in how you can do things better the next time.”

She says she thinks it’s still a great industry to start in, and easy to get into. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy work. “If you work hard, you can definitely make it happen in any city, no matter the size. Just remember: No matter what technology or cars you have, it all comes down to the service. If you can be of service, you can be successful.”

Related Topics: customer service, eNews Exclusive, New Mexico operators, small business, small-fleet operators, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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