Going on an international travel is indeed a thrilling experience. But the planning you must go through before you can even get to your flight is extremely stressful. The long and tedious preparation usually takes the fun away from such trips, discouraging many people from ever going on one. Shane Mahoney joins Eric Sims and Jon Juliano to share how his company Lugos Travel helps professionals and families make international travel planning a breeze. He explains how their services can turn a simple out-of-the-country getaway into a memorable experience full of surprises. Shane also discusses their new Entrepreneur Travel Club that brings people together on a vacation to create a strong rapport and deep connection, as well as their Travel2GiveBack program that gives travelers a chance to go on a trip while giving back to the community.
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CX Secrets Of The Luxury Lifestyle Specialist With Shane Mahoney
Shane, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
We’re excited to have you on the show. You’re the Owner of Lugos Travel. You launched Entrepreneur Travel Club. You do a lot of other exciting things, but to level-set with our audience, tell us a little bit about Lugos Travel. What is Lugos Travel? What do you do?
Planning international travel can be super stressful and takes a long time. People like to travel, but they don’t like the planning part of travel. What my team and I do is create a vacation from planning a vacation. Aside from the fact that you’re going to have a fantastic vacation with private luxury trips for your family alone and the people that you go with, we’re going to take care of all the details from the start to the finish, including so many things that make your life stress free and easy. That’s what we do and what we specialize in.
There’s far more customization around that and hands-on with your customers, I would assume.
It depends. We used to do a lot more high-touch custom. What we have done is we have taken twelve years of lessons doing that and created a fast lane for what we call our standard tours. They’re still private and highly specialized, but they’re designed to be super fast to accommodate busy professionals and families who don’t have weeks to plan their vacation and put all that effort into it. What we’re doing is we’re introducing a challenge to start your year and in 5 days plan 18 months of travel. Considering the fact that every other company in the world won’t even be able to get you one proposal for one tour in five days, we’re going to be leading the way to make things as easy as possible.
That’s awesome. To your point, planning travel for the average Joe is a nightmare, sifting through all the different websites on top of trying to figure out where you’re going to go, “Where should I stay? How are we going to get from point A to point B? Where in the heck should we eat?” I can speak for myself. I’ve done a trip with you. I can speak later about some of those specifics. I’m not huge on going on the canned sandals type of trips. I have nothing against those, but when I go somewhere, I want to know somewhere the locals go and where people that know the town go. Where’s a great restaurant? Where’s the best hotel? Online, they all look great. None of them advertise like, “We have bedbugs. We’re crappy at bringing you service.”
“We’re a great deal.”
“Best price in town. We had 3 murders here last year and 6 kidnappings.” When you’re looking at doing some of that, I know that’s an enormous amount of information, but I’m assuming you have a local touch in some of these areas as well.
One of the things that I look at is trend lines over time. If you look at a 20 to 25-year timeline, what used to be is you had to have a travel professional to help you out because there wasn’t the internet. You couldn’t find the information that you wanted. You needed to have a professional. In the early 2000s and late ’90s, the internet started to change things and be able to give the democratization of information.
The problem now that we’re years into that journey is not that there isn’t enough information. It’s that there’s too much information. The real value is not in being able to book hotels, transfers, and all the stuff. It’s in the curation. It’s knowing what to get, when to get it, and when to spend this money versus when to do this. We have brought things in the industry full circle to be able to understand more about what is of value to our customers and what is going to be good.
Our experience is that people are stressed and busy in their lives. When you start looking and dissecting what the average American couple and family are looking at when they plan a vacation, it’s sifting through all of that data and picking between two different four-star hotels that are a block away from each other. Both have over 500 great reviews on this platform or the other. How do you pick between the two? What is the real difference between those?
What that couple and family is doing is spending an enormous amount of their personal time or professional time, even worse, to be able to sift through that data and figure it out. Ultimately, what we’re looking at is that it’s not that the average person doesn’t have information. It’s that they have too much information. What we do is streamline that process to be able to make sure that you don’t have to worry about that thing.
My expectation is that Jon and Eric are better experts at their lives than they are at travel. Ultimately, what you want is a great vacation. If you start to dissect that and go into planning it yourself, is it a vacation anymore? Are you going to surprise yourself with something you didn’t know was going to happen? Worse, all that work that it took to do that takes away from the experience and takes you away from what you’re already an expert at.
What we wanted to do was create easy pathways for people to be able to have the vacation but without having all the stress and the problems that come up because ultimately, the worst possible scenario that can happen is you plan it yourself and go on your vacation, and then if anything bad happens like a train strike, who’s on the clock? You are.
Ultimately, you’re robbing yourself of the vacation that you planned because you’re the one who has to fix it, and you have to fix it right then. It is antithetical to the whole point of a vacation to plan it yourself because you added a second job when what you were looking for was a vacation from your first job. You added the stress of knowing that anything that can or may happen during that tour became your extra job. It robs you of your time.It is antithetical to the whole point of a vacation to plan it yourself. That is like adding a second job when you actually want a vacation from your first job. Click To Tweet
Jon, there’s a ton to unpack there that’s so applicable in everything, especially with what your team does with all the companies out there. I’m going to shut up for a second because I know you probably picked up on everything he was saying and have a bunch of questions.
Looking at it from that vantage point, typically, you take your vacation. I have two small kids. I’m married. Planning a vacation is exciting in concept, but when you’re going through the steps, it’s exhausting. By the time you get to the destination, you’re completely shot from the planning exercise. You’re taking a vacation from planning the vacation that you need to take.
That’s exactly what we call our process. It’s a vacation from planning a vacation. Somebody asked me, “What’s your number one travel hack? What’s your number one travel tip?” I get that question all the time. A lot of people in my position would say, “It’s blah-blah-blah.” Mine is simple. Don’t plan your vacation. Have an expert plan it. You’re not going to get the same experience that you do for yourself that I would do for you. You as a customer are inevitably going to be faced with a money choice. Most times, you will take the cheaper of those two choices.
Ultimately, what you do in that exact moment is you rob yourself of an experience that you would rather have at the moment but because you’re planning it 2, 3, or 8 months ahead, you’re like, “We will be okay without doing it.” It’s funny, but I spend your money better than you do. I do it for you in a way that makes your experience better. To touch on further, wouldn’t you like to be surprised on your vacation? You’re not going to surprise yourself. You can’t, but I can.
You’ve brought up two interesting things. It’s a different way to look at vacation and travel. If you look at it more, it’s like I’m investing in myself, which is what you’re doing. You’re investing in time off with your family, with yourself, with your friends, or whatever it may be. It’s the same as you would when you hand money over to a wealth management person and say, “Take this money and do something more with it for me. I don’t have the expertise, the time, or the energy to do it. If I do it myself, I’m probably not going to do it as well as you would.”
If you look at your travel that way, and you should, especially as a business person because you’re investing back in yourself for your company, venture, or family, it’s a healthy way to look at it. A second point that you brought up that is across-the-board important to point out is that your industry is having the same struggle that a lot of businesses are, whether it’s a retail business, a B2B business, or anything else. There was this predate when there was no internet and information, and the salesperson or the customer service person held all the cards. That was the power at that moment.
In our environment, there’s too much information and too many choices almost in every industry out there. You’ve done a great job of pulling all that in and saying, “My job is to show you what your best choices are.” That’s something that a lot of brands are struggling with, especially from a servicing side, “How do we get ourselves into a position to help people make educated decisions on what’s best for them based on what’s out there?” That’s great you have found a way to do that in a way that’s not only impacting your business but probably changing people’s lives with the experiences they’re getting to have because they will. I know I would.
If I planned a vacation, I would do exactly what you said. I’m going to look at prices. I’m eventually going to get frustrated, say, “Damn it,” and probably start clicking buttons and doing whatever because I’m going to get so tired of looking at stuff. I have to deal with the BS on the trip, “This didn’t go right. I picked this restaurant. It sucked. This wasn’t what we thought it was, and now I have to deal with it,” versus having somebody that understands all that and plan it all out. That’s fantastic. With all this, you’ve launched the new Entrepreneur Travel Club in collaboration with or an expansion of what you’re already doing. Can you share with us a little bit about what that is and how that works?
To further explain the company, we have three main verticals that deal with travel. Lugos Travel is what we have been speaking about thus far. The main competitive advantage is that we have 66 tours in 19 countries that we can quote 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in 10 minutes. In less than an hour or two, you can completely customize it, pay your deposit, and then tell us when you want to go. It’s the easiest possible system that exists because everybody else is 3 to 5 business days, and that’s to get one proposal. That’s Lugos Travel.
Our second thing is Travel2GiveBack. We wanted to introduce a social component combined with the fact that there’s a lot of use for everyday travel and things like hotel flights and rental cars that people can book themselves. They don’t need a professional to go to Atlanta for the weekend for their friend’s baby shower, but what we wanted to do is provide the same solution that’s super easy like Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, and all the same ones.
The difference is that we wanted to add the social component so that you could be a force for good in the lives of others. While booking these things, you can start a completely free account. Once you have that account, you pick any of the 1.3 million charities in the United States of America. At zero additional cost to you, whatever commissions are earned, we will split 25% or more with that charity at no cost to the charity and you. That’s vertical number two.
You touched on vertical number three. It’s brand spanking new. It’s the Entrepreneur Travel Club. This was born because I had seen a distinct need in the entrepreneurship community to be able to find peers that you can share ideas with. It was my understanding that a lot of people in business are one good connection or one good idea away from taking something that’s maybe at 80% and bringing it to 100% or taking an idea that they didn’t know how to implement and making it go from 0% to 100%.
I realized that we have these fantastic communities of entrepreneurs who are willing to collaborate with each other and share ideas. There are a lot of structures like masterminds to be able to put these people together but inherently, the biggest problem that I saw was the Know, Like, and Trust factor. How do you overcome that? The only way to overcome Know, Like, and Trust is to get to know somebody.
The only way to get to know somebody is to spend time with them, get past that veneer of the suited person in front of you and get to the real core of who they are. I’ve found over years of doing this that the fastest way to do that is to go on vacation together because it takes people out of their element and puts them into a new place where they don’t have those walls constructed around them that can protect them from themselves.The only way to get to know somebody is to spend time with them. Get past that veneer of the suited person in front of you and get to the real core of who they are. Click To Tweet
The good news is that you get to see the real people that you’re with. The bad news is if you’re not a good person, it’s not going to work out very well for you. Entrepreneur Travel Club is simply a mastermind where we put entrepreneurs together on vacation with other entrepreneurs to be able to overcome the Know, Like, and Trust factor in the shortest period of time and also create better relationships and deal flow within your organization and outside of your organization. That’s what we have been doing with that.
That’s genius. I love that. In this entrepreneurial travel group, are there different groups within travel? I come from this industry. I know I need X, Y, and Z. Can I book a trip with somebody who has those skillsets? Is it a mixed bag of entrepreneurs talking and getting to know each other?
Currently, we do two different types of tours. We do leisure tours, which are simply, “Let’s have some fun.” Eric, you were on one of those in 2022 in Greece. The other kind brings a different set of values, and that’s where we do educational trips. We do fun things as a group together, but there are one or more experts who are going to teach us very specific and narrow classes. In 2023, for example, we have a relationship expert that’s going to help couples while on a tour of Madrid and Barcelona. On the other hand, we have four panels of experts who are going to be giving a wealth-building and asset protection class while on a tour in Northern Italy.
If you think about it, it’s a mastermind in the fact that we’re all together. We’re going to have these times to chat and talk, go to dinner together, and do all the things that we do in normal masterminds, but the difference is that we also have the added connection point of being able to share an experience. Ultimately, I equate this a lot to setting a good dinner table. If you set the dinner table the right way, the conversation happens naturally. Everybody has a good time, and everything is good. That’s what we’re trying to do with Entrepreneur Travel Club.
In my mind’s eye when he tells me about this, companies like Marcus Evans, other masterminds, and a lot of conventions have tried to do it, but they’re not able to accomplish it because it turns into another typical show-up. Everybody has drinks and walks around. It turns into a garage sale every time. That’s what it feels like. You’re at a flea market or a garage sale. This is cool because you get to go on a badass trip. Let’s not exclude the part where you’re going to kick-ass places with cool people, but you’re making genuine connections. I can testify to this to a certain extent from our trip that we had in 2022.
Ours was not business-focused. That was not the intent of that trip. It was a fun trip to see a beautiful part of the world, but we’re all friends now with the guys, girls, and couples that were on that trip with us. There’s a chat thread that everybody is chiming in on all the time. It’s almost like when you went camping as a kid and you had these friends from camp after you went camping together. It’s an adult version of that with professional benefits. That’s the way I look at it.
There was a guy in the group that’s a specialist at Airbnbs and things like that. I had some questions about doing stuff like that. I called Dan and had lunch. He downloaded a bunch of information on me to help me figure some stuff out and get started on that. He’s a trusted friend and advisor that I can call on so that I don’t have to sift through 90 other people and videos to figure out. To me, that’s a neat part of that. On top of that fact, they’re cool people. They’ve got neat lives. They’re good people.
Jon, to further define what I said to your question, it’s not like you’re like, “I need a marketing company. Let me go on a trip. There are six other marketers. That’s the one that I like the most.” It’s not like that. We have first-come-first-served. It’s a member-based organization. We charge a monthly membership fee. That puts you into the mastermind structure. I’m not a tax professional, and I’m not trying to give tax advice, but as long as your business already can claim tax-deductible travel expenses as part of a mastermind, you can already claim it with Entrepreneur Travel Club.
It is a way for some business owners to be able to have tax-deductible travel as part of their thing. What we do is take people from multiple different industries and put them together. What Eric’s lived experiences and mine match from doing two years of these types of trips is you don’t have to put people that are necessarily designed to play in the same sandbox because there are so many different ideas that any given entrepreneur is going to be exploring.
It could be personal investments, professional investments, this, or that. It’s creating a community where we foster good conversations. We can’t guarantee that something is going to come of it, but it’s our experience that you’re going to come away with some good relationships and people that you can trust and who operate at a very high level so that you ultimately have a lot of value. It’s my experience that when you put entrepreneurs together in the same room, they won’t shut up about how great things are going, what they’re working on, how this works, and what they have been doing with this.When you put entrepreneurs together in the same room, they won't shut up about how great things are going. They will talk nonstop about what they're working on, how they work, and what they have been doing with them. Click To Tweet
That’s not true, Shane. They’re very humble and quiet people typically.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. When we were in Greece, we were having lots of conversations about what we were doing, how it works, and what our challenges were. Even people who weren’t in the specific same industry had insights into what could be done. It’s not to say that you have to do it, but it’s information. Ultimately, that’s the value.
Jon and I had a conversation. We have put some content out around creating what they call devotees as a company and as a customer expert. You’re going down the list of how you do that. The list is, “Identify who your current ones are.” What you did in your business is you looked at it and said, “Who is successful for me? What does a successful, dedicated, and devoted customer look like?” You understood their needs. You personalize their experience, you provide customer service, you create a sense of community, and then you encourage referrals. That’s the checklist of getting devoted customers and protecting your brand from brandslaughter.
I’m in love with the way you articulated that. I’ve been a part of two masterminds. I’m currently a part of one in New York. I’m looking at it. You see the value of that trusted group. You create that camaraderie, that teamwork, and that synergy, but it gets furthered when you’re traveling together to a new destination that nobody may have explored in the way that you’re sharing. The value that’s added to that alone is incredible.
Ultimately, entrepreneurs are going to try to get together. It could be at the Sheraton in Phoenix or Iceland. It’s a question of choice. Maybe you can speak to this, Jon. It’s my lived experience from multiple different masterminds that most of them have a four-meetings-per-year schedule. When you join, you are usually what I call under the ether. You’re like, “Look at all these amazing and high-functioning people in this room with great conversations.”
Your brain is exploding with the possibility of what could be, but the reality once you join is that the value you wish to extract could be sales, connections, or ideas. There’s some value that you want to extract at some point after your year. It’s very difficult to get quickly. I suggest that it’s impossible to get quickly. To overcome the Know, Like, and Trust factor, you’re going to need 3 of those 4 meetings to get known by the group well enough that they’re willing to have those conversations, to begin with.
I find that’s a problem for the mastermind because ultimately, they’re not providing the value that they want to provide as fast as they wish to provide it because now, you have one meeting left to extract your value or you’re not going to join again. On the other hand, that robs the community of you if you don’t join, and you don’t get to explore the possibilities or the potential within the group because you barely scratched the surface of getting to know them as you were trying to extract your value.
My supposition is this. You spend eight days with a group. You’re going to know intimately and quickly who is and isn’t your tribe, who you can and can’t trust, who you’re willing to partner with, and who you’re willing to do business with. You get to see how they treat their spouse and the waiter. You get to see all kinds of things. How do they handle being tired because a group of them went and smoked cigars the night before until 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning? There’s all this contextual information that usually gets lost when you go to a meeting and have presentations all day long.
We stripped away all of that stuff and dug down on what’s the important thing. By doing one group activity in each city that you have and then having time for you to spread off and do your thing, you create a community memory or an individual memory and then put all of that together at dinner at night, and now you have a lot to talk about. That conversation typically furthers like a boulder going down the hill. Next thing you know, you’re talking about this acquisition you’re looking to make, an investment that you want to look at, and stuff like that. That is the sexy secret about what I’m doing.
I’ve been involved with both. Jon was saying he has too. You’ve got it figured out because the challenge is that. If you look at what you end up spending over the course of 4 or 5 meetings to go somewhere, join the mastermind, travel there, be there, and pay for that time away from your business and everything else, I know that I will hands down take 10 days in Greece over 4 trips to a hotel somewhere for numerous reasons, not just for the trip to Greece, but I get to go somewhere cool.
To your point, I get to have a great interaction with people and get to know people, which is the point of the other thing, but it’s done in a way that now we genuinely know each other. You curate people and curate these situations. Although they’re planned, they feel organic in the way that they happen because they do happen that way. You’re putting people together but they develop their relationships organically.
It’s not sure falsely done. You’re not shoving people into each other and saying, “You have to do business together.” It’s like, “Here’s a dinner.” At that time, some people hit it off heavily. Some people become friends. Some people may have major business dealings that they can do with each other at some point in time, now or later. It’s the perfect ecosystem for that to take place.
To bring back the conversation to the brandslaughter piece, we’re not talking about that, but I know that you’ve built and are continuing to build a very strong brand identity that you’re close to and want to protect quite a bit. Are there any things that you would say are high on your list as you look at anything you’re adding? You added Entrepreneur Travel Club, as an example.
There are lots of things you could add to your business, but not all of those are going to be profitable. More importantly, not all of those are going to be brand representatives of who you are and what you want to do. How do you evaluate that process and make a decision that says, “This is for us. This is something that Lugos Travel needs to not only launch but support and grow.”
I’m the type of person that innovates. The reality is that I could innovate ad infinitum, and I have over more than a decade. I didn’t come into my business with any pre-experience in the travel industry. I didn’t have any of the habits that they had. I didn’t have any of the presuppositions of how to run. Our company runs 100% differently than every other travel company. That’s in a good way, but I would let other people be the judge of that. Ultimately, what I looked at was I could innovate all day, but is that necessarily important? Am I adding value to the client? I’ll give you a great example.
One of the things that we offer as an option now is a photography package. Eric, it happens to be that you took advantage of this. One of the things that pissed me off was that all the vacation photography that I saw was terrible. It’s always a selfie. You hand your camera to somebody and play what I call the hoping game. You hope that they frame it. You hope they focus it. You hope they don’t steal it. There’s a lot of hoping, but no matter what, what you get is you and your significant other, arm in arm with some cool thing over here, and it’s a crappy picture. I consider them great for Facebook, but you would never spend hundreds of dollars to put it on canvas, frame it, and put it in your living room.
They’re glorified green screen pictures.
I thought this was an area that had a lot of missed opportunities because people are spending a significant investment into their vacations and are not doing it so that they don’t remember it because I feel like I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse but what you do have is your memories and the things you can talk about. Ultimately, I knew that if I did tours well enough, you were going to spend hundreds of dollars to blow that picture up, put it on canvas, frame it, and put it in your living room. That was a good vacation for you, but how do you create that moment?
Even though zero other companies on the planet offer this, we offer a photography package. Innovation-wise, when I first came out with it, I was like, “This is awesome. I’m including it 100% with all the tours.” What I learned over time was that’s not important to everybody. The cost isn’t something that everybody wants to bear. Instead of making it something automatically included, we now offer it as an option. If you want it, you can do it for 1, 2, or 3 days. You pick however long you want to do it.
Simply put, we hire professional photographers to follow you around in a paparazzi-style photo shoot for two hours at a time and compile it into fantastic albums full of great pictures and/or videos. You have a real memory. You get all the digital stills. You can do with them whatever you want. We don’t make you print them. That’s one example of how we have innovated to be able to create a better product and then over time, learned how to integrate that innovation in a way that made more sense to all clients as opposed to the ones that we were doing.
As a client referral guy, I always put my sales hat on. I’m thinking, “What an awesome thing for the customer, and what an incredible way to spread the gospel as it would be about what you are able to do because now people that they are friends with can see these amazing pictures of where they went.” They’re not crappy selfies. They’re great pictures. It’s a more accurate depiction of their experience. Photography is not easy to capture, especially when you’re somewhere pretty.
Whenever I want to hold my phone up and take a picture, I look at them like, “It doesn’t hold a card to what I’m looking at.” You’re trying to get yourself into that. That’s brilliant in listening to your customer and understanding your customer, the value that you’re bringing to them, and how that in turn not only creates more value for them but creates more value that will attract other customers to you.
As an example of that service, we had a client celebrating their 50th anniversary. This is the most indicative picture of how this product looks and what it means to have this. What struck me about it was they weren’t posing for this picture. They were enjoying a beautiful day at a nice park. I assume you can see that. Imagine handing your camera to somebody and saying, “Take a picture of my wife, but walk around the lake first, get the fountain in focus, and get it all framed up.” It’s absurd. It would never in a billion years happen, but that’s a core memory from their 50th anniversary. Fair enough, they’re going on another trip to a different area.
It’s incredible. The photography element enhances your brand. It further prevents brandslaughter.
That’s one thing. We do the custom daily amenities package. We have done a lot of different things to streamline not only the process of buying travel but the actual end result.
You’ve talked to numerous entrepreneurs and individuals throughout the years that you’ve been doing this. Can you share a quick story of the worst case of brandslaughter that you’ve heard from an entrepreneur or from an individual that has come to you in the travel industry?
I don’t want to be disparaging of other people, but ultimately, it’s a question of the way that the system was set up. Years ago, travel agents were your gatekeepers. Ninety-nine percent of travel agents get paid based on a commission-based structure. Their value proposition to the end customer is, “Use my services. It will cost you nothing. We will book all your stuff. You will have a great trip.” Most customers would say, “That sounds great. I don’t have to pay you. You get paid by me doing the bookings. I’m in.”
When I first started the company, I did not take that tack at all. I saw myself as a trusted advisor, a lot like your financial advisor, attorney, or CPA. I didn’t want to work for the companies that were paying me the better commission because I couldn’t guarantee that they were giving a better product. They were just paying me more. I had a very frank conversation with my customers upfront and said, “If I work for commission, what are the chances I show you the best tour for you? Am I going to show you the best tour for me?” That is how the system exists.
From that tree, it’s impossible to get good fruit. The brandslaughter that I see is not treating yourself as a trusted advisor or a trusted professional. I have to make this distinction. Lugos Travel is not a travel agent. We are a tour operator. The distinct difference is that a travel agent is a go-between between clients and tour operators. We are the tour operator. Tour operators build the tours, get the guides, contract with the hotels, and do all the work parts of the deal.
The only difference is that we as tour operators never sell through travel agents. We sell directly to the consumer because we feel like we’re having an honest conversation. We don’t need a go-between. That would be one of the major differences in this industry. You think you’re hiring somebody for you, and ultimately, you’re hiring somebody who’s out for themselves. I thought that was a missed opportunity because I want you to have your best tour, not what pays me the best.
Most people think that. They think that’s how it works, but to hear that’s how it works opens your eyes a little bit more, “Do you trust the person that you’re speaking with and that you’re working with? Does this person have my best interests at heart? Are they looking to fill their pocketbook?”
How do you know unless you ask those questions? You don’t. You’re all excited, “We’re going to take this great trip.” You’re not even going to be presented with the best option for you. You’re going to be presented with the best commission-paying option for them. Ultimately, you didn’t have to do anything to get it, but it wasn’t the product you wanted to get anyway.
The industry as a whole that you’re speaking about is very similar to the industry that Eric and I play in. It’s outdated and antiquated. They’re not progressing with the times. It’s great to hear that there’s someone inside your industry that’s disrupting it, similar to what we’re trying to do. That’s awesome.
You’ve met Peyton, my daughter. I was having a conversation with her about business because she was working on some stuff for me. I said, “If you understand where someone makes their money, you will understand what their motivation is and what their motives are.” That’s what you talked about. When you look at that and say, “If you’re working for these guys, your motives and your motivation are over here,” people understand that. That’s a great customer tip for people.
When you’re looking into anything, especially when you’re looking into travel and things like that, is this going to be your advocate or your partner? Are they someone else’s? Investigate how they make their money. If they’re making their money somewhere else, where’s their loyalty to you? That’s not a bad thing. I’m not downplaying any of that. I’m saying as an educated consumer, that’s an extreme value-add to say, “I understand Shane is my guy. He’s not Hilton’s guy. He’s going to make sure I have a good trip. I’m his customer. His company is my representation.”
As I would if I was doing wealth management, I don’t want someone who doesn’t have a fiduciary responsibility back to me. The way you’re looking at it is fantastic. There’s so much gold in what you talk about. I’m not saying that because you’re a buddy of mine. We have gotten to know each other through masterminds, travel, and other stuff. When I hear you talk, some of it comes from experiences, and some of it comes naturally. There’s an enormous amount of gold in how you look at your business and customers that people could sift from and say, “It’s applicable in any business.”
It may look different in another industry but the idea of listening to a customer, understanding their motivations, servicing them personally, giving them a great experience, and creating different and additional scenarios that not only enhance their experience but create revenue for you is all stuff that you read about in books. You’re doing all that stuff. It’s cool to hear a businessman that’s open about sharing that. It’s got that going on and got new adventures going on with it.
To piggyback on that, the greatest way to prevent brandslaughter is to question everything and look at it like, “This is the way it has been done but is that the way it has to be done? Is there a way that it could be done better?” We’re living in a cool time that has all these interesting tools that are available. No other company in the world is able to process it. The process is everything. Let’s say you want to go to Costa Rica. Every other agent in the world that does what we do is going to entail a 30-minute to an hour-and-a-half conversation with somebody. That’s time, effort, and energy.
3 to 5 business days later, they will get you one proposal. If you make one change in dates, hotel, tour time, or anything it’s another 3 to 5 business days before you get an update. What you get is a process that is 2 to 3 weeks to close your vacation deal. When you start thinking about it, you and your wife did not call that travel professional the day you said, “We want to go to Costa Rica.” You kicked that can down the road for a month or two before you were like, “We should probably do this. The flights are getting expensive. Hotels are probably getting booked up. Let’s do this.”
The process is 2 to 3 weeks. I was like, “This is absurd. We have all these excellent automations that exist. We have a way that we can extract information much faster and predictably. Why not have 100% of the information you need in ten minutes? Do you want better? Do you want to go to Costa Rica but you don’t exactly know what you want to do? You can pull four proposals from our system in ten minutes at zero cost to you.” You didn’t have to have any minutes spent on a phone call and now, you have 100% of the information you need to make the call on what you’re going to do, how long you’re going to be gone, and what you’re going to spend. You can pick all your options. It’s the easiest thing.
I’m not going to lie. That was two years of us working to be able to convince every partner down the line that we work with every single piece and part and pick it apart. What can we do? How can we do it? What we can do is provide our customers with an excellent experience from start to finish, but that’s not even the goal. The goal is to have an excellent vacation. That comes naturally as an extension of what we do.
That’s fantastic. I don’t want to add anything to that. That handled the conversation perfectly. I may invite you back on to close every show, Shane, and close things up. It’s a fantastic convo. We appreciate having you on the show. We love hearing about Lugos Travel. Here’s the last thing before we go. If people want to get in touch with you, which is a big deal, how do they find Lugos Travel? How do they find Shane Mahoney?
Because we have so many disparate companies between Travel2GiveBack, Entrepreneur Travel Club, and Lugos Travel, the easiest way is ShaneMahoney360.com.
It’s a pleasure to have you on. We appreciate having you. We wish you all future success. We’re so glad about the success you’ve had so far. I would love to have you back on the show again one day. You can talk to us more about how Entrepreneur Travel Club has gone and then probably 2 or 3 new projects you’ve launched in addition to that. Jon, any last parting words?
It was a great conversation with great information and great insight. Best of luck with the Entrepreneur Travel Club. It’s going to be a smash yet. Great job.
We’re excited to see that happening. We’re getting members to sign up. We’ve got nine different tours set up between now and the end of the year. Nobody has to be a member of the Entrepreneur Travel Club to try one of the trips. It just gets you a better discount if you are a member. There you go.
That’s awesome. Shane Mahoney of Lugos Travel, thanks. If you like what you’re hearing from Shane, check him out and contact him. I highly recommend it. We will talk to you soon. Thanks for reading.
Welcome to the after-show. Jon, that was a great show. Shane was a pretty awesome dude. I know the guy, but I always love hearing him articulate himself around what he does, why he does it, and how he does it. What were your thoughts?
He did a fantastic job articulating the differentiator between him and the rest of the industry. All of us can have a horror story of planning a trip and going through vacations, whether it be flight delays, hotel cancellations, or whatever it may be. This grandiose trip that you had in your mind ends up turning into a Chevy Chase movie production. It was fantastic. The way that he peeled back the curtain of the industry is by talking about commissions and travel agents who are looking out for their best interests as opposed to the consumer.
It’s not even intentional. You follow the money. It’s not their fault. I’m sure there are always unethical and ethical people in every industry. It’s not that they’re unethical. They’re just incentivized and motivated in a certain way. Most people don’t know that. I didn’t know that until I met Shane. I never asked a question. I knew I wasn’t paying them, but I never asked the question, “Who the heck is this?” It was interesting to me to do that. I’ve been on one of his trips now. I’m not a big travel guy because so much about travel pisses me off. I can’t stand the air buses now.
You get on a goddamn airplane, and it’s like you’re on a public transportation bus. You get there. You don’t always think about point A to point B when you’re traveling, especially internationally, “Even if my flight is nice, how will I get from the airport to the resort or hotel next town?” His stuff was hemmed up to where everything we did was great. It wasn’t perfect because nothing ever is because there’s always stuff that happened, but I didn’t have to deal with it. I didn’t have to stop and deal with it. If there was anything that happened, his team dealt with it in real-time.
One thing that stood out to me from your trip as an example is when you told me about it, in the back of my mind, I’m like, “That’s freaking awesome, but he’s going to go through a nightmare because now you have to plan the plane and the hotel. God forbid if something doesn’t happen. He’s got to tackle all this.” After hearing how your trip went, and you didn’t have to have that stress on your shoulders, it allowed you to connect better with your wife and with a group that you were without that undue stress that travels typically puts on your shoulders.
From a business standpoint, it enabled us to have ample choices in what we wanted to do. We still did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. Sometimes we were in the main group. There were eleven couples. There were 22 people on my trip. We had a few dinners where everybody went. There were some where there were three couples.
Sometimes there were two couples. Sometimes it was just my wife and me. I’m running through Greece. You’ve got your crew around town that you’re bumping into at this bar, “Have a drink over here.” As a customer, it was cool to be able to go and enjoy the environment I was in, wherever that was, and have the sense of security also that somebody had my back, and there were other people in town that I knew.
That’s a great brand experience right there. If you look at your standardized trip, in every vacation you have, you’re going to have one form of brandslaughter somehow someway, whether that’s through the airline, the hotel, the restaurants, or the bars. Wherever you go, you’re going to run into it, but the difference is you typically are responsible for handling the result of the brandslaughter as opposed to having someone like Shane take that off your plate and not have to worry about it.
The one thing I wanted to key back in on and get your thoughts further on was something he brought up early in the conversation. It stuck out to me because it’s so universal. He’s in an industry that has been around for a while. The travel industry has been around for a long time. He saw his industry needed to change. He made some changes, but what he saw changed also the customer demand, the market space, and everything. At one point in time, getting information about traveling places was very difficult to do.
You had to go to a travel agency to even find out what hotels were in a certain place and if you could even get there. Now, there’s no question of, “Can I get there? Are there hotels?” I can google that any day of the week and find twenty of them. The question is, “How do I sift through all this information and make good decisions?” To me, that’s one of the biggest challenges that organizations have with the customer experience and customer service.
I’ll bring in sales into that. We have talked about this. CX is the new sales. What he’s talking about is how you leverage that because now, I’m able to help somebody. I’m not the holder of the information. I’m the helper in sifting through that information so that you can make a decision that’s best for you, your business, your family, or whatever it is you’re looking for. What are you seeing when you’re looking at the customers you’re dealing with? You’re more on the front end than I am that clients or even potential clients and businesses are having out there in regards to that.
From the client side, the companies that come to us typically come with similar problems. They have worked with an outsourcer in the past. They have over-promised and underdelivered. They have attrition issues. Subject matter expertise doesn’t exist. They’re sold this bag of goods and promised the world, and none of it gets delivered. For us to enter into a conversation with a new partner, it’s almost like entering a relationship with somebody who came out of an abusive relationship.
I compare the two together. The reason why is that they have this feeling of, “We like you, but this happened to us. Don’t tell me you’re not going to do this to me but you have to continuously show me that you’re not going to do it.” It’s our job to prevent our version of brandslaughter by going over and above what anyone else has ever promised them, didn’t deliver, or anything like that.
We have to make sure that we over-deliver on everything to earn that trust, build that trust, and keep the brand intact. By doing that, we’re able to keep the trust. We can now make recommendations on how to improve the overall experience of their customers because if we come in and say, “You’re doing this wrong,” they’re going to shut down as anybody would. We take a more systematic approach to how we can help improve the overall customer experience.
From the customer standpoint, years ago, you didn’t have Discord, Google, Facebook, and all of the social media forums that are out there now. If you got a bad review, it was through the Better Business Bureau, but it wasn’t even public back then. Nowadays, if I get it if I’m on a call, and that call goes sideways with company A, I can go on Discord, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google, and 30,000 different platforms, air my story, and say how crappy my experience was with this company.
All of a sudden, other people that buy into that company or work with that company are reading this and saying, “That didn’t exactly happen to me, but something similar has happened to me.” It creates doubt inside of the customer’s mind, “Maybe I shouldn’t work with these guys. I need to look at their competition.” It’s framing the customer experience by building trust within our partner and then making intelligent decisions on how we can overhaul and improve the overall experience of their customers.
It’s the delta between customer devotion and customer doubt. That’s the transition you’re trying to make. Shane was talking about the legacy version of the industry too. That’s a major challenge for a lot of brands. In our industry, it’s massive but even in every industry, it still goes back to a lot of stuff. I go back to brandslaughter. Brandslaughter is we’re doing something that we don’t even realize is murdering or killing our brand.
One of the biggest killers, and I call it the death rattle of any business, is the whole, “This is the way we have always done it. This is the way we do it,” mentality that even gets so imprinted on businesses and granulated in their DNA that they don’t even realize that they’re saying it. It’s negative self-talk for a human being. You don’t even realize you’re saying these things to yourself because you’ve said them for so long.
That’s another thing that he’s capitalized on. As an outsider, he was able to come in and identify it. If I was giving brand protection or brandslaughter prevention advice to anybody in the travel industry and any industry that has been in existence for longer than ten minutes, how do you take a step outside of what you’ve been doing for the last few years, look at it, and say, “Is this the same old crap we have always done?”
It may not be fair to call it crap. It’s stuff you’ve always done. It may have brought you to the dance at one point in time, but what brought me to a dance in 1960 and made me look good makes me look stupid at a dance in 2023. I have to understand the signs of the times and the environment I’m in. Otherwise, I’m going to look like an old timer coming in and wondering why everybody is looking at me and why this isn’t working properly.
Here’s the real story. There are companies that started in 1960, 1979, the ’80s, or the ’90s.
Even in the 2000s. Everybody says, “It used to move slower.” In the ’80s, it wasn’t a big deal. 20 years ago now is like 100 years ago.
10 years ago now is 100 years ago, to your point.
Everything is moving so fast.
Companies hit their apex, their ceiling, or their zenith. They hit that crest where we’re hitting on all cylinders. That’s where they stopped growing because they think that’s the secret sauce to keep them growing. That’s the challenge and the downfall that I see in most organizations, “When we did this, we were killing it. We had X amount of revenue, X amount in this, and X amount in that.” You were doing the right thing at the right time. If you want to be successful, you pay attention to one thing, and that’s the customer and the voice of the customer.
What is the customer telling you? Is the customer telling you that you’re doing the right thing? If they are, then keep doing that. If they’re telling you that you’re not doing the right thing, meaning they’re leaving your organization, putting out negative reviews, going to the competition, and spending less money, you don’t attribute it to the economy because that doesn’t mean crap.
At the end of the day, the economy is not an indicator of a company’s success because if you’re putting out a good enough service or product, people will find a way to spend that damn money. Look at Starbucks. In 2008, Starbucks was still growing. That was a bad time for the economy. Don’t use outside influences that you have no control over to say, “That’s why we failed. It’s because of X, Y, and Z.” It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with your failure to evolve with the times and listen to the customer and have them be your CFO, CEO, or chairman of the board. That’s who you need to listen to. If you’re not, you are in the wrong business. You shouldn’t even be in business, in my opinion.
It’s listening to the people that are devoted to your brand so you understand what those people are enjoying, listening to the customers that aren’t happy, and to your point with Starbucks, creating brand addicts. They are so consumed by what you do that they don’t care if the economy is bad or there’s a recession, a world war, world hunger, COVID, or whatever the next thing is that they throw at everybody saying, “It’s the end of the world. Jesus is coming back,” or whatever it may be. There’s always been an impending event.
People are still buying MacBooks and Apple. They’re still going to Starbucks. They’re still loyal to that brand.
That cup of coffee is even more expensive than it used to be.
That brand is listening to the customer. That brand has always listened to the customer. You can insert a name here, but the brands that keep growing even through economic downturns are not growing because they have a better product or a better service. They’re growing because they’re listening to the customer. The customer is telling them, “We want more of this and less of this.” They’re doing something to change it. That’s where I see most organizations fail. They have lost touch with those who brought them to the dance.
The customer did. You can’t listen to what the customer said years ago. You’ve got to listen to what the customer said fifteen minutes ago and say, “Are we operating like this? Is it time to evolve and change again?” The answer is typically yes if you’re growth-minded. You were bringing up how they got to the pinnacle of where they were at, and that became their new comfort zone. Organizations are like human beings in a lot of ways. A human being will never grow out of a comfort zone. There are two things. Either you’re moving forward or backward as a human being or a business. There’s no static.
If I know that my comfort zone is not a place of growth and if I’m not growing and shrinking, then if I’m in my comfort zone, I’m shrinking. As a business, I always have to be pushing myself into a place of unfamiliarity or places that I’m unfamiliar with to expand our capacity as an organization to continue that growth pattern. Otherwise, you’re dying. You may not know you’re dying yet, but that’s a brandslaughter. You’re sitting in a place of comfort on top of your mountain, holding that fort, and killing your brand.
All this makes me reflect on a cool speech that I heard. Walt Disney put it out. Vince McMahon put it out too. It’s short and simple but it makes you think, “Iterate faster than your competition can replicate.” If you always stay ahead, you’re always staying ahead of what the customer’s thoughts are. You’re in such deep lockstep and synergy with your customer that you can get to the point where you know what your customer is going to be thinking and what their next move is.
That’s how you grow your company. That’s how you grow the business. That’s how you change the industry because there are far too few organizations that do that. They’re so bottom line-driven that they make decisions based on that $1 or that one number at the bottom, but what they don’t understand is what makes up that number is the decisions that have been made that are turning customers away from that brand.
Vince McMahon’s WWE is a great example. He calls his universe his people. Inside that, if you understand that, they’re so committed to innovation that they fail a lot because they understand that if they aren’t trying to evolve and push the limits, it’s going to fail anyway. You can either take small failures and learn from those to create big successes or you can take no small failures and have a big failure because you’re not having any successes. That’s good stuff.
I enjoyed the show with Shane. He’s a good dude with a great business, a great offering, and a great mind. I’m glad he got to share that. It’s a good talk here with this stuff too. We would love to know your thoughts on the show. Give us feedback. We would love to know if there’s anything you would like to hear us talk about, discuss, point out, or shut the heck up about. Maybe we will listen to you. Maybe we won’t, but we do appreciate you joining us. Hopefully, you take something out of it. We will talk to you at the next show next time in the same place. We wish you the best.
About Shane Mahoney
Shane Mahoney founded Lugos Travel in 2011. After more than 12 years working in sales and finance positions for a range of industries including real estate and the automotive industry, he was looking to do something that aligned more closely with his passion for travel.
As CEO of Lugos Travel, he has directed the company to prioritize thrilling clients with unexpected adventures and meaningful experiences. Shane believes travel should get beyond the usual beaten path itineraries to better reflect personal interests, human-to-human connections, and unforgettable encounters.
When he’s not envisioning new adventures and out-of-the-ordinary travel itineraries for his clients, Shane manages a non-profit organization that matches donors with Travel2GiveBack. A travel service that donates a percentage of all of your travel bookings to the charity of your choice.