The Masked Cruise-sader with Chris Grum - EP0015 - Episode Drop Date: April, 29th, 2022

About Chris Grum

Chris was born in Dallas and has lived all over the country since then. Growing up, he spent about ten years in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. He also spent a couple of years going to school in Pennsylvania. His high school years were spent in Lufkin, Texas and that’s where he got his first job in radio.

The broadcasting industry would ultimately take him to Boston, Las Vegas, back to Lufkin and finally to Houston. Over a 25-year career, he played every type of music and met (and worked with) some amazing people. Throughout that time, he was an amateur travel agent, constantly helping his friends and family book vacations and plan travel excursions.

He is the founder and owner of PREMIER CUSTOM TRAVEL, a travel agency based in Iowa Colony, Texas and specializing in cruises, theme park vacations, the Sandals & Beaches Resorts, and destinations worldwide.

Chris lives in Iowa Colony, Texas with his girlfriend Melissa and their cats Otto, who serves as the company's mascot and official office kitty, and Sammy. In his spare time, Chris enjoys going to see live theatre, traveling, sports (especially baseball, hockey and football), spending time with his friends, and going to restaurants and wine tastings.

Chris is a CLIA Elite Cruise Counsellor, a CLIA Luxury Cruise Specialist, a CLIA-certified Travel Agency Executive (TAE), a Travel Institute Certified Travel Counselor, an IATA Accredited Agent, a member of ASTA - the American Society of Travel Advisors, a Certified Sandals Specialist and a SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate. In July of 2013, Chris was selected from among thousands of travel agents to be Carnival Cruise Line's Fun Planner of the Month. In 2020, Chris was chosen to participate in the CruiseWorld Star Program. Chris also has a seat on the CLIA StarBoard, the travel agent advisory committee for Cruise Lines International Association.

Chris Grum

City, State, Country
Iowa Colony, Texas

Company Name
Premier Custom Travel


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Episode Transcription


[00:00:00] Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Survive Scale Soar podcast. Hear and learn through the success of others, and how to build the life and business you deserve. Learn to overcome failure, and what it means to seek out how to become the best possible version of yourself. And now here's your host, coach, entrepreneur, husband, and father, and author of the number one bestselling book, Survive Scale Soar, Jeremy Williams.

[00:00:32] Jeremy Williams: Welcome back. This is Jeremy Williams, and you're tuning into the Survive Scale Soar podcast; the podcast for the entrepreneur built by entrepreneurs. Today, I'll be joined by Chris Grum, Owner of Premier Custom Travel. We talk about cruises, what makes a small business successful, pet peeves, and more. Before we get started with our guest, a quick reminder if today's episode moves you, makes you think differently, makes you laugh, or you know  it may help someone, be sure to [00:01:00] share it.

[00:01:01] Chris, welcome to the show. 

[00:01:02] Chris Grum: Thank you, Jeremy. It's always a pleasure to chat with you.

[00:01:07] Jeremy Williams: Before we get into some of the more thought-provoking conversation, we've got to address it, Chris, what about this podcast cover?. I don't want somebody to think what the hell is this, why am I going to listen to this?

[00:01:20] What was with that picture?

[00:01:21] Chris Grum: That was taken aboard Holland America's flagship Rotterdam, which is a brand new ship. One of the things that I enjoy doing whenever I go on a cruise is going to the spa. Most cruises have at least one or two formal nights or elegant nights, whatever you want to call it, and I hate shaving.

[00:01:41] I scheduled a gentleman's shave for the formal night, and I let them pamper me. What you saw was part of that package, which is basically a men's facial. I don't even know what they call this treatment, but they put it on, it [00:02:00] hardens up, and then they take it off. It’s supposed to make you look 10 years younger.

[00:02:03] Not so sure it did that, but that's what that basically was. I believe it's called a pro collagen grooming treatment, which is a fancy way of taking my $89, but I do it every cruise and love it.

[00:02:18] Jeremy Williams: They must have taken a couple layers of skin?

[00:02:20] Chris Grum: Pretty much, but I think I've got plenty to spare.

[00:02:22] That was one of those things where I said, “let me have my camera, I'm going to take a picture and share this”. She says, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Now I am regretting it knowing it is the podcast cover.

[00:02:36] Jeremy Williams: Yes, I’m glad we got that out of the way. I've had a couple of questions and messages sent asking what's going on there?

[00:02:41] What are y'all even going to be talking about in the episode?

[00:02:42] Chris Grum: Awesome, skin care. Welcome to Jeremy’s skincare segment.

[00:02:49] Jeremy Williams: Yes, skincare is my side hustle. I coach during the day, and at night I sell skincare.

[00:02:54] Chris Grum: If you're listening to this and you think that either one of us is qualified to talk about [00:03:00] skincare, you really should reevaluate your choices and podcasts.

[00:03:07] Jeremy Williams: Chris, obviously you own a cruise company that sells cruise packages, Premier Custom Travel, and we'll get into the specifics of the business. I've noticed that the last two months you've been on a ship somewhere.

[00:03:25] Chris Grum: It seems like it. Since we restarted the cruise industry back in July of last year, I believe I’ve been on 9 or 10 cruises.

[00:03:32] I’ve got to say, first of all, I'm incredibly grateful. Number one, to be able to do that. Number two, to be in an industry that allows me to do that. It's one of those things, Jeremy, where whether you're talking cruises or real estate or whatever, it may be, you really can't sell the product unless you experience it.

[00:03:53] You're not going to buy a house without walking through it. At least I hope you wouldn't. You're not going to buy a car without a test drive. [00:04:00] For me as the person who sells cruises, and we also sell other travel experiences as well at Premier Custom Travel, but cruise is probably 75% or more of our business.

[00:04:11] It's vital for me to be able to get on the ships and experience them. That's what I've been doing over the last 12 months. I go on board to bring people the true story about what's going on because as you know, there's a lot of stories in the media that aren't true.

[00:04:28] I was on a cruise at Christmas and there were blogs talking about our ship that were not telling the truth. It was so frustrating to read something, and I'm on this ship and this is not true. I don't know where they're getting this, and I've been working to get the word out that cruising is back and safe.

[00:04:49] They’re ready to welcome people back on board. I will tell you that when you get on one of these ships, the cruise employees are excited to see people. The people onboard are happy to be there. [00:05:00] It’s almost like the last two years didn't happen in the sense of the excitement and the feeling on board, but they are being very careful about the protocols.

[00:05:08] As you know, the numbers say they’re doing it the right way.

[00:05:13] Jeremy Williams: Yes, I know it's been very challenging for the last two years, right? In your business and for this industry to come back online, what do you think was the biggest step that the cruise industry made to bring everything online?

[00:05:30] Chris Grum: You know, that's a great question. There were so many things that were going on behind the scenes, and I'm lucky in that I'm on a couple of boards where I have access to info before it makes it to the public. I have to say the biggest step, might be the grassroots campaign that we did with CLIA getting the cruise people, the people that enjoy the product, to tell Congress that they want it back.

[00:05:58] As you may know, the biggest [00:06:00] hurdle that we had was the CDC basically shut us down for almost two years. It was getting them to understand that we were going to restart the right way, and that we weren't going to throw people on ships not worrying about sanitation, not worrying about health, or not worrying about testing.

[00:06:20] I think that we've done it in a very responsible way. The numbers show that, and the last statistic I saw said you are 20% more likely to catch COVID on land than you are on a cruise ship. If you look at the media, they're going to use the words like “a Petri dish” and “death on the high seas” that are counter to the truth.

[00:06:42] They're quite frankly not true. I think it's almost like the analogy that I always use and it makes me laugh when people that watch baseball or football talk about how much they hate Joe Buck, yet they’ve never watched a game that he calls. By the way, he just got the [00:07:00] biggest sports contract in history.

[00:07:01] You think okay, the two things don't seem to add up and it's kind of the same thing with the cruise industry. I don’t think that it’s cool if you've never been on a cruise to say, “Oh, it's just a Petri dish”. I wouldn't do that, and yet there are  people that say these things having never been on a ship.

[00:07:17] They don't really know what's going on. Then you have people that have said, “Oh no, that's not true, and if we do this, we can do it safely. Eventually that messaging got to the right people and it started this grassroots campaign, and now we are back without another shutdown.

[00:07:34] I think a lot of people that are not in the industry thought we would. We haven't, and we've had a few cancellations here and there, but those are going to happen. You look at Broadway, and they had shows delayed or canceled because of somebody getting COVID. It happens, and we're learning to adapt to that.

[00:07:51] But I think the long answer to your short question was the people were the ones that made this happen.

[00:07:59] Jeremy Williams: Yes, and [00:08:00] there's something interesting you said, and I think it applies to all businesses. It would be like me saying, you know that restaurant’s food sucks, and I've never even been there.

[00:08:11] Or, you know Jeremy is a horrible coach and I think, I don't even know who this person is and they’ve never coached with me. I'm sure you’ve experienced this with Premier Custom Travel. They're just the worst, and you start going through your books thinking we’ve ever even booked anything with this person.

[00:08:28] Chris Grum: Oh yeah. We've had Facebook reviews from people that have never worked with us. While if you want to give us a five-star, I'm all for that, but at the same time, it just doesn't make any sense. Why would you want to spend your time doing that? But I think a lot of times people want to look informed on any issue and they'll say anything to look that way.

[00:08:49] Sometimes it's at the detriment of others. I think about it from this point of view, I would never want to say something about an industry that I don't [00:09:00] understand and may hurt somebody’s income because of it. As you know, for the better part of two years, I had no money coming in because as a travel advisor, I am 100% commission.

[00:09:14] On top of that, I'm the owner of the company. I'm paying out money to keep us open even when we're not bringing in revenue. That's the challenge that travel advisors across the country faced is that most of us are 100% commission. And not only were we not getting commission for new sales, but we were giving a lot of it back because of the cancellations. Jeremy, I had a customer that canceled 15 - 16 times.

[00:09:40] I lost track. They did not cancel, but COVID canceled them. The way it works with a lot of the cruise lines is you get paid on the initial booking because they said, okay, we'll protect that in the original commission that you lost. And then you get paid on the last booking, but all that work in the middle, I would not get paid on.

[00:10:01] You're doing the work of 16 cruise bookings, but getting paid for two. You can imagine any industry you're in, imagine real estate selling 16 houses and only getting paid for two of them. That's what a lot of agents faced. Yes, it was certainly a challenging couple of years, but I will say it is back with a vengeance. .

[00:10:23] All of the numbers say this to be true. In fact, I don't know if you saw the updates by Carnival and Royal Caribbean, two of the biggest cruise lines in the world and biggest companies, that they are bringing more ships to Galveston. Both companies recently reported record days this past week, and that their booking days were the best they've ever had in the history of the company.

[00:10:44] That is incredible. One of the other things that I got to see a couple of weeks ago, I was at a big cruise conference called Cruise 360, and they give us a ton of information, but one of the things we get from CLIA, which is stands for Cruise Lines International Association, [00:11:00] is their research. The interesting thing about the research was that people who have cruised before are ready to go again.

[00:11:07] We knew that was going to happen. The surprising statistic out of the whole thing was we assumed that the number of people that hated cruisers, the said never cruisers, would increase, and that they would get even more dug in. The stats are saying that's not true. The states show, more than we would have expected, are actually thinking about taking a cruise.

[00:11:32] It's really surprising because we did not expect that research. I was sitting with the director of research for CLIA, and he's showing me these numbers and saying we were blown away by this from the “never cruiser”. Their numbers are dwindling instead of growing. That was really a surprise, but you know as well as I do Jeremy, we've all been pinned up for two years, we're ready to travel, and we're ready to go on vacation.

[00:11:54] You’ve home schooled the kids, or you had them virtual learning for a year, and everybody wants to [00:12:00] get out of the house and go do their thing. The other interesting thing about this is they're spending more. They're taking that money and saying, I might not have it tomorrow.

[00:12:10] Maybe I should go and experience what I want to experience now. The people that used to buy interior state rooms are moving up to balconies. The people that used to buy ocean views are moving up to suites; and so on. You're seeing these people really want to get that authentic experience, and they're not going cheap anymore.

[00:12:27] That's good news for all of us, and hopefully it'll help the economy at some point.

[00:12:31] Jeremy Williams: Yes, and here’s the problem with moving up. We started out in the interior room and then we went to the balcony, and we thought, we can't go back to an interior room. Then we moved to a suite, and now we can't go back to the balcony.

[00:12:43] Then we stayed in the Haven on a Norwegian ship. I can't cruise any other way now. So, thanks Chris.

[00:12:49] Chris Grum: You're very welcome. You know that's a great thing for me, but it's also a challenge. A few years ago I earned a free [00:13:00] complimentary or interchangeable interior state room on a cruise. Melissa and I went on that cruise, and afterwards she said that was really nice, and I'm never doing that again. We were spoiled with the balconies, and in some cases with the suites. You're right. Once you go with an upgrade, it's almost impossible to go back.

[00:13:19] Jeremy Williams: Do you see any foreseeable challenges with the travel industry coming up? I know they just extended the mass mandate for flying for a couple more weeks. They're never going to end it. Do you see anything that's going to hinder or be an obstacle? 

[00:13:38] Chris Grum: I think we pressed through most of it. With the mask mandate, I'm not as pessimistic as you are about it. I don't know that two weeks is going to be the answer, but I think eventually that will go away. It's interesting that when you go to the airports, and I've been in a bunch of them over the past few months, 

[00:13:55] there are a lot of people that are just done with it, not complying, [00:14:00] and they are ready to move on. You're not seeing the numbers spike tremendously so I think that'll eventually go away. I think the biggest challenge right now is that there are still a lot of procedures and policies in place that are restricting some people from traveling.

[00:14:21] For example, with most cruise lines, you have to be vaccinated. You have to take a test before you get on the ship. With some of the cruise lines, the more luxury lines, they're requiring the boosters too. It has been interesting for us because we had cancellations associated with COVID.

[00:14:38] We restarted the industry and things were going well. And then we had the first variant come along, Delta, and down with the slide again. Then we started going up again, and here came Omicron. Now we're going up again. Now what I'm encountering is people that are either canceling or delaying their trips because they either don't want to be vaccinated, 

[00:14:59] I [00:15:00] don't want to be boosted, or they don't want to go through the testing requirements. If you leave the country, you've to get a test now to come back in. They're trying to get it to where, if you're vaccinated, you'll be able to come back into the country without having to test again.

[00:15:16] And if you go to the Sandals and Beaches resorts, which I sell, they're testing you on site for free. So that's easy, but if you go on your own to London or Paris, getting a test in the city might be challenging because of language barriers or cost-wise for that matter.

[00:15:35] Those are the types of hurdles we're dealing with now. The actual virus itself is really, I don't want to say it's not a challenge to diminish its impact, but it's not the hurdle we're fighting right now. I think slowly, but surely, traveling is becoming more appealing.

[00:15:56] Several in the cruise industry think that by the summer, or maybe the early [00:16:00] fall, quite a few of these requirements may go away. It's going to be a slow process because we don't want to be shut down again, and we want to make sure we do it correctly. They're going to be overcautious instead of under cautious.

[00:16:14] Jeremy Williams: You talked about CLIA earlier in it. I can’t go on without bringing up that you were recognized recently by the organization. Tell us about the recognition and what that means to you.

[00:16:26] Chris Grum: Thank you for bringing it up. First of all, honestly Jeremy, it's one of those things where I'm still not sure that it's sunk in as to what happened.

[00:16:35] Last November, I got the call that at the Cruise 360 conference this year, which was about three weeks ago, I was going to be inducted into their Hall of Fame as their Elite Cruise Counselor of the year. What that basically means is CLIA does a training program for travel advisors, and there are different levels of it:

[00:16:53] CCC is the entry level, which is a Certified Cruise Counselor. Then it goes ACC, MCC, and [00:17:00] ECC. Each of those certifications are essentially the cruising equivalent of a college degree. Your CCC would be your two year associates at the ACC would be your Bachelor's, MCC would be a Master's, and Elite would be the equivalent of a Doctorate.

[00:17:14] Every year at their conference, they hoar a gala celebration. On Thursday nights, they bring in the cruise lines and entertainment from their ships. We had the Donna Summer Musical and Mosaic, which is an incredible vocal group that performs in the Caribbean. They gave away 3 awards.

[00:17:35] One of the awards was the Elite Cruise Counselor of the Year which represents the top travel advisor of the year. The other two were the Innovator and the Hall of Fame awards. I was so thrilled to be a part of that class. The innovator was a guy that is

[00:17:58] the YouTube king [00:18:00] of travel. He does ship tours and videos like you wouldn't believe, but what's amazing about it Jeremy is not only does he do them for his travel agency that his family owns, but he in the video says, I don't want you to come to our agency if you're working with another. He is very much about growing the entire industry, which is why he deserved the award.

[00:18:21] The lifetime achievement award, which is the big one of the night, went to a guy named Adolfo Perez who is kind of the travel agent face of Carnival Cruise Line, and he has an amazing story that's one of those that should inspire everybody. Adolfo started as a guy who was checking in people and carrying baggage at the cruise terminal.

[00:18:40] In the 50 year history of Carnival Cruise Line, he's been there 40 years. He rose from a 16 or 17 year old kid working at the terminal on embarkation day to Senior Vice President or something like that, but he's one of the big wigs at Carnival. The only people I [00:19:00] can think of that have been there longer have the last name Arison and founded the company.

[00:19:04] It was pretty impressive to be there. It  was quite a night to be able to get that award. They still haven't sent it to me so I'm still not sure I dreamt it, but once I get the trophy in hand back here in the office, then I'll know it was for real. Thanks for bringing it up. It was truly one of the honors of my career to receive that award.

[00:19:26] Jeremy Williams: Maybe they thought it was Chris Grummy, and they’re pulling the award back. That’s an incredible award, and an honor. We talked about cruising, and let's talk about business in general. What are some of the things that have made you successful over the years?

[00:19:51] Chris Grum: I think it comes down to very simple things. A couple of guys and I that are in the travel business are in the process of [00:20:00] doing what you have already successfully done, and that is to write a book about the basics of running a travel agency, whether you're starting out or seasoned.

[00:20:11] One of the things that I found, and I honestly think is our key to success are things that to me are common sense, but nowadays are not common. That's things like returning phone calls, returning emails, doing what you say you're going to do, or not making promises you can't keep. I know this sounds cliche or whatever it may be, but it's amazing how true it is.

[00:20:34] I can't tell you the number of customers that have called me and they have said you weren't the first agency we called. We went in the phone book and we went alphabetically or whatever it may be, or we went online and we called agency ABC first, and they never responded. So now I'm reaching out to you.

[00:20:51] I had a lady two days ago that called me and said, you know, I was a customer of yours 10 years ago. I [00:21:00] forgot that you did cruises. They did a land-based vacation. She said, I called cruise line X  to book a group cruise. They were not very communicative with me, and they weren't explaining things the way I wanted.

[00:21:12] Guess what? I got their business now. To me it’s simple returning those calls and answering those questions. It is simply part of what I do, but it blows me away when people say, I'm so grateful for you doing that. That's what I do. It's my job, but I think that we forget the basics and decent customer service is the mark nowadays in a lot of places; sadly.

[00:21:34] When I go somewhere where the customer service is superior, I am so complimentative, and I will go find managers. I'm the guy in that progressive commercial. Where's the manager because I want to tell you how good your staff did because it's so rare these days. I think that's the trick. I just bought a house as you know.

[00:21:59] I'm [00:22:00] always amazed at the different levels of service that I get. With the house, as an example, I have one particular element of that transaction that I don't want to call them out publicly, but one particular element of that transaction, actually two different elements, were not very communicative, and they were not very good at the basics. You send a one sentence email with a question, and they couldn't answer it.

[00:22:26] To me, that's not good customer service. Something else I’ll add is know your products. I spend a lot of time on ships, and people will joke that's such a tough job. They will say things like, “you're getting to vacation for seven days”.

[00:22:45] I'm spending time learning about the ships, going to the different venues, and trying out different things to make sure I understand them completely. If you don't know your product, how can you possibly sell it? No matter what it is, even if you're not selling products, [00:23:00] even if you're in a business is not necessarily transactional, know what you're doing and be up to date.

[00:23:05] I think this is key.

[00:23:09] Jeremy Williams: Working with real estate agents is my bread and butter. The people I get to work with are 80% real estate agents and 20% small businesses. I can understand their communication skills when I'm interviewing them to potentially coach. It’s realizing that the communication skills are not developed because they're not practicing it.

[00:23:28] It's the simple things, like you said Chris, of providing the service and the follow-up and, and I don't know why that's not happening, and it seems to be happening more and more. I don't know if it's people, or that maybe we're from a different generation where that was trained in you and I; it’s baked in the goods.

[00:23:46] It seems like today, like you said, the mediocre service you're going to get is what to expect. I even find myself, unfortunately, because it [00:24:00] used to make me really mad to receive mediocre service, and now it's like we're accepting it. By accepting it, we're allowing it to happen.

[00:24:10] I have turned the switch back on and sometimes remind people, hey, it would have been nice if he would have called me or texted me to let me know. It'd been nice that this appointment that’s been scheduled for over a week that you send me some insane excuse  five minutes after the appointment started as to why you can’t make it.

[00:24:26] I double booked myself. There's a lot of that. We had a real estate transaction here recently, and with a particular part of the process, (If my agent is listening, she was amazing. She was great.) but somebody else involved in the process when called to ask questions acted bothered.

[00:24:46] They were important questions. So I think you hit on a lot of things. They're very simple things that if people would just do those, it'd be amazing to see what their business would do.

[00:24:58] Chris Grum: Well, it's funny [00:25:00] you read my mind because my follow-up to that was going to be exactly that, we've almost come to accept it.

[00:25:04] In a lot of areas of service, we say, well, that's just the way it is. It doesn't have to be that way. I'll tell you, one of the things I'm excited about today is that Broadway Across America shows are coming to Houston. I love going to the theater, but one of the things that frustrates me is audiences of today are not as courteous as audiences of yesterday.

[00:25:26] You’ll say something to the ushers or house managers, and they'll say, well, you know that's the way it is. Unfortunately it doesn't have to be. Why are we allowing bad behavior to continue? Why are we allowing bad customer service to continue? Why are we going to the businesses that do badly, and not complimenting the ones that do do well. Think about it, I'll try not to name names again, cause I don't want to get in trouble, but you think of a local Texas burger chain.[00:26:00]

[00:26:00] When you go there, rarely do you get an order wrong and they will customize it 5 million different ways for you. I love that place. I will tell you that it's been the rare time that I've had to go back in and say, hey, you screwed up. There's also a great chicken franchise.

[00:26:18] They might make filets that also rarely get a wrong order, and they're doing the same volume as the one with the golden arches, but how often do they screw up orders? It seems like all the time, and their actions show that they’ve decided to accept it. The other businesses decided to say, we're not going to accept it.

[00:26:36] What's the difference to me? It's good management and good employees taking care of your people because they want to. This to me is the key to doing things well. Honestly, Jeremy, you and I are in the same boat in the sense that we own our own businesses. Our fate is in our hands.

[00:26:55] I often think, if you don't have skin in the game, you [00:27:00] don't take it as seriously. If we could figure out a way to make people understand that, I think everybody should own a business for a while, and everybody should have to wait tables. Boy, your perspective would change very quickly.

[00:27:13] Jeremy Williams: Yes. That's what we said to our daughter. We told her you're going to work. She asked if she could work with me. She asked if I could help her find work? I said no, you're going to go work for the general public. You’re going to get a good old dose of the general public. Yes,I think it gives you a different perspective when you've gone through something like that.

[00:27:30] I truly believe if you don't have skin in the game, you don’t have the buy-in to what the owner's trying to accomplish with their business. I think where that can be changed is for those people working at the double golden arch place if they had more leadership and more motivational training.

[00:27:52] Leadership must help paint a vision or opportunities for these people to continue to grow and maybe [00:28:00] one day start a business of their own. You can see it when you talk to them that there’s no  motivation. They don't even want to be there.

[00:28:08] And, who knows what they did to the burger in the back?

[00:28:12] Chris Grum: It's funny you mentioned that because I have been in situations where I have personally been mentoring people, and I would share this analogy.  I would say, okay, so you get a first job working at McDonald's flipping burgers.

[00:28:29] Many of us started that way. You have two choices when you get that first entry level job, whether it's flipping burgers or whatever, it may be. One choice is that you can choose to be upset that you're at the bottom of the totem pole making $5 an hour. I remember my first job, it was $3.75 an hour for minimum wage, and I was making five. I thought I was the king of the hill. But if you're starting at that minimum wage, whatever it is now,

[00:28:52] you can be upset about it and think it’s just not fair, or I deserve more, or you can make the decision to be the best burger [00:29:00] flipper there is. Then you get promoted one day to chief burger flipper, and then the next thing you know is that you become the store manager, and then one day you're the district manager. Maybe the next thing you know, you're actually owning a franchise which turns into two and then four.

[00:29:15] Suddenly you have a whole region of Whataburgers.  That's how you grow, but you can't get from A, to B to C if you don't have that motivation, that want, and that desire to get to the next level. I'll be honest with you, back when I started my radio career, I wanted it to go click, click, click, and it didn't. It was frustrating early on, but once you kind of get through work for a while, you go, okay, now I get it.

[00:29:43] I hate it when people say you gotta pay your dues, but it's true. You do have to climb that ladder, and success doesn't happen overnight. I'll tell you in the radio business, we learned that. I’d meet a million different bands that had their first hit, and everybody's like, you're an overnight success.

[00:29:58] They said, no, we'd been playing the clubs for 10 [00:30:00] years trying to catch a break.

[00:30:02] Jeremy Williams: Yes. It doesn't happen overnight. I'm in my fifth year of owning my own business. I worked for a national real estate brokerage for a period of time. Yes, it's a totally different thing when everything now is on your back.

[00:30:14] The decisions that you have to make, the losses that you take, the successes that you have are all dependent on how you look at the world, that perspective, and that ability to keep going.

[00:30:31] That was shared on a podcast I did with someone recently that his biggest piece of advice to a small business owner is to keep going. What is your biggest pet peeve? When you look at businesses, what's the one that just jumps out and grabs you? You think, oh my gosh, if I could take them out back.

[00:30:52] Chris Grum: That's a great question. How much time do we have? I might have a few there. [00:31:00] I think that the first thing that comes to mind is when people or businesses are deceptive in how they advertise what they do or their products or services.

[00:31:15] Honestly, in my industry, sometimes we're guilty of that. You see the commercials and it'll say cruise from $299 for two nights. They call and they want the $299 cruise for 2 nights. Well, that's a three night cruise out of Florida in the middle of April.

[00:31:31] It's not a summer cruise out of Galveston in a suite. I get why they do that. It's to set that hook and pull you in. I'm not a big fan of that because I think that it ultimately frustrates the consumer and you. The advertising is just this side of unethical and that bothers [00:32:00] me.

[00:32:00] One other is businesses or business people that have no ethics, and they will do anything for a buck. This might be worse than the previous one I mentioned because I personally know that if I make a mistake with a customer or something, I don't sleep well at night. It just frustrates me.

[00:32:21] I think that mistakes should sting you because otherwise you're not going to learn from them. I've met agents in travel that have no morals whatsoever, and they will do whatever it takes. They will. We went to a travel agent event a few years ago, and two other agents showed up trying to poach our clients.

[00:32:42] I'm just blown away by the level they sink to do business, and it will come back and get them one of these days, and it will get them in the worst possible time because karma, we know what she is and it will get you eventually.

[00:32:58] Jeremy Williams: [00:33:00] It happened to me a few times when I was selling real estate.

[00:33:03] A way I prospected and generated leads was to host open houses. I had this happen more than once where another agent would be sitting outside, waiting for the prospects to come back out of the house, and then start talking to them. You can only imagine how that conversation looked after I realized what they were doing.

[00:33:28] There are people out there that just will stoop to any level to make a buck. The consumer that gets picked up or swooped up by these grifters typically has a horrible experience. They'll never use that agent again. I call these churn and burn agents. They do something unethical because they know they're just going to go do it again.

[00:33:48] They're not going to keep the client. It happens all the time. As far as the deceptive things that I see in coaching is that I'll [00:34:00] get emails all the time saying they can provide coaching leads, or they have a product or service that might be intriguing yet has little to no value.

[00:34:10] I'll actually respond back and start asking qualifying questions like, what is it? They always say great questions, but we’ve got to do this over the phone. At that point, if you can't share that with me, my job is filtering out whether or not I need to have a conversation with you, then I don't even want to do business with you.

[00:34:29] Yes. Often they'll have the shield up front. You don't know what the pricing is. You don't know what the service exactly is. They're just like, hey, let's get you online. What they are trying to do at this point is purely talk you into it.

[00:34:41] Chris Grum: A friend of mine sent me a message about another travel agency that’s on the east coast.

[00:34:46] I'm going to be really careful about how I say this, but they sent me something and said, is this legal? Is this not deceptive? It's a travel agency that decided to do a cruise themed around a popular TV show. They set it up as [00:35:00] the name of the TV show fan cruise. I'm going to be real careful not to say the name, cause I don't want people to look them up.

[00:35:05] It's interesting because they did not have permission from the TV show or network to use any of the information or photos, but they're using them like crazy. All it's going to take is the lawyers and that show to see that. Not only are they going to get shut down, then all the booked customers are going to be upset.

[00:35:22] They're also going to get sued for intellectual property or copyright violations. What's interesting about it was the people going on their Facebook page and saying which actors from the show are going to be on the cruise. They're making it sound like that's what's going to happen.

[00:35:38] They're saying, oh, well we don't think they're going to be on because they're busy shooting and blah, blah, blah, but we are asking. Did they have permission to use this? What they're doing is going in and deleting all the questions. It's just not a way to do business. If I was a customer of that company, I don't know if I would want to work with you guys, because if you'll cut that corner, what else will you do?

[00:35:59] And [00:36:00] that's what scares me as a travel advisor. I don't want to see anybody else out there doing that kind of thing because it makes us all look bad. Yes, it does. And, your real estate agents sitting outside the house makes all real estate agents look bad. Unfortunately that's what the customer sees and goes, oh, this is how that industry works.

[00:36:19] Car salesmen get a terrible reputation because of a lot of the snake oil ones. There are good ones out there, but you don't want that to be the reputation of travel agents or real estate agents or whatever it may be.

[00:36:31] Jeremy Williams: There was a study at one point during my sales career, and it may have since changed, that the used car salesman was actually seen in a better light than the real estate agent.

[00:36:42] Chris Grum: Certainly that’s better than Congress and any politicians I would think.

[00:36:49] Jeremy Williams: That’s true.

[00:36:52] Jeremy Williams: One piece of advice you'd like to give a small business owner that may be listening in today. What's one piece of advice that you'd like to share with them?

[00:37:00] Chris Grum: You know, that's interesting. I think what you said earlier would have been my advice, which is to keep going. One of the things that I got to say in my Hall of Fame speech was that leaving radio, which quite frankly is a five day a week, four hour a day job, didn't require a lot of physical effort and I had no money in the game.

[00:37:24] Getting to start my own company was quite frankly frightening, but it has been the most rewarding thing. Every time that we get a booking, and every time I see the company grow, it is like having a child and seeing it prosper and do well. I would also say, it's not going to happen overnight.

[00:37:45] If it does, congratulations, but it's not. It may take you years to get to the place you want to be. I'm 11 years in the business now, and I got an award as one of the best in the industry. It was certainly not an overnight success. And quite frankly, I'm not sure I'd earned it any sooner.

[00:38:05] Keep working at it and keep growing at it. Second piece of advice, pay it forward and mentor people that are in your industry that are new, because like we've talked about Jeremy, and as I said in my speech also at CLIA, that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that weak agent that sits outside of the house and tries to poach.

[00:38:31] Maybe they would change if they understood that they could get that money in a better way. And if they were well-trained, they could earn even more than being unethical. The same thing with whatever business you're in, teach when you learn something, pass it on. I know that's one of the things you enjoy as a coach is being able to take what you've learned over the years and give that experience to people and say, here's what I learned.

[00:38:54] And more importantly, here's where I made mistakes and I don't want you to make those. And that's why we're writing our book [00:39:00]. It is to help the new generation of travel advisors be the best they can be, but also avoid making the mistakes that we’ve made. I think the key is to listen to the folks around you and keep growing.

[00:39:14] You keep working and you will get there. If you put in the work, it will get there. And especially nowadays, the bar is set a little bit lower than it used to be. Be the best you can be and you will see.

[00:39:28] Jeremy Williams: That's wonderful advice. It's good to hear it though that's what I live by. Simply to hear other people sharethis, it's also an encouragement to me.

[00:39:38] Thank you for sharing that, Chris. All right, Premier Custom Travel provides a cruising and land-based experiences. Tell us a little bit about that and how people can connect with you to book their next experience.

[00:39:54] Chris Grum: Absolutely. As you mentioned, we are cruise heavy, and the reason we are that way is [00:40:00] because Galveston not only has Royal and Carnival, but now Disney and Princess.

[00:40:04] Norwegian and who knows who else is going to show up in the future, but Galveston is booming as far as cruises go. We do over 50 different cruise lines, all the ones you've heard of, and then I've got a handful that you probably never heard of, but might be great for that niche cruise, whether you're looking to go to Antarctica or even the Galapagos.

[00:40:23] We do cruises all over the world. We do theme parks including Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Orlando. Disney also has some things that a lot of people don't know about including Adventures by Disney, which is guided vacations for families where everybody gets to do the things they want to do. I remember as a kid, my parents took me to Italy and we're going to see all these museums, and as a nine-year-old, you don't want to see paintings, the monuments are kind of cool, but you want to go off and do other things.

[00:40:51] And that's what they do. We also do guided tours for families and adults through a company called Globus. We [00:41:00] can take you anywhere in the world both guided and independent. If you want to be on your own, but have all things set up for you in Paris or London or China, wherever it may be, we can do that.

[00:41:10] The last element of our portfolio is the Sandals and Beaches resorts. The all-inclusive resorts are located in the Caribbean. The difference between the two is that Sandals is for couples only, and Beaches is for anybody. You can go as a single, you can go as a couple, you can go as a family, and those are the four things that are in our portfolio.

[00:41:27] There are some things that we do not do, but of course, if somebody reaches out, I'll just flat say, you know that's not something that's in our portfolio or it's not our expertise. That's another piece of advice. Jeremy, don't try to be a Jack of all trades because you can't be. Find what you're good at and be good at it.

[00:41:45] That's what we have found is that these are our four areas of real expertise. The pandemic taught us to get rid of a few suppliers that weren’t treating customers very well. We've narrowed it to those four things. And if you want to get a hold of us, our website is [00:42:00]

[00:42:03] Some people have trouble with that word, but it’s You can find us on Facebook. You can find us on Instagram, and if you link up with us on our website, we've got everything you could ever want to know about what we do.

[00:42:18] Jeremy Williams: Awesome. I am a client as well. It's kind of like the Hair Club for Men.

[00:42:23] I'm not only a client. I'm the president. I've been a client of Chris for years now, and I really appreciate Premier Custom Travel setting up the cruises and being able to provide experiences because that's what going on vacations do; provide experiences that create memories. And we've made some really good memories over the years with our family.

[00:42:49] Chris Grum: Thank you for this. That's a great point. I think that's something I'd like to end on, or at least I'm assuming that's where we're coming to the end because I could talk to you for hours, honestly. I think you have some [00:43:00] interesting insights. And when you go on vacation, it should be about the experiences.

[00:43:05] We'll get people that'll go to Walt Disney World that panicked because they think we've got to get all the rides, and we've got to go to all four parks. We've got to do all this! No, you don't, and go and enjoy your family. If you only get on five rides that day, so be it, but make those memories because that's what you're going to remember 10, 15, 20 years from now.

[00:43:22] I've been privileged to watch your kids grow up since we started booking. It's been 10, 11 years ago that we started booking you, and look at your kids now from where they were then to now. I see the pictures and your memories and I go, where did they get that big?

[00:43:38] I'm sure you're thinking the same thing, but I know the things you'll remember the most are the things you did with Logan, Emma, and your wife, Luarie. Those are the things you'll remember, not necessarily that you were in the Haven, which was lovely, but what did you do while you were there? What did you do when you were in New Orleans waiting to get on the ship?

[00:43:54] Those are the things that people remember. I think that is the key takeaway when you're traveling. [00:44:00] Yes. See the sites, do this and that and the other, but make those memories because those are what you'll remember down the road. 

[00:44:06] Jeremy Williams: Chris, thank you again today. And if you're looking to book travel, I highly recommend Chris and his team.

[00:44:13] You can find them at Again, that is Thank you Chris for everything you brought today.

[00:44:20] Chris Grum: Jeremy, a pleasure to chat with you, and looking forward to doing it again sometime.

[00:44:29] Intro/Outro: Thank you for listening to the Survive Scale Soar podcast. If you heard something that made a difference in your life today, share it with someone that might benefit and subscribe so you don't miss the next episode. Learn more about the host of this podcast and coaching services offered by Red Hawk Coaching by visiting