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Gloria Bohan said that willingness to make changes has been a key to the success of her company, Omega World Travel.
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Bohan decided to apply for a job at Fredericksburg Travel, the only travel agency in town, but the owners didn't have an opening for someone with no experience. Undaunted, she signed up for correspondence courses and investigated how to open her own business.
Omega World Travel got its start in an old stone building on farmland that is now the site of Spotsylvania Towne Center. Back then, it specialized in leisure travel, and customers would come into her office on State Route 3 to discuss plans and order plane tickets.
When airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents in the mid-'90s, Bohan realized she had to find additional sources of revenue. She expanded into the business and government travel sectors, and embraced the Internet early on.
Omega World Travel created its own computer reservation system and was a pioneer in 24-hour customer service. Other innovations included introducing the concept of an on-site travel office at corporations, developing the field of business travel management, and creating ways to centralize billing and reporting electronically.
When Bohan and her husband, who was Omega's CFO, realized that nobody had developed a good booking engine for cruises, they bought the domain name cruise.com and created their own in 1997. It has since become one of the Internet's largest sellers of cruises.
"Keeping the company diversified is really important," Bohan said. "You have to look beyond having one type of service or product."
Investing in technology, diversifying her business and having an entrepreneurial spirit have been the keys to her success, she said.
"If I were to take one of them," Bohan said, "I would say that having an entrepreneurial spirit is the most important. I believe that people, once given an opportunity, can do great things."
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Gloria Bohan said that she's learned a number of important lessons about running a business in the 40 years that she has helmed Omega World Travel. Here are a few:
Don't do everything by yourself. You need backup and someone who can fill in
Do know all the ins and outs of your business and your industry. That way you can feel more confident and can spot opportunities.
Find and encourage talent in others, because you want them to grow with the company.
What doesn't get evaluated doesn't get done.
Give back to the community. You'll get a lot of satisfaction in return, and
Put yourself in new situations so that you're always learning new things.