Keith Snode is a power player in the world of travel. As the newly named COO of Group Travel Odyssey, a software company that supports group travel planners and tour operators, he puts his 25+ years of industry expertise to work.
Keith has a background in sales, marketing, and leadership as both a tour operator and supplier. He shares his career in tourism and travel journey as well as some great advice!
Why did you start working in this industry and how does your passion still drive your business' growth today?
I was a high school choir director in Ohio and began planning trips for my students. I worked with a company that offered me a job after my first few trips. They really encouraged me to combine my love for education and travel.
Travel expands our world and opens our minds. My passion for it developed quickly and still drives me today as I work to not only provide travel experiences but also help travel businesses improve and provide better products.
At what point did you realize that your business was "taking off" and that you could make a living from it? Walk us through your thoughts and emotions from that moment...
I realized this very early on. It is easy in the travel industry to see the opportunities that exist. The challenge is to find the right opportunities to seize.
When I realized the opportunity that was available to me I was fortunate to have excellent mentors and advisors within the industry who were able to guide me to success. That’s why I am so passionate about helping people get started successfully in our industry.
At what point did you realize you were living the life you wanted to?
When I stepped away from the travel industry to try a different career. I wasn't gone long and came back quickly. Twice.
One of the biggest fears of teaching others is living up to the expectations of the audience. How do you face this?
I started my career as a performer so this came naturally to me. If I’m constantly focused on helping my audience, and adjusting my approach as they respond, I’ll improve the learning experience and extend my reach. It’s easy to teach when you teach what you love!
A common myth amongst various tour operators is that as you grow and scale your work, you have to sacrifice product quality and personal values to make money. How do you debunk this myth in your work?
I actually believe that the exact opposite is true. As I grow, learn, and scale my work, I’m able to better define my target. This helps me get my product to the right audience and underscores what is really important.
If you try and "be everything to everyone" and dilute your brand and values, you will ultimately find yourself out of business.
Why do you think so many people fail to advance their careers or grow their businesses and what advice would you offer them to keep pushing despite setbacks?
Learn the lessons quickly when you lose and move on just as quickly. If you dwell in the past you’ll never reach the future.
Establish your personal mission, vision, and values from the outset. Let those cement you through the good times and the bad. They’ll be your guiding light as you navigate your future.
What do you attribute your success to and how do you explain it? Do you think these same strategies will help you reach your next goals? Why or why not?
I try to listen more than I talk. I listen to understand, not just respond. I listen to my heart and balance that with listening to my business sense.
These three statements have carried me through some very rough times and some incredibly successful times in the past 25 years of my career. I know they’ll continue to do so.
To deliver powerful experiences (either in travel or education) you need to have a systemized approach. What steps have you taken to create those systems and how do you optimize them?
Our GTO team has worked to innovate our processes using technology and partnerships that allow us more time to spend with our clients. We optimize them daily by engaging our team and clients in a continuous dialog about what is working, what is not, and making those changes swiftly. This approach has enabled us to make sure everyone is following the same process while being flexible enough to meet client needs.
If you could speak face-to-face with yourself when you first started this line of work, what pearls of wisdom would you impart?
Have patience and always expect the unexpected. The travel industry is one that is exciting and constantly evolving - there’s never a dull moment. However, as a tourism professional, you always need to be prepared for whatever is next!
About Keith Snode
Keith Snode is currently the Chief Operating Officer Group Travel Odyssey. He is a travel industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, and leadership under his belt, including successfully managing teams in the tourism, financial and transportation industries in Michigan, Ohio, New York City, and Florida. He has worked both many tour operators and as a supplier in the tourism industry.