Written by Olivia Putnal Tuesday, June 05 2012
Snapshot: Joyce Landry and Josephine Kling, Co-Founders of Landry & Kling Cruise Event Services
In 1982, former Holland America employees Joyce Landry and Josephine Kling took the ultimate plunge — a plunge to begin their own cruise meetings business. Thus emerged Miami-based Landry & Kling Cruise Event Services, a resource for meeting planners all over the world. With a company motto of, “There’s always an elegant solution,” Landry & Kling work together with planners and cruise lines to provide the ultimate team meeting and incentive program on the sea for employees. Beginning their business in 1982 with just $26,000 and a small office in New York City, the company is still flourishing 30 years later.
Womenetics: How did your previous experience at Holland America prepare you to run your own business?
Joyce Landry and Josephine Kling: It didn’t necessarily prepare us to run a business, but it did expose us to how the cruise lines work. We learned how they plan ship deployments, pricing strategies, sales policies and all the things that later gave us the inside track in negotiating our groups and special charter itineraries.
The idea sort of sprang up one day over lunch. We recognized that there was a need in the market and that we had the expertise. Since then, we’ve gone on numerous adventures and are avid cruisers. Our passion also helped fuel our business’s growth.
Womenetics: You’ve been in the business for over 30 years. What are some things that have proven successful? What are some things that haven’t?
Landry and Kling: Several factors have contributed to our success. One is innovation. Our company constantly does things that have never been done before. For example, we pioneered the concept of floating hotels and succeeded in having a major cruise line provide a seated dinner on deck for 1,800 people simultaneously, on a corporate charter.
During the 1990s, we worked with blue chip companies like Motorola, MasterCard, RadioShack, Aflac and others. As a way of growing, we sold our company in 1998 to a public company, Travel Services International that already owned 15 large cruise retailers. We were to be the group operations office for the whole enterprise. However, the dot-com meltdown interrupted that plan, and, being consummate entrepreneurs, we bought our business back in 2005 with the intent to grow through technology – hence Seasite.com.
Our company motto is “There’s always an elegant solution.” We live by that mantra and encourage our team to find win-win solutions that work for our clients and our suppliers. We’ve experienced many challenges over the years – two Gulf wars, several major hurricanes, Sept.11 and a cruise ship malfunction or two. Each time, we proactively communicated with our clients. We also work closely with cruise line executives to re-accommodate our groups, re-deploy vessels and arrive at solutions that satisfied everyone concerned. Because of our strong partnership, we’ve been able to rely on each other to step in when necessary, and we make sure that key staff members are flexible and equipped to do the same.
Womenetics: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned along this journey?
Landry and Kling: That’s easy – start out with more funding! We opened our doors in 1982 on Madison Avenue in New York City with $26,000 in cash and no clients. Thankfully, we had an abundance of youthful energy and grit to keep us going, but, we had our white-knuckle moments wondering how we were going to afford payroll in the early days.
Secondly, don’t do anything that you’re not passionate about. Passion will carry you through the ups and downs better than anything else. And, it’s infectious – there’s nothing more enjoyable than working around passionate people.
And, establish your culture early. Our first year in business, we established our list of “expectations” which was handed out to all potential employees before we hired them. If they agreed with the list, they were considered for employment. Among our expectations were honesty, professionalism, generosity, attention to detail, and care of customers, suppliers and each other. It became the basis for our corporate culture.
Womenetics: Seasite.com is an online and automated way for planners and cruise lines to connect. Tell us a little about how it came about and how it’s helped grow your business.
Landry and Kling: Seasite’s objective is to provide organizations the tools they need to successfully plan a cruise-based meeting, event or incentive trip. In smaller organizations, someone who doesn’t have a meetings background may be charged with planning an event. We wanted to make sure they had access to the tools they need and a wealth of information to help make the process as seamless as possible.
Seasite, which is the first cruise platform for meeting professionals and group organizers, allows planners to source, select and procure ships for all types of group programs online. Visitors can research cruise lines, compare multiple ships and submit requests for proposals (RFPs) directly to cruise lines.
Seasite is a key growth area for our future. We are working closely with all cruise lines to ensure that visitors have access to a variety of cruise ships.
Womenetics: Your blog seems to be a mixture of personal and professional experiences. Tell us a little about how and why you created it.
Landry and Kling: Our blog is one of the most widely read blogs in the meeting planner industry and accounts for over a third of the traffic to our site. Through the blog, the team shares their personal cruising experiences . We also provide information that helps our target audience create the ideal experience. In the past, we’ve included meeting tips, best practices and practical suggestions. The blog is tuned into what the meeting industry is talking about. From tips to tools to trends, we try to provide value, creating an online community for our partners, clients and prospective clients.
Womenetics: How do you choose the clients Landry & Kling works with?
Landry and Kling: We target large corporations that motivate their top sales people to peak performance by using delicious travel experiences that capture their imagination. Our clients want impartial advice. They usually haven’t offered a cruise incentive before, which makes it all the more exciting for us to introduce this new type of meeting venue – aboard ship – instead of the same predictable type of location and agenda, again and again.
Womenetics: Who in your life has been your biggest mentor through all of this?
Kling: Many women entrepreneurs in The Commonwealth Institute here in South Florida (and a Boston chapter) have been very supportive and always available, and my late husband, Ken Trippe, was very encouraging and knowledgeable about business basics.
Womenetics: What are some things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Landry: I enjoy rowing, and compete regularly.
Kling: I’m a regular Bikram yoga practitioner.
Landry and Kling: For vacations, people assume that, because of our business, we might consider cruising a “busman’s holiday.” However, there are still so many places we want to cruise! On our bucket lists: the Patagonian Fjords in Chile, the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, the Mekong River in Cambodia, the Norwegian Fjords and the Nile in Egypt! After a recent cruise Joyce took to the Galapagos Islands, she could only say that “it was a transformative experience.”
Womenetics: Anything else you would like to add?
Landry and Kling: Friendships made at sea are said to last a lifetime…
Learn to be like the Queens of the Sea by turning one idea, one passion and a little bit of savings into a thriving business:
Jennifer Bonnet leads female entrepreneurs on a voyage of success with tips, tricks and lessons from real experts on start-up businesses.
The key to success is not just thinking outside of the box, but getting rid of the box says Bettina Bennett - who used this mantra to lauch Whichbox Media.
Social media is not just a fancy way of referring to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Laura Roeder teaches clients how to utlitize this new, reliable way of promoting business brands.
Olivia Putnal is a writer and editor in Atlanta. She formerly wrote web articles and blogs for WomansDay.com in the areas of health, fitness, beauty, fashion, entertainment, news and food.