Thanksgiving has arrived in the U.S. once again and the year has been another memorable one. My decline in blogging the last several months has been irksome, but Award Expert has grown tremendously this year and required the bulk of my time. And though we face times of economic and political uncertainty in a world filled with violence, hate, and avarice, the future looks bright. I am so thankful for the chance to do what I love and make money doing it and I look forward to expanding my business and returning to more frequent blogging as the year draws to a close.
1. Michael Cargian – Mike is the founder of UPGRD.com and has provided steady leadership and invaluable support to me over the last several years. I can write, I can book awards, but technical and administrative tasks are often a burden. Mike is patient, quick , and effective. Kink in the website? He fixes it. Problem sorting clients for Award Expert? He has a solution. His vision in growing UPGRD.com from a weekly podcast to an ever-burgeoning source for travel information deserves great accolades. And he has also been a great friend, which I am most thankful for.
2. Ben Schlappig – Though younger than me, I have always looked up to Ben since I first met him on a United Airlines mileage run several years ago. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I got into blogging and award booking primarily because I so admired what he did. Witty yet highly informative, One Mile at a Time is my favorite blog on the web and I am thankful to Ben for constantly challenging me, through his superb work, to do better.
3. Brian Kelly – The Points Guy enlisted my help in his own award booking service last year and working closely with his former assistant (and niece) Danielle, I had the chance to book many awards, gaining valuable experience on the ins and outs of booking with many different carriers. I am thankful for his trust in using me to book award ticket for many clients, including some big names who are now clients of my own.
4. Michelle Higgins – NY Times’ columnist Michelle Higgins put Award Expert on the map by doing a story on frequent flyer award consultation earlier this year. I miss her Practical Traveler columns greatly (she now covers residential real estate) and unlike so many columnists who love writing about travel but actually have no idea about what they are talking about, Michelle always did her homework and offered insight that no one else came close to paralleling in the print press.
5. Gary Leff – Last and certainly not least, I am beyond grateful for Gary Leff. Not only does he write an insightful blog that I read each day, but he is the most generous person that I know. Michelle’s NY Times column may have brought more business in absolute terms to Award Expert, but Gary really got me started. In an era in which every man is for himself, for several months in 2011 Gary would send over multiple clients each day that he was too busy to promptly address. As I was just starting out, I was able to help them immediately and earned quite a tidy amount for all the people he sent over. These clients—many of them at least—now form the core of Award Expert; the clients that come back to me for their trips each year (often multiples trips) and who have referred me to friends and family. Word of mouth remains the most valuable tool in growing a business and if it were not for Gary Leff, I would have no business.
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On this Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful and so many people to thank, but I want to call out Mike, Ben, Brian, Michelle, and Gary in particular. Thank you all.