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Key Idea: Build Your Own Sales Team

Greg Bombard's Starship Express takes people away from the hustle bustle of Los Angeles to the calm and stunningly beautiful Catalina Island. 

Key Question:


Why do Greg Bromberg's employees handle in-bound telephone sales even though  he could easily outsource this function?

He said he wants to control the sales process. The word, control, so often sounds negative and might seem as if Greg doesn't trust people. But we think Greg wants to manage the selling process because he has more confidence if the people who take the in-bound phone calls actually work at the water's edge. We saw the offices of Catalina Express and everyone can either see the ocean from a window or easily step outside to be part of the passenger loading process.

When we called to book our trip we were treated with great care. We were asked questions so that we would buy the right trip. The person on the other end of the phone was full of information about the weather, the island, and even consulted with us about the ideal length of stay. Someone working for an in-bound call center located in Utah (or India) probably would not deliver this kind of service.

Q: Why would any company outsource the selling process?

Because it can be efficient. We have studied over 150 companies that use independent contractors, independent distributors, franchisees and a variety of strategic alliances to sell their products and services. All of these strategies can work perfectly. But, you as the owner must be able to completely trust any and all persons who represent you to your end user customers. See Debra St. Claire and Ebby Halliday on independent contractors. Learn about independent distributors from David Arnold and Anne McGilvray. And, decide if you should sell franchises by studying Anne Beiler and Gary Salomon.

You must stay close to the customers and not use outsourcing as a way to distance yourself from the real reason you're in business and that is to create and maintain customers.

Engaging "outsiders" to handle the sales part of your business is OK as long as you don't think of them as "outsiders." These people are your sales department and must be championed, rewarded, taught, encouraged, loved and appreciated. Never forget the old adage: nothing happens until something is sold.

Think about it

Have you built a sales team?  Should you?

Clip from: Small Is Big On Catalina

Avalon, Catalina Island, California:  With a population of about 3200, small business is all there is on this island. Yet, with over 14 million people just 22 miles away in the greater Los Angeles area, this quiet little paradise on earth is no secret!

To get out to the island, we first meet Greg Bombard, the founder and owner of the Catalina Express. Greg's high-speed catamarans -- we were on the Starship Express -- leave from San Pedro across from Long Beach.  Other people arrive by private boats, airplanes and even helicopter.  Avalon Harbor (above) is just magnificent. 

Our first stop off the boat is Brown's Bikes.  Gary Brown, who passed away since this interview, was the island's premier ambassador and a person of profound goodwill. He speaks with great affection about his cherished town.

Even though all the businesses we visited on Catalina Island are different, they are all clearly in the same business -- the business of pleasing people. When you make people happy, they come back; and over time, you will build a business and a following.

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Catalina Express

Greg Bombard, CEO / founder

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1981

Build Your Own Sales Team

HATTIE: We've been all over the country, meeting small-business owners, but this place has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Anyone can escape the hustle-bustle of Los Angeles. The getaway is close and inexpensive. For just $36 round trip, you can take the 26-mile ride to Catalina Island. You could rent a bike from Gary Brown, buy souvenirs from Bob Cranton, rent a horse from Bunny Putnam, or splurge and be treated like royalty at the inn run by Marlene McAdams, all small-business people. You can make the trip to and from Catalina on Greg Bombard's Catalina Express. Like the others, he's a small-business owner, serving the thousands of tourists who visit this magical place every year.

GREG BOMBARD (Catalina Express): (Voiceover) It's such a getaway compared to the daily grind on the mainland. And if you're working all week and you need a break, it's a great place to go do it.

We offer over 30 trips a day, and that's just one way going that way. If you counted both legs, it's 60 trips, and that has never been offered before.

So that opened the door to some type of service that would enable the people to get back and forth to the island on a more routine basis than the big, slower boats that came and went on prime-time applications but not all day long and not in the wee hours of the morning and the late hours of the evening.

The only way we could see to do that was to offer a faster boat and carry a smaller number of passengers on board and create that type of service. We use an airline theory as far as the seating on board. The cabin attendants on board come to your seat. And then for speed, (we) use ride control to take care of the speed. You can go fast, but you need to keep the people comfortable while you go fast, so we offered a lot of amenities that nobody else had available.

All right, so this is the main salon.

HATTIE: This does look like the seating on a passanger airplane.

GREG: Yes and we serve light snacks on board, cocktails or sodas. And these seats are all designed and built in Norway and imported in; small snack bar where people can either walk up to it or they can sit back and relax and the cabin attendant will bring them a cocktail at their seat.

HATTIE: So you get your vacation started off in total comfort.

GREG: Really the technologies in these new high-speed ferries are a lot like walking into the cabin of a 737.

HATTIE: OK, so you're letting me be the captain.

GREG: So, see, now here's some of the technology I was talking about. The wheel that steers the boat--well, instead of having the captain sit there and have to bend over and have to worry about steering from here...

HATTIE: Right.

GREG: He can sit back in his seat put his hand on this lever and he can drive from right there.

HATTIE: It's like a joystick.

GREG: It is a joystick. This is your pilot control, so that you can set your autopilot to whatever your course is supposed to be in this section here.

HATTIE: You can't just say, `Take me to Catalina.'

GREG: You can say that, but if you have to go around something, it won't know to do that.

HATTIE: Now, why are you so proud of the engines?

GREG: I think this is a big piece of the whole puzzle, being able to come up with the horsepower and the systems being able to move this boat through the water at the speeds we want to.

HATTIE: OK. So the four things you're concerned with, right?

GREG: Yes. I mean, safety is always paramount. Safety is the biggest thing there is in this industry, and then speed and comfort come along with it, and the service on board. I mean, our cabin attendants, they do a great job, and the deck hands...

HATTIE: Well, just the whole service process. Buying your ticket. I know your 800 number's great, the people are friendly. They gave me great information. They asked me a lot of questions to help me make my decision about which boat I should take.

GREG: Probably something that really adds to that is we made a decision early on in the existence of the business to build our own reservation system and they're right here with us. So we're selling our own product.

Other people have gone out to either different ticket providers, whether it be Ticketmaster or people like this, and they utilize those types of services. And we always felt that if we're going to do it right, we want to sell and provide our own service all the way from the time you answer the phone and takes the order... actually from the time they start from their home, we've set the whole thing up for them. And that's important to us.

HATTIE: So you can control the quality of service.

GREG: We want to control all the quality.

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