It’s a bright Monday morning and a deep rumble is resonating from within the Flight Centre shop in Kerrisdale. Locals flickering past the red-and-white storefront cast knowing glances at the rattling doorframe as they dash into coffee shops for their morning hit of java.
Behind the locked door of the travel agency, walls shudder and the floor vibrates as team manager Brian McLaren pounds on a drum set in the back room. Not many companies can boast having a jam space in their office, but here, it’s just one of the perks. “It gets us going in the morning,” raves assistant manager Brianne McNulty, 28. “I look forward to coming in.” By 9:30 a.m., the phones are ringing incessantly and four staff members are perched behind a red booth responding to requests. Covering the wall behind them are neatly displayed brochures advertising appealing travel destinations. On the opposite wall, a massive world map dotted with stars displays the far-flung locales visited by this office’s staff. And by the looks of things, they’ve travelled a lot. McLaren, with his cheeky boy-band looks, is sporting a dark tan and wide grin, having just returned from a two-week blitz across Queensland, Australia. Although the trip wasn’t work-related, the 29-year-old was offered a great deal on his flight and received upgrades on hotels. Very cheap rates for flights, tours and hotels come with this job. In addition to the high-energy, youthful culture, they’re part of what makes this publicly traded Australian company, whose North American head office is in Vancouver, one of B.C.’s best companies to work for. “There are always deals to be had,” says McLaren. “The airlines are very good to us. We have a huge folder of agent rates with trips all over the world.” McLaren Excuses himself to answer an important call, and I strike up a conversation with one of the newest members in the office. Gordon Giroux, an international travel consultant, has been on the job for two weeks after two weeks of intensive training. When asked how he is enjoying his new position, the 28-year-old replies with an elated smile, “It’s awesome. I love it. I’m totally stoked.” His colleagues McLaren and McNulty have been working at this location for more than four years and, Giroux says, “They know everyone in the neighbourhood.” When they walk into one of the local shops for a bite of lunch, the locals practically roll out the red carpet. “Kerrisdale has a very loyal customer base,” explains McLaren. “A lot of people pop their heads in here to tell us how their trips were. We’ll walk into a coffee shop and it’s almost like being a celebrity.” Flight Centre has 47 shops in B.C., employing around 280 people. Staff play hard, but work hard, too. The Kerrisdale employees say they aren’t afraid to put in extra hours if it means padding out their paycheques. “There’s lots of opportunity for growth within the company if you want to move up and fast if you want,” says McLaren. “You’re in charge of what you can make. If you put up the effort, and if you’ve got the mindset, it’s going to show.” In addition to the pay, a number of freebie incentives are regularly offered from travel companies and airlines. Other benefits include a manager profit-sharing program, trip rewards for sales performance, full medical and dental and company-paid life insurance and travel insurance. On the fun side, Flight Centre holds an annual out-of-town conference each year for all staff (destinations have included Jamaica and Las Vegas), an annual black-tie ball for everyone and a global black-tie ball for top achievers, which will be held in Dublin this year. Another perk is the monthly “buzz night,” where top teams and achievers are recognized with awards over a dinner and open bar. Given that the majority of employees are 20 to 35, it’s an opportunity to unwind and have a good time with fellow coworkers. “The once-a-month social is a huge tradition in this company,” says McLaren. “Fourteen or 15 shops get together and it’s a big hoopla.” RELATED ARTICLES: Best companies to work for in B.C. Handle with care No sweat A leg up That's amore