Alex Torgueman slips into a quiet room, his brother just out of earshot and working in the next room. It’s Labor Day weekend, and he’s received a sudden text message about a client’s private jet getting unexpectedly rescheduled.
“I have to figure out how far Peterborough is from SoHo,” he said, thinking out loud. “And how to get paperwork for a dog to get from Canada to the US.”
Alex stopped everything to manage the situation. This might feel like a fantasy for some people, but for Alex, scheduling (or re-scheduling, as it were) private jets is pretty much a regular day in his life.
It wasn’t always that way, of course. Alex grew up as a middle-class Jewish kid in Midwood, Brooklyn, surrounded by his parents, four siblings and the city's sounds outside his window. His parents were entrepreneurs, working hard to provide for their large family. They took vacations close by to locations accessible by car. But it was a trip to Israel to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah that changed the trajectory of his life.
“My parents both had points on their business credit cards, and those points ended up helping pay for my Bar Mitzvah. It paid for flights to get there, which are expensive, especially for our whole family,” he recalled.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Seeing points used in that way got his wheels turning, and 12-year-old Alex came up with an idea.
“I asked my dad, ‘If you have a legitimate business, can you put everything on your credit card?’” Alex recalled. His dad proceeded to sit him down and explain the whole concept of points – that you could use a credit card for just about everything, and as long as you paid it off in full each month, you’d earn points and travel faster.
Now Alex is 30. He’s been a points and miles expert for 18 years.
“I grew up really fast,” he said with a smile.
Alex isn’t just any points superfan. He’s the founder of Points Rich, a business that helps people maximize their points and travel the world. The company thrives from two key components: a long-term mastery of points’ travel and Alex’s role as a Fora Advisor. This combination hasn’t just sent people on lavish trips, but it has changed their whole life trajectories.
“People are coming to me years after I planned their honeymoons, and they’re saying, ‘If you didn't help us, then we wouldn't have our family,’” he said. “They tell me, ‘You're part of the journey.”
Learning the ropes from a family business
Even before Alex had a formal business entity, he spent his life doing this work. It started in the summer of 2005, when pre-teen Alex picked up a job at his uncle’s small jewelry business, learning valuable lessons about owning and operating a business of his own (he even learned Quickbooks – yes, at age 12). In return, he observed his uncle’s spending and taught himself how to use points.
In high school, Alex built a micro-business buying and selling concert tickets and pre-paying for friends’ dates with his credit card. He racked in a hefty bundle of points and a good chunk of savings, affording him a 45-day trip around Europe upon graduation. He visited visited Madrid, explored Paris, and museum-hopped in Amsterdam and Vienna, ultimately shifting his mindset. That experience led him to study abroad in Prague in college.
“Traveling to Prague changed my life,” Alex said.
“I met some amazing people who took me out of my comfort zone. I met people who took loans out to travel, or who really needed help and guidance and wanted the overall ability to travel.”
Seeing others go to significant lengths to make travel a reality further cemented Alex’s interest in helping others leverage their points better. That’s how Points Rich began, which Alex started in 2017.
Nearly six years later, Points Rich has grown into an impressive business, and Alex credits that growth to doing good work for good people, earning their trust and gaining referrals. The other day, he helped a woman navigate an issue with an expired passport. She wasn’t a client of his, but her father was. “You just hope there will be opportunities in the future,” he said. “You never know where your next referral will come from.”
Creating long-lasting relationships with clients
True to his roots in small family businesses, Alex finds comfort in working with small- and medium-sized family companies.
“A small- to medium-sized business is nice to work with because they like to help their own. They like to help their employees to take time off, and the partners take time off themselves. If you become the travel advisor of a family business, their family members become your clients, and the number of people who can refer you is endless.”
Even without referrals, Alex believes that taking the time to help people almost always pays back tenfold. One of his best clients came from a post in a Facebook group.
“[This client] wanted to book Emirates first-class on points, so I sent him a DM. And I've been very lucky to be friends with that person for a long time now. He invited me to his daughter's wedding. You become friends with a lot of cool people just from being open and honest and advisable. And I’ve learned a lot from my luxury clients about restaurants and amazing hotels.”
To Alex, building a business as a travel advisor isn’t just about the company itself but creating lasting relationships with people and helping them when they need it.
“It’s really nice to be able to go to a party and feel like a celebrity because you helped half the room,” he said.
While helping people is the name of Alex’s game, he realizes that over time he has had to take better care of himself.
“I've done so much giving to others that I'm trying to take care of myself a little bit more now,” he said.
Some of that has to do with ensuring that he’s not just traveling for work but bringing his family and loved ones along with them and showing them his world. Other times it means charging more for his services. While he used to work with anyone in the early days of his business, he now has a budget minimum before he starts with any new clients. This has saved him significant time and energy, allowing him to focus on a smaller number of clients and give them an overall better experience.
“I'm learning to value my time more,” he commented.
Quality is a consistent theme of Alex’s life.
“I've been very lucky to have been to 62 countries. It was a goal of mine, at 30, to have been to double the number of countries as my age. But I’ve already accepted that I'm not going to go to every country in the world. I thought about it growing up. But I realized that not every place is accepting of all of us, whether you're an American or a Jewish guy. So I don’t feel like I have to go to a place where I’m not feeling safe and comfortable.”
Comfort and safety aren’t just essential values for Alex’s personal travels but something he extends to his clients as well.
“I'm very particular with my clients. I only book if I'm comfortable sending you there. So 95% of the time, I know where I’m sending you.”
Traveling as a digital nomad
Alex sees a lot of places because he runs his entire business while traveling the world full-time as a digital nomad. Wherever he goes, he brings his “command center,” which consists of two cell phones, an iPad, a digital notebook and a MacBook.
“That's my office around the world,” he said. Sometimes the walls surrounding him are part of a WeWork or another workspace. Most of the time, though, he just works out of his hotel room. To date, one of his favorite workspaces is inside the Park Hyatt Tokyo. He considers himself a bit of a Japanophile.
“I've been to Japan four times,” he explained. “It's my favorite country. A lot of things there are really done well, all throughout the country, from the countryside to the city to Kyoto, which is a magical place. It hasn't aged at all in 2000 years, so you’ll feel transported in time. Put it high on your bucket list. It'll change your life.”
Even when Alex is stateside, he often finds his schedule shifting to European or Asian time zones to keep relationships with suppliers overseas.
“I just constantly change based on the weather,” he admitted.
His love of traveling to Japan brought him to Fora, where he met Fora’s Travel Sales Manager, Brian Lonergan, at lunch. He was looking for a new host agency for his travel advisor business, and Brian invited him to try Fora. Alex instantly fell in love with Fora’s vibrant community, its commitment to helping travel advisors build lasting companies and Fora’s fast payment cycles.
“Fora?” he said, “There's no place better. I've hopped around a lot of different host agencies. Most of the time, you're just a number. They don't care about you. I wish I had the ability to have Fora when I first started. I never felt valued like this.”
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