The Dow Jones average went up 400 points on Nov. 23. An hour later, I read a report from Goldman Sachs that said that while stock investors may be celebrating, 52% of the small-business owners in America have stopped, and I mean entirely stopped, paying themselves a salary.
One has to imagine that in the travel/hospitality industry, that figure has to be higher. So please allow me to make a few recommendations that I hope will be helpful to those of you who have decided to "rethink" your business model during these days of self-incarceration.
No. 1: Think through every aspect of your operation and rank them with those that need the most attention at the top.
From the way you position your firm to what you call yourself as a professional, this is the time for positive change.
But don't just change the name of your business -- you've worked too hard to establish its brand. However, know you can massage it, as in "Siberian Wine Tours, a subsidiary of ...."
Make up your mind that you will utilize one major marketing advantage: the tag line that appears under your name.
No. 2: Face the big questions head on.
What won't I sell? Stand for something. Stand for quality. What differentiates you from the "I will sell anything" travel agents down the street?
No. 3: Stop being a travel supermarket.
Think boutique, think smaller focus. Where is your true expertise and interest? Redesign what you want to do and agree that you will never become so desperate that you have to take on business that does not fit your profile.
No. 4: Stop employing travel "agents."
Come up with a better name and clarify functions. No one sells you stuff in an Apple Store or a doctor's office. How can you avoid the appearance of selling while being a source of great expertise? Don't be afraid to redefine the genre.
No. 5: "Brick-and-mortar" and "home-based" are the extremes on a continuum.
There are options in the middle. Consider shared office space with entrepreneurial types who might motivate you. Or look at prestigious brick-and-mortar upscale stores and design a small, in-store deluxe agency only requiring a few hundred square feet. These days, other retailers might appreciate the additional rental income.
No. 6: Go where the clients are.
Across all demographic lines, we are seeing consumers doing more things at home. Once Covid is past us, it ought to be possible for a travel consultant to make house calls. Never mind the idea that clients will call you at your home when the time is right for you. Visit clients in the evening by appointment when it is convenient for them and always come with a tray of lovely desserts.
No. 7: Speak to social media consultants.
Social media is a highly competitive, complex playing field. What makes you feel that you have the knowledge base, content and ability to design algorithms that can best the work of the major corporations in this space? Instead of just "doing" social media, use Covid time to design a laser-focused strategy in conjunction with media consultants who have actually had success in this field.
No. 8: Ponder what is essentially wrong with our industry.
Understand that most of what the consumer sees is spoon-fed by marketing departments. But everything smells like a strawberry. Remember Richard's Rule No. 17: "No one will believe your upside claims unless you have included downside content."
Stay well. I am going to try to do as much brainstorming with you as I can until we drive out of this tunnel back into the sunlight.