Our company felt good heading into 2020.
We were riding high off our annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga., in December. In addition to spending time together over some good food and drinks, we had revisited and tweaked our value proposition, taken company headshots and set ambitious financial goals for the year ahead.
Plus, it looked as if we’d have a new, talented team member (Julie Sickel) joining us in January from London, a move that would give us a foothold to expand services into EMEA.
Less than three months later, COVID-19 hit.
The impact on our client base was swift and, in some cases, brutal. It’s no secret that the corporate travel industry has been devastated by this pandemic.
With many of our clients pulling back on our engagements, it left a lot of time for our team to do some soul searching.
Let me pause here. There have been a lot of articles I’ve come across about what we all should or could be doing during this pandemic. My intent is that this is not one of those articles.
In fact, the self-reflection we underwent was somewhat unwelcome for me personally. For the first time since the company’s founding, we weren’t slammed with client engagements and pursuing new business. Not only did that halt the growth goals we set back in December, but it also meant stopping to take a hard look in the mirror and ask, “What are we really doing and why does it matter?” That can be uncomfortable.
Despite all the stress and uncertainty and, yes, discomfort, we’ve undergone in recent months, I now feel better about our company than I ever have before.
Much of this is due to the hard work, leadership and expertise of my business partner Julie. When we first met several years ago — she was a reporter and I was a young marketer and PR professional — I always appreciated the smart questions she posed to my clients. Now, we’ve been able to turn her smart questions on ourselves, and really dig into the answers, with a method and an urgency that we hadn’t practiced before, even during our annual meetings.
They say “never waste a good crisis,” and even though the past few months have been really (really) hard, I truly believe we are going to come out of this a better company, with a clearer vision and more passion to serve our current and future clients.
There are many things this pandemic has brought to light for me, both personally and professionally (for example, despite my ability to work completely virtually, I miss the office). But in terms of our company, the past few months has really drove home the importance of the following:
1. Asking the hard questions should be an ongoing practice.
It shouldn’t take a crisis for us to pause and ask, “Are we on the right track? Who do we want to be and will this help us get there?” I personally plan to incorporate them into everyday decisions to diligently keep us on the right path.
2. Making time for ourselves is important.
I don’t mean this is in a personal sense (although that’s important, too). Rather, we need to save some creative bandwidth to push our company forward every day, not just when time allows between client work (because, let’s face it, time never allows).
3. Sharpening our focus better positions us for success.
Again, back to those questions. Asking “What are we really good at?” and “What kind of work do we really want to be doing?” has helped us hone in on the services where we most excel. Will we expand in the future? I believe so. But for right now, we’ve stopped trying to be all things to all people (to the benefit of prospective clients and our company).
4. We live and die by our relationships.
This point is a little touchy feely for me and I almost didn’t include it. But it’s true. Our relationships with our clients, our network of travel industry peers and, most importantly, within our team have carried us through this tough time. In the past, we’ve done a good job, I think, of appreciating our relationships. But never have I felt and understood the importance of this element of our business as I have recently. I plan to better recognize and acknowledge them moving forward.
Despite the reopening of several European countries and all 50 states in the U.S., we’re not out of the woods yet. I am, however, hopeful that our world will recover stronger and use the lessons learned during this time to our benefit in a variety of ways. I know our company will move forward on more solid footing and with a better sense of purpose incorporating these lessons into our post-pandemic operations.