Why is it that we never expect the unexpected? Two weeks ago I was looking forward to a fun-filled summer, several group tours that I planned on escorting, and spending time with my family and friends. And now it looks like most of my summer will be spent in physical therapy after taking a fall at a graduation ceremony when a hand railing gave way. Quadriceps tendon rupture. Surgery. Three to six months for a total recovery. Feel free to leave your horror stories in the comments!
So, here I am, a one-man operation (for all intents and purposes) for my agency, in one of the busiest times of the year looking at some surgery and a significant period of recovery. Thankfully I had some backup plans in place.
For my trips that were imminent, I was able to contact all of the clients and let them know of my problem and secured final payments either for processing or scheduling to process. I contacted my suppliers and took care of the payments and also arranged for the documents to be sent directly to the client (electronically or hard copy). The clients were made aware and provided a number to call in case there were any issues—a supplier number for supplier issues, and a colleague’s number for agency issues.
No man is an island and we all need help at some point. I do have a decades-long friendship with a colleague/competitor whom I trust implicitly. We have met in the past and have agreed to temporarily handle each other’s business as needed in an emergency. There is an agreement, delayed compensation, specific duties, and a defined duration. She has access to a file in my Dropbox account that has instructions on accessing all my current client info—we are not on the same CMS so I needed to be detailed.
My agency only does group trips, which can be a blessing and a curse as well. The agreement I mentioned specifies the duration and defined duties. With an agency of her own to run, the agreement does not cover handling a group trip that is in its infancy. We recently released a trip for August and had 9 families booked.
Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of the surgery and recovery, I could not guarantee that I could continue to market the trip, answer pre-purchase questions, and handle the transactions as they should be handled. So, as unfortunate as it was I had to “cancel” the trip. I did not cancel it entirely, just stopped selling it. This put me in an awkward position since the group size would be smaller and I needed to make sure the booked clients were good with that. Most were, but we did lose 3 bookings entirely, so what would have been a group of 30 families has shrunk to one of 6. I contacted them all and they are okay with that and have given me pre-authorization to charge their accounts when needed. Their documents will be delivered electronically.
Hopefully all of my preparations will be for naught and the surgery will go as planned and the recovery will not be too complicated; but with other people’s vacations on the line, I just cannot take the chance. Thankfully, much of my ongoing work (planning for fall, winter, and next spring) can go forward–remember in the new millennium, we can work from anywhere–Starbucks, library, or on a couch with a leg brace!
What surprised me about this whole episode is how much of a non-issue this turned out to be. I expected a lot of complaints, hassles making changes, and more. The only downside is a slight dip in lost revenue due to cancellations and reimbursing my colleague for her efforts. Everyone was understanding and well—human about it. These days, when it seems that humanity is lost from our daily lives, life surprises you.
What’s your backup plan?