So, how’s business? OK, OK, dumb question. In a normal year, this would be the summer doldrums and the time where I suggest taking some time off to refresh yourself and to begin planning for 2021. But, it seems that 2020 itself has been a doldrum. But…
Don’t slack off.
If you haven’t, I do suggest refreshing yourself and leave COVID behind if you can. Maybe it is a long weekend getaway with your significant other. It might be a week working on a hobby. It might just be a day-long sail on a sailboat. But when you are refreshed, it is the perfect time to look ahead to 2021.
Yes, 2021 is right around the corner, and hopefully we will be in a better place. And if we are, you need to be prepared. Yes, I am talking about your financial and marketing plans. They will be more important this year than ever in your career.
Run your reports. Find out who your top customers are (and why). Identify your true partner suppliers versus the ones that merely provide a product for you to sell. These two steps are critical. DO NOT work with people or suppliers that do not make you money—or worse, lose you money. Coming out of a pandemic in a recession is not the time to operate with a loss.
For your financial plan, you will need to consider your budget and any cuts you can make. Are you able to re-negotiate your lease or mortgage or GDS system. Are there more cost effective technology tools that you can embrace? Look at your credit card bill and scour all those monthly charges you never recognize—for some reason I pay for storage at Apple, Google, Dropbox and Microsoft. I subscribe to my local paper that is essentially re-purposed in a larger regional paper to which I also subscribe. That’s $1000 a year right there. Look at every payment made in 2019 and 2020 and find out where to cut. And as you forecast, run three scenarios—one with less business than expected, one with more than expected, and of course with the revenue you expect.
On your marketing plan, it has never been more critical to select true partners for your preferred suppliers. Suppliers are hurting as well and you must really look into their solvency. The last thing you want is to have all of your travelers wrapped up in a supplier that goes belly-up. Realize that you likely are not going to see any increased commissions; but there may be additional benefits to be negotiated—zoom calls, travel nights, etc. And as you move through the year, make sure you are laser focused on the preferred suppliers and the relationship. The suppliers that come out of this time strong will remember those agencies that were true partners. And remember, to be a true partner you do not need to be big. A small agency that puts 100% of their $75K of cruise business with a preferred supplier is just as valuable as a larger one!
Finally, if you are not all tech-ed up, consider it. Ask around and see what other successful agents are using tech-wise to make their jobs easier. I use a free app called Evernote that works on my computers and mobile devices for client notes, task instructions, etc. I paid for the upgrade, but the basic one is awesome. If I go on a trip, I can keep a notebook with my notes, drawings, photos, contacts, and more. Snoop around that app store and see what is available—just discovered one called “Tailor” that stitched screen shots together which is a useful free tool. Ask your colleagues what they are using!
Take advantage of this down time and make it work for you. Other tips? Leave a message!