Pivot is definitely the word of the moment. Everyone is talking about how they need to pivot, how they are working to pivot, and their pivot strategy. What about those of us who might not have a pivot, or those of us who are not ready to pivot? What is the best business strategy?

The travel industry had taken a beating over the last three months because of COVID-19 (gosh it feels like a year already). Some of my colleagues have not even begun to peep their head’s up–it’s been triage city here. I know for me, I’ve not had time to reorganize my closets, my office is still a mess, and I’ve just now discovered the joy of tik tok videos. Here at Bella, we’ve been crazy busy with redirecting our clients, requesting refunds and better terms for our travelers, and fighting like hell to ensure our clients are taken care of in this uncertain time. Gosh it’s exhausting.

In determining the best business strategy for Bella Travel, we’ve decided to punt first then look at ways we can pivot.

What is a punt? In football, when a team has run out of all their options to score in the allotted number of downs (tries), they punt the ball to the other side. Basically a punt gives the team more time to to try again to score. It’s working on defense for a certain amount of time before we are ready to move forward towards victory.

In the travel industry, our defensive moves have included: tightening our budgets, anticipating lost revenue, determining how to recapture any lost revenue and working with our supplier partners to get creative (and fair) with their compensation terms (this is not always fruitful), assisting our travelers with cancelled itineraries, checking in on our colleagues to make sure they are okay, and more. Truth is, we aren’t ready for an offensive play–we aren’t ready to score….we just need to survive.

A pivot is a new strategy – a slight new direction. A punt simply gives you more time to think and evaluate.

Let’s put the Pivot vs Punt scenario in the case of another industry, the restaurant business. A pivot would be for a fine dining restaurant to start offering take out service. A punt would be to furlough the employees–some at partial pay to determine the next steps and to reduce costs. A punt may also be offering online cooking classes or opening outside-only dining. I’ve seen some companies start with a punt – close for a while to reduce costs and get the lay of the land, and then pivot to offering take out services when they were ready to start amping up to re-opening as a full service restaurant. There is no one-size fits all business strategy, which is why purposeful reflection is important. There are so many factors to consider in creating a successful plan. You have to take the time to think of them all.

Punt or Pivot. Why is this important? What difference does it make?

First, you have to give yourself a break. You need time to think creatively. The pressure to use this COVID Shutdown time as productive time is very real. Oh yes, I’ll clean my office, organize my life, finally learn more French, do a puzzle a week, amp up my cocktail game, have a spa day every weekend, make fresh pasta and bread, and blog every.single.day. After two months of lockdown, holy cow, I just want to fit into my jeans–that’s all.

We have to give ourselves permission to mourn–mourn the loss of a year’s income, mourn how we were once a travel rockstar, mourn going out with friends, mourn parties and hugs and outdoor festivals. We have to allow ourselves space to breathe and think and to act with purpose not out of straight fear.

Then it may be time to pivot. If you take some time to evaluate first, then you can pivot with purpose. What’s the next step? How are you going to emerge stronger? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What things have you been considering implementing, but hesitate simply because of fear?

I was recently on a panel of top travel advisors discussing how we are changing our financial models going forward to be more professional, be more financially stable, to be strong. Many advisors are considering charging fees for the first time. Some (like me) have discovered their fees were no longer aligned with current industry trends. Some of us are adding services and creating new options for our clients. It’s been a few months now, so we are ready to pivot with purpose–refining our processes with each other, challenging our travel colleagues to be even better, thinking and rethinking our business models.

Did I pivot of punt? Both. In the beginning, I simply tightened my budgetary belt and kept an eye on the situation. At first, at the end of February/beginning of March, we really thought some travel might be back by mid-May, so the storm didn’t seem so bad. By mid-March, it was apparent we were in this storm for the long haul business-wise. By mid-April, we were able to claim unemployment for my team to give ourselves some time to breathe and take the pressure off our business. Now in May, I’ve been working on creating a part-time side-hustle with a local wine and spirits store to keep my agency fees paid until we are moving forward with steam. Here at Bella, we are strong and we are staying in the business and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep us healthy. I’m not one to sit and worry and hope someone sweeps down to save me–I am a woman of action! I am my own knight in shining armor.

Now to the pivots…..Bella is beginning a yearly travel subscription, Bellissimo, for our travelers interested in extra benefits and unlimited travel consultations. We are super stoked of this new development! Over the last few months, we’ve been working with our colleagues to hone in this process and have a well executed pivot. We’ll announce it in the early fall.

We are also beginning mentoring services for our colleagues in the travel and hospitality business as well as any sales-based individuals out there who need a bit of creativity in structuring or restructuring their business strategy. Over the years, I have mentored many travel advisors entering the industry or wanting to get to that next level. I’ve coached several on the implementation of planning fees. I’ve had conversations with so many about how to sell luxury products. These are things I just love. It was time to move from friendly advice to professional mentoring for a small group of people ready to kick some business booty.

As we come into that next phase of whatever the new normal is, take the time you need to pivot with purpose, be fearless in your business strategy, and rediscover the joy in the industry you love.

Becky Lukovic has been in the travel industry for 19 years. Her passion for helping others succeed almost eclipses her passion for the travel industry. You may reach her directly at 770-702-0787 or becky@bellatravelplanning.com to arrange mentoring services. The programs and rates may be seen here.