Many coach operators have made all the right moves during the COVID-19 crisis. They have worked to keep their employees safe, made smart decisions about cash flow and applied for stimulus funds to keep them afloat during the mass shutdowns.
But that might not be enough, contends Jim McCann, a consultant with Spader Business Management. In the past several weeks, he has been meeting with motorcoach industry clients to prepare them for ramping up operations as shelter-in-place orders come to an end.
“The next wave of disruption is coming at us, and it’s not just an economic shock, it’s a shock to customer behaviors and business models as well. To handle them, a business needs to adopt an operating model that accommodates the extreme level of uncertainty that faces them,” he said.
During the United Motorcoach Association Town Hall session on April 23, McCann shared an eight-point strategy he developed to help clients.
The following is an overview of the eight-point checklist he recommends UMA operators consider as they prepare to restart their businesses.
1. Stabilize the situation. Begin by taking control of your cash. Use your funds to prudently maintain current operations, while also making investments that prepare the operation for the future.
2. Assess the situation: Use facts to make decisions regarding all the opportunities and programs that are available to you. Keep reliable resources, both internally and externally, and make sure that you’re paying attention to the opportunities. Start to think about the direction you want your business to take.
3. Watch your attitude: As leaders of your organization, take a hard look in the mirror. How are you feeling? On a scale of 1-6 — with 1 being “I just can’t even think about going into work today” and 6 is “I can’t wait to get there” — where are you in that spectrum? If you’re 1-3, you’ve got some work to do. Think about how you can improve your own attitude because it will affect your whole organization. The vision that you have for your company points the way to the future. An economic downturn is temporary, just like a robust economy is temporary. Your vision of your organization is permanent. It’s why you’re in business. It’s why you do the things you do. The values of the organization are dependent upon the values of the leaders and owners of the organization. In your communications to employees, continue to restate the mission, vision and values of the company. That’s going to be important as you determine the future direction of the organization.
4. Stop the losses: Now is a really good time to think about re-engineering processes. Eliminate the things that don’t have value, and tasks that are valueless to you and your customers. It’s a great opportunity to ask, “What are the things that we’ve always thought we should be doing, but we haven’t had time to do?” In looking at what the future of the company is going to be like, now’s the time to do those things.
5. Find the positives: Ask yourself these questions: Am I just going to be the same business when we return? What’s my company’s future going to look like? Is it time to reinvent ourselves? We talk a lot about organizational structure and plateau maps and what that looks like. We can build our business by adding the right positions at the right time of growth. Many of you are really starting over when this comes back. What are the positions you’re going to bring back? What will your organization look like? How do you want to reinvent yourself?
6. Make a new plan: What’s it going to look like when business starts to come back? Will it mean that we have to think about social distancing in our coaches? Does it mean that we can’t carry the same number of people? How do we protect our drivers? There are a number of things that you have to consider along with your pricing model. It’s a time to redeploy the best and most talented in your organizations to lead initiatives that you’ve never had time to do. It could simply be making the best out of your technology, or it’s customer-related. Perhaps it’s taking a look at developing a marketing plan that is about how you’ll get back into the business.
7. Establish credibility with your clients: Differentiate yourself from your competitors in some way, shape or form. Sharpen that advantage. Think about what that marketing message is going to be, and how you want to start establishing communication with your clients. Many operators already have that plan in place and never stopped communicating.
8. Show a profit: What separates the winners from the losers is how well they capture, process, disseminate and leverage their unique knowledge. Strengthen your knowledge management system or, if you don’t have one, develop it. What does that look like to an operator that’s in a state about to open up? As you begin to identify a path to profitability, it might begin by planning two to four weeks at a time, then looking at the next four weeks, quarter or six months. Understand the trigger points in which you need to either retreat or begin to bring more people back and grow. The economy is not going to open up as fast for us as it will for some industries, but we need to be prepared for that and understand that the clients’ needs are going to be different from what they were before this started.
In ending his presentation, McCann said, “I think the future is bright. We just have to make a plan and understand what that path to profitability looks like for each of us.”
Join UMA for the next online Town Hall meeting this Thursday at 2 p.m. ET on the Zoom platform to discuss the most current issues that matter to operators.