As somebody who started, scaled and sold my tour business for 7 figures, below is my ‘To-Do’ list of the steps I would be taking and the moves I would be making right now if I was still running that tour business:
#1 Increase your operational capacity in anticipation of a bounce back.
I’m very confident we’re going to see lots of opportunity with segments of the local market, – followed closely by intrastate and interstate visitors – in the months to come when restrictions on the movement of people are eased (clearly this is going to be take more time in some destinations than others…but we’re definitely going to see locals, intrastate and interstate visitors taking tours and activities again first)
And your road to recovery is going to be a lot smoother, straighter and shorter if you’re positioned to take those opportunities. That means coping with increased demand. The last thing you want to be doing is knocking back bookings while you work your way out of the leanest period you’ve possibly ever faced… because you’re at capacity.
When I owned MPT, one of the keys to our success and the thing that pushed us into multi 7-figure revenue territory was our ability to deliver at scale in peak times. The company actually only owned 4 vans. Plus we employed a handful of contractors who owned luxury vans and effectively worked full time for MPT.
But in peak times we regularly ran between 20 and 25 private tours daily.
I made a point of never knocking back a booking. This was my Operations Manager #1 KPI:
“Accept every booking request”
To do this we needed to be across the whereabouts of every single appropriate luxury vehicle in our city. In anticipation of peak demand, we had already built a relationship with the owner. We had negotiated rates, terms and conditions and peak period availability. We had worked out the pick up, drop off, cleaning and refueling logistics. Plus we had considered things like insurance and roadside assistance. We had vehicle images on file that we could insert into proposals if necessary, plus vehicle registration details in our system
I recommend you do the same in your company. You need to know where you can quickly find everything that you need to deliver your tours or activities at scale in peak times – everything you need but don’t own enough of:
Vehicles, equipment, gear, suppliers of activities or experiences.
You need to know how you can access it, what it costs, what the unique features are and how it slots into your planning.
#2 Recruit. Following on from #1, there’s no better time than right now to be loading up your business with the best tour guiding talent around.
While other tour business owners might be hitting pause, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to shore up your future by bringing the best talent around into your community, getting them excited by your business and by the way you do things differently.
To achieve real success and scalability, you need to be able to ‘bat as deep’ as you can. So right now is the time to be recruiting for the future. It also sends a great message to the industry and to future customers.
You don’t need to promise anything you can’t deliver, or to be deceptive about the opportunities that are there right now You can talk truthfully about the opportunities on the horizon and about how you anticipate the next few months and beyond shaping up for your business. To get the recruiting wheels turning now is going to give you first crack at the best talent around.
#3 Outsource a key task or two – or get set to pull the trigger the second you’re on the rebound.
Once you get ‘in the outsourcing zone’, outsourcing tasks in your biz can be literally life changing.
My recommendation: Start small. Start by identifying what it is that you and your key staff love to do, are great at, and what you get done quickly and easily. For some perspective, estimate how much time you spend on these tasks per week.
Secondly, think about what it is that you don’t love doing that you are doing right now, what you’re not great at, and what takes you longer than it should. Again, estimate the time spent on these tasks.
Lastly, identify some tasks or jobs that just aren’t getting done – but you know are a TOP priority for your tour business right now. Even though the time spent on these is likely zero right now, it’s hugely helpful to figure out which of these tasks might also be candidates for outsourcing.
Some examples of tasks that most tour business owners need to get done would be things like:
- Answering phones
- Customer service/customer support
- Enquiry responses
- General office management e.g. mail collection, sending receipts
- Creating weekly meeting agenda and minutes
- Customised tour runsheets
- Booking and reconfirmation of suppliers
- Database management
- Office stationery orders
- Banking cash payments
- Reviewing supplier terms and conditions
- Reviewing supplier quality
- Reviewing supplier invoices
- Reviewing tour guide expense receipts
- Manage internal calendar
- Attending management meetings
- General business improvements
- Business process & policy creation
- Business reporting, forecasting and analysis
- Complaint handling and resolution
- Website improvements
- Design work
- Adding bookings into your system from different platforms
- Finances/administration/generating financial reports
- Customer follow up/review requests
- Vehicle cleaning and detailing
- Managing speeding/parking fines
- Topping up prepaid cards for ‘on-tour’ expenses / recharging touring vehicle Wifi
- Online advertising
- Team performance reviews
Think about times when you – or your staff if you have any – have been overstretched and times of the year that have been super stressful . Are there tasks that regularly get rushed or done more poorly than they should have been?
These are tell-tale signs that you’re going to need to hire more help, and get some of those responsibilities shared with new people when we bounce back and business picks up again.
Once you take the time to highlight your core competencies, the things you LOVE doing, and the things that DRIVE YOU CRAZY – you’ll have a much better perspective on what you might want to outsource.
#4 Tour Improvements. Think of all those much needed improvements you’ve been putting off for months or probably years.
You’ve known for a while that your tour guide training process should be more efficient and more effective.
Your senior tour guides have been telling you about a different and more scenic touring route but that means checking it out for yourself and updating your marketing collateral.
You’ve had a few suppliers on your radar that you’re pretty sure are offering a better experience than your current ones.
You know that, when totalled, these things can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your tour or activity but…you’ve just been too busy and ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ right? Well now’s the time to fix it and take the experiences you offer to another level
#5 Review all expenses that run through your business – and manage and minimise all unnecessary ones. This is critical now for so many of you in survival mode, though it’s a process that should definitely be undertaken regularly (I recommend every 6 months)
How to go about it? Well start by pulling out a copy of your most recent profit and loss statement – if you have one.
Then go literally line by line through every expense that runs through your business. I’m talking about every expense. – both your cost of sales and your business operating expenses:
Advertising, Bank Fees, Bookkeeping Fees, Consulting & Accounting, Insurance, Interest Expenses, Legal expenses, Light, Power, Heating, Merchant Fees, Parking & Tolls Registration & Insurance, Repair & Maintenance, Postage, Printing & Stationery, Realised Foreign Exchange Gains/Losses, Rent, Staff Training, Staff uniforms, Subscriptions, Superannuation, Telephone & Internet, Travel – International, Travel – National, Wages and Salaries…I’m sure you get the idea!
As you go line by line, ask yourself: Which of these are unnecessary? Which are essential?
Then put them into groups. I recommend using these 4 categories:
Keep. Cut. Defer. Negotiate
Once you’ve done that you need to set aside some time to action every expense based on the way you’ve categorised it. Yes, it’s going to be quite a job but I promise you it’s worth it…and, hey you’ve all got a bit of time on your hands now right? The first time I did this in my business in around 2011, the result was a $26,000 saving over a calendar year. I was blown away.
#6 Review your tour suppliers. When I owned Melbourne Private Tours, we offered 20 different day tours, and each tour compromised a number of different suppliers. From memory, we worked with around 50 suppliers regularly (when I say ‘suppliers’, I’m talking about restaurants, attractions, venues, gear suppliers, bars, artisans, activity operators, caterers and more).
We made a point of reviewing all of our suppliers twice a year to ensure we were getting the best possible rates, and the best possible inclusions and overall experience. We liked to keep our suppliers on their toes and ‘head off’ any complacency. We wanted to be treated ‘differently’ to other tour operators that might also use them. We also liked to provide feedback from tour guides and our guests – both good and bad to make sure they continued to deliver the best possible experience. So take some time now to check in with all of your suppliers.
#7 Develop a new product. We’ve talked a lot about this in recent weeks. Have you found a way to pivot right now and meet your customer where they’re currently at? Have you got a virtual experience in the works? Are you redesigning one of your internationally geared experiences to resonate with segments of the local market in anticipation of a speedy ‘local’ recovery and subsequent pent-up demand?
Now’s the time to explore a new revenue stream that could help you navigate this difficult time – and possibly become a long term part of your revenue make-up. This crisis could very potentially be the thing that sets you up for long term success.
#8 Compile your distribution partner ‘wish list’ and zero in on 1 or 2 of the top priorities. Have you had a bunch of Destination Management Companies, Inbound Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Online Travel Agents or Hotel Concierges in your sights for a while?
Are their potential distribution partners that you’re confident would LOVE what you offer and have the customers that would love it too?
I’m sure you do, but you’ve had no bandwidth – and reaching out, building relationships, training them on your tours, encouraging some of their staff onto a familiarisation trip has been beyond you.
You haven’t reached out yet because you’ve been too busy to do it properly – and you know that often you only get one chance to ‘wow’.
Now’s the time to take that chance. Not only might you have the time right now to do yourself, your business and your experiences justice, but…many of these Destination Management Companies, Inbound Tour Operators, Travel Agents etc are keen to hear from you.
There isn’t a lot going on in their professional worlds and many will be super keen to learn about a new experience and enhance their destination knowledge in this quiet time (many also have bosses who are desperate to retain their staff – and desperate to find productive things for them to do) I believe that you’re going to find plenty of people eager to listen and learn. You’re going to be able to grab attention that you might not be able to grab in normal circumstances.
If you’re going down the Virtual Experience route right now, consider also creating a virtual ‘trade’ training experience that brings your tour or activity to life in a way you haven’t done before – and hits on all the key elements that a distribution partner would need to know.
Particularly if they’re simply not able to experience your tour or activity first hand right now.
A well thought out and beautifully executed Virtual Presentation will be guaranteed to have people leaning in and asking for more in a way that a brochure, or powerpoint presentation won’t.
So hopefully you’ve found this useful – I wholeheartedly believe that this crisis could be the ‘call to action’ for so many of you that sets you up for long term success.
-Want a look ‘behind the curtain’ at the exact systems, processes, resources and tools I used to build my 7 figure business. Take a look here
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