Comment: ‘Companies who care will come through coronavirus crisis’

When normality returns support will be repaid in spades, says Travel Counsellors chief executive Steve Byrne 

While we deal with what the coronavirus crisis means for us as a business and wider industry, we have seen working from home become the new norm.

As a company based on homeworking, with over 1,900 home-based business owners operating globally [1,300 in the UK], moving our support team to remote working fortunately hasn’t been as much of a challenge. However, I am sure many of you can sympathise with the trials of working parents now having to juggle work and home life with children, not to mention the challenge of home schooling.

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All those working in travel will appreciate the scale and human consequences of this crisis for the industry. With this, we are also seeing the best of human behaviour and a reminder that the here and now, and the future, really does belong to those that care. Up and down the country, thousands of people in travel will be doing their bit to follow government advice, look after their own families, be decent, caring neighbours and offer support to the NHS. In doing that they will also be going above and beyond to look after their customers faced with cancellations of their long awaited and well-earned holidays or the human consequences of loved ones being stranded overseas.

Many of these care-givers in travel will be holding their head held high when faced with an uncertain future for themselves. The government’s interventions will help protect many jobs, at least for the short-term. The support for the self-employed and freelancers will be a welcome relief for many that have taken the brave decisions to back themselves to have their own business. But the schemes need to go further and the financial support given quicker, to help those that have not yet filed a tax return, and be extended to include those that will do so for the first time this year. They need to address the many who are directors of companies and don’t employ anyone other than perhaps themselves. Many who are employed via limited companies face the unenviable choice of furloughing themselves and closing their business down for two months or longer or carrying on with no revenue stream yet driven by a need and desire to be there to help their customers.

Every leader will be being tested in terms of how they respond and how they navigate this storm. You will see how strong your leadership team – and it is a team game – is in a time of crisis. As a business we have been very clear and very focused, but these are unchartered territories for all – we are imperfect, we are learning, and we are being adaptable as the situation develops. Our shared goal and mission is to get through this as a community. And I firmly believe over the medium term it will be those businesses that have true loyalty and engagement that will come out the strongest.

Being part of a community that genuinely supports you through this time will mean you don’t have to face this on your own. It is critical now that people feel they can open up and share their feelings, and do that in a safe environment with people who will help you. There will be lives, livelihoods and careers saved over the coming weeks because people come together virtually to support and care for one another.

And when normality returns, which it will at some point no matter how long that might take, all that support and care will unleash itself in the desire for people to want to get together (albeit families may have had enough of each other), to connect with business customers and to experience the world in all its wonders.

Podcast: Steve Byrne

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