Franchisees share how they are adjusting to the new normal
As more of the UK turns to self-isolation and social distancing, balancing personal and professional lives with home-schooling and other duties, remaining positive through these trying times is paramount.
In this new series, we speak with franchisees and franchisors from across the UK to find out how they are coping with “the new normal”.
Rachael and Colman Coyne
Rachael, 52, and Colman, 58, Coyne from Huddersfield in the West Yorkshire were both in the police force before starting their own home-working travel business with Not Just Travel Jetset. The duo has run their successful franchise business for seven years and became mentors to dozens of other Not Just Travel consultants, helping others on their entrepreneurial journey.
However, with the current coronavirus crisis grounding the world’s travel industry, how have the pair been dealing with the situation and ensuring their business not only survives but pivots to thrive in a post-lockdown world?
On working from home with children
“We don’t have any children at home anymore, so although we’ve been keeping up with friends and family over video calls, texts and emails, we haven’t had the kids at home. Our son is grown up, so we haven’t been homeschooling, we have been focussing on work.”
On coping with the pressure
“It has been a really tough time recently. There’s no getting away from it, the travel industry has been tough. We have been working every hour to help out our customers and make sure we are giving them advice, getting them refunds or credit notes – depending on what they want.
“We have been working from 8am to midnight most days since the crisis started. It’s not been easy – we have seen bookings drop off and it does make you worry about your business. But we have been making sure we are doing the best possible job we can for our customers. We had a situation where we had to get 12 customers home from Australia. We helped them rebook their flights, made sure they had everything they needed to make sure they were safe. We even paid for some flights out of our own pocket because customers were waiting on refunds.
“That’s the thing about us, as personal travel consultants, we are there 24/7 for you - we are on the phone for five hours to the agents getting refunds and rebooking for customers who can then relax knowing there’s someone who cares about them on the case. All of our customers have said how much they have appreciated the personal care and attention. You just don’t get that elsewhere. We have been working hard for our customers and that does give us satisfaction and hopefully, they will remember that we always go above and beyond and will come back to us when they book their future holidays after coronavirus.”
On balancing work and personal lives
“That’s been difficult because we are working so hard and when someone needs your help, of course, you jump to help them, whether that’s 10pm at night or 6am. So, we really haven’t had much of a personal life at the moment – we’ve just been working. We work and live together as well, so that gives another dynamic – but we’re a good team and we have been supporting each other.
“We are really lucky, we have an office at the end of our garden, so we have a nice place to work. And what’s been really important to help get a bit of balance. We can leave the office at the end of the day and close the door. We have been doing a lot of DIY around the house and doing lots of home cooking. It’s just about having that chill out time when things get too much.
“We have two retrievers, Ciera, 10, and Polly, two, so we have been going on isolated walks with them and that’s been a great stress reliever. Polly particularly seems to know when you’re down - she comes and sits right in your lap.”
On adapting to the new normal
“I am a former police officer [Colman], and Rachael was formally in police support staff management, so we are used to a disciplined service. At the end of the day, the sooner everyone does what they are told, with regards to social distancing and following government advice, the stronger and faster we will come out of this.
“We really don’t know what the ‘new normal’ will be. This whole situation will have changed people forever, it’s given us all a big shock. We think it’s made people really look at what they value and need, and maybe what we have taken for granted before. It really makes you think, actually what is important is quality time with loved ones.
“In some ways we have been really lucky, as we already work from home, we have a good set up, we run our own business but we also have the support of Not Just Travel as our franchisors, so we aren’t on our own, we have a good support network. And honestly, we believe that yes, this has been a tough time and it’s been a challenge for us, as it has been for everyone, but we will get through it and we will get to see our friends and families again.
“We are already seeing people booking family reunion trips for 2021 and 2022. People have missed each other, and they want a lovely holiday to make memories together once this horrible situation is over. That’s been a lovely part of the job actually, helping give people their dream holidays to look forward to, like the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been really nice to be able to help make that happen for customers.”
On remaining positive
“We have been doing a family quiz every Saturday via Zoom and Rachael has a Monday night meet up with her best friends. Not Just Travel has a Friday night pub night online too, which has been lovely to see everyone else and find out how everyone’s week has been. Rachael has also switched her networking groups to online.
“I think we have both got a lot of positivity from knowing our customers really appreciate us and how hard we have been working for them. The fact we have taken a lot of worry and stress away from them so they can rest easy knowing we are working behind the scenes on their behalf. They don’t have to sit on hold to their holiday company for five hours because we’ve been doing it!
“Knowing that because of Not Just Travel’s clout in the industry, those companies have been looking out for us and our clients is great. I think people will really want to have that personal travel service going forward from this, because of the comfort and reassurance it gives. We also feel incredibly lucky to be healthy, safe and well. We have family members who are frontline NHS workers and they have been working so hard. We have been thinking of them and checking they are ok.”