Montrose Travel, a $115 million full-service travel and host agency, has won recognition for its effective management during the recession and is offering lessons learned for the industry. One key was early recognition of the potential downside of the recession and a company wide plan of action. One result was increased revenues and stronger relations with Montrose’s suppliers and clients, including its independent contractor division.
Joe McClure, president of the 54-year-old firm, reports Montrose didn’t rely on chance and hope for the best. They had a strategy that was that was implemented quickly. Montrose Travel owners Joe and Julie McClure and Andi McClure-Mysza, gathered the entire company together in early December 2008 and shared their immediate thoughts.
They did not sugarcoat the dire state of the industry; instead, they focused on what their next steps would be and how they were going to fight it in a competitive business. They challenged everyone in the company, including employees and independent agents, to become engaged. This helped determine the attitude and perseverance that carried them through the tough times and allowed them to ultimately surpass their goals.
One of the first actions was cutting costs; however, it was where they cut costs that set them a part. Rather than jeopardizing their future by decreasing the amount of employees, they cut salaries by 10 percent across the board, as well as a percentage for all three owners. The deal included the promise that salaries would be completely reinstated in 90 days if they performed.
“We created an army of selling machines and set daily goals and posted daily achievements,” notes Joe McClure. “Every single employee whether on the front lines or behind the scenes, had individual requirements to drive leads for new business into the company.” They also began actively cross-promoting within their sister divisions.
Among the advantages was Montrose Travel’s diversity, offering leisure, corporate travel, romance travel and group travel management solutions for its customers and home-based travel agents. Another plus: Montrose Travel’s growth has been solely out of the reinvestment of profit and positive cash flow, Montrose notes.
Montrose also implemented an extremely aggressive marketing plan, McClure reports. While the rest of the travel world had basically gone into hiding to conserve their cash and cut costs, Montrose Travel kicked off a 45-Day marketing campaign, “Operation Bunker Buster”, lead by Jamie Hoff, marketing manager, and the marketing team.
The well-funded campaign ensured that the Montrose Travel name remained top of mind awareness. Along with 17 press releases, 29 full-page newspaper ads, 75,000 total direct mail pieces, and over 500,000 e-mails sent to stimulate demand, their offline and online promotions increased dramatically and immediately gave them the advantage over their competition.
During the 90 days as a result of the company’s group effort to work together and work hard for their common goal, the web traffic soared 43 percent over the prior year, sales volume increased 13 percent and the transaction count grew by 9 percent.
Their cross-selling efforts— Montrose has multiple divisions— resulted in $3.3 million in new leisure and corporate business and they closed 14 new group leads. Independent contractor volume was up a staggering 53 percent. From Montrose Travel’s perspective it was an outstanding success and they were proud to announce that they exceeded their goals and reinstated all salaries, as promised, on the 90th day.
“We're thrilled with the results,” said Andi McClure-Mysza, president of the independent contractor division. “We believe we took a very proactive approach to our business when others doubted their abilities to be successful and gave up in the difficult environment. We were firing on all cylinders throughout our company -- marketing, cross selling, new account acquisition, and focused retention of existing customers.” To Mysza and McClure their success shows that in times of crisis, great things can happen.