The last month has seen unprecedented changes to our lives and industry. At Focus it has been our top priority to support and guide our partners during this time. We asked our CEO Abby Penston what the team has been up to and what their key objectives are during this period.
How have Focus been supporting the partners during this period?

We have been providing our Partners with support during this period covering all aspects of TMC needs. Our Commercial team have continued to act as a liaison between our Airline suppliers and our TMC Partners ensuring that the needs of the TMC are represented. We identified quite early on that there was an immediate need to repatriate UK citizens so deployed a crisis management team made up of 15 Focus Partners to assist with this project. We have also worked in collaboration with  one of our key tech suppliers to develop a Covid-19 crisis management tool.

We are also incredibly fortunate from an operational point of view to work with some first class support services so have been able through Partnerships with PS Human Resources to provide current HR regulations around furlough working and through our newly appointed Accountancy firm who have offered
financial advice through this period. We regularly hold Partner Zoom meetings with up to 60 of our Partners joining to debate the crisis and best working practises, this has really highlighted the benefit of being part of a community such as ours. We have been able to bring together all aspects of the supply chain to ensure that we have at our finger tips up to date intel to support our Partners with their long and short term decision making choices. Through our Membership with the BTA we have also been able to tap into all the great work they are doing with the Government and support them with their dialogue and also other governing bodies.
This is a very challenging time for the industry; what has been the key objectives that Focus have been working on to ensure there is sufficient support offered to members?

I said recently nobody in our industry is immune from the pressure this crisis has bought to our door step, what I will say is that the Focus Partners are strong in nature. They have built successful businesses dealing with complex travel arrangements and they most certainly aren’t strangers to pressure however these are unprecedented times and this period of crisis is like nothing we have ever experienced before. Our Partners are in the process of ensuring their businesses remain stable through this crisis, they are in regular dialogue with their clients and using this time to ensure that they are ready to start trading once we reach the other side of this period in time. There has been a lot of house keeping to do as a direct impact of the restrictions that have been put in play however we are now seeing Agencies utilising the government job retention scheme where they can whilst preparing the future of Business Travel.

The Focus Central team have focused on 3 objectives over the last month –
  • 1. Intel: Delivering relevant accurate intel to our TMCs has been a task as there has been so much information in a lot of areas which can be quite overwhelming. There has also been scenarios where there has just not been enough conclusive information which has been frustrating.
  • 2. Communication: We have arranged and delivered multiple platform bases to communicate with our TMCs, we have regular group meetings over zoom which has been really beneficial in bringing our 60 members together to debate and discuss current affairs. My Events manager along with these group meetings has been arranging weekly online Panel sessions made up of industry specialists bringing their opinions and advice to the Partnership. We have covered subjects such as furlough working, training, wellbeing, government and industry concerns and future proofing.
  • 3. Support: Offering our Partners continued support has been a major objective to us, listening to them and understanding their immediate needs so we are best placed to assist and provide solutions has always been a priority for us but never more so than now under these conditions.
The relationship that Focus has with suppliers is paramount to its success – what contact and support has been offered from suppliers to the partnership?

We are very fortunate to work with some great suppliers and this has become very evident during this period of time. A lot of our suppliers are feeling the exact same pain points as our TMCs, our Airline Partners for example who are under immense pressure are in regular contact with us offering any support they can provide. This period of crisis has really identified that our relationship with our key suppliers are built on mutual respect and also affection. I have been genuinely touched by the supportive messages of friendship we have received which again highlights that our Business Travel community may not always agree with one another but the sense of in this together isn’t just a strap line it’s a reality. In particular with our repatriation project ‘Helping you get home’, there have been some incredible gestures from our suppliers where time and resources were donated in support of this amazing scheme.
How has the Focus Teams working life changed?

Drastically – We are operating tactically to ensure that we are meeting the current needs and demands of our Partners. We have worked tirelessly to adopt a supporting solution based approach to servicing the needs of our Partners. My team and I have all taken on responsibilities outside of our normal roles to be able to guide and advise as best we can through this period. I genuinely feel we have grown the sense of community beyond what it
has always been and bought together businesses who have also been able to support and advise one another during this period. We are all in this together, that’s a reality and none of our Partners want to see failure within this association. We really are seeing camaraderie in it’s best form.
What are your personal feelings about this period and recovery plan that will need to be set in place for the industry?

I think this period of time has been incredibly difficult both emotionally and practically. I have been fortunate myself that my friends and family remain in good health however I know that isn’t the case for many people which is devastating. The constant threat of this disease effects most decision making whether that be personal or professional. With regards to our Industry, we will look different there is no doubt about that, but I genuinely believe that we will come out of this stronger. We have a journey of recovery ahead of us but preparing and evolving to the change ahead will serve us all well and put us in a strong position to face the new landscape. It has been mentioned whether video conference will become the new normal and I have worked with video conferencing tools for the best part of 3 years now and believe they are a valuable addition to working practices, however if this crisis has taught me anything is the absolute need to be with people, personally and professionally. Businesses will want to meet, they need to meet it’s how relationships are forged and solidified and that is what will drive the recovery within our sector. Our key objective moving forward is to install confidence in that and to work together as an Industry to face off the hurdles left in the wake of this period in time.