Change

Let’s face it: change sucks. It’s often scary and inconvenient, and in many cases, it means we have to stretch. Just like the rest of you, I’m familiar with the “change is good” adage, but honestly? The guy that wrote that was nuts. Most of us prefer “business as usual” because it’s comfortable, familiar, and easy. Even when it’s not easy, it’s still easy! Before you quit reading, though, let me elaborate.

As I talk with operators out in “Bus Land,” many of them have legitimate needs they are trying to address—they need more drivers, more business, a marketing plan, etc. These needs aren’t little or without consequence; rather, they’re the wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, push-the-food-around-your-plate, knot-in-your-stomach, cold-sweat kind that you can’t ignore. When we discuss their concerns, these operators look to me for answers, hoping I have that one silver bullet that will finally fix the problem.

In response, I almost always challenge them to do something different than what they’ve been doing, and to do it much more frequently. Regardless of whether we’re talking about improving a website, boosting outbound sales calls, increasing postcard mailers, or hiring another person to accomplish specific tasks, my advice is pretty consistent across-the-board.

Far too often, however, the suggestion to do something different is met with a great deal of resistance. Even though they want to resolve the issue, they’ll claim that whatever change I’ve recommended is too much or too hard, and then go back to work and continue doing the very thing that ultimately created their trouble in the first place.

At the end of the day, the concept of change is simple. If you put your hand in the fire and it gets burned, you immediately pull it out without even thinking about it. You make a change, and the result, in turn, also changes. But if you put your hand in the fire, don’t like the burning sensation, and continue to leave it there hoping that something will change so it doesn’t hurt, people will call you crazy. That only makes sense, right? Well, you’d think so. But when it comes to business problems, we too frequently find ourselves foregoing meaningful change for the status quo.

Why do we do this? Because in terms of business, we know that we can deliver on the status quo. If we did things a certain way yesterday, there’s a good chance we can do it again today and tomorrow. If we switch something up, however, we can’t predict how it will play out. That scenario introduces an unknown variable into the equation, and that unknown often makes us pause. But even if business changes aren’t as instinctual as pulling one’s hand out of the fire, they still need to happen.

So, how do we learn to embrace change and the meaningful impact it can have without becoming overly focused on change for the sake of change?

We change. Bottom line.

That may sound like an oversimplification, but here’s some straight up truth: Change is the precursor of new results. Whatever we’re experiencing right now—good or bad—in our businesses and relationships is directly related to our behavior in those areas of our lives. And here’s the second hard truth: we are only subject to our circumstances to the degree that we are unwilling to change what we’re doing in order to get new results.

Let’s look at this hypothetically. If we’re suffering from a driver shortage, our current hiring practices, company culture, pay structure, dispatch team, and company policies are absolutely contributing to that problem. Or, as another example, if we’re not getting enough charter business, we’re actually responsible for that gap based on how we have (or haven’t) marketed our services. Even if we’re unable to pinpoint what specific factor is causing the problem, we can still be sure that our input—or lack thereof—is preventing the change we want to see.

But here’s the thing: if input affects output, getting different results is as easy as making a change. At the end of the day, it’s not really all that complicated. I know we’re talking business (not physics) here, but this discussion is reminding me of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That law is true in the world of science, and it’s true in the world of business as well.

I have said, for years, that marketing is something that has a cumulative effect that one simply can’t help but see. When companies consistently focus on marketing over a period of time, they’ll see results. Period. While there is often a lot of time, thought, and energy put into what’s being advertised and how it looks, it’s really the simple act of doing that generates results.

Throughout the time I’ve worked in the motorcoach industry, I have watched hundreds of companies get stuck in what Gladys Gillis likes to call “implementation paralysis.” This occurs when a company gets so stuck in the details—what shade of blue something is, whether the photo they’re considering is the perfect choice, or some other minutia—that the “thing” never sees the light of day.

I think this happens to us with change as well. It’s not that we don’t want change, or that we don’t believe it could bring different results. The reality is just this: we tend to shut down when we start to consider the logistics. Because we often associate change with something that’s hard, frustrating, or difficult, it feels easier to opt out, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that a shift is in order.

Does it need to be that hard, though? Is it possible to make it easier? I think so, and I think the key lies in finding ways to quickly and easily implement changes without creating lots of extra stress for everyone involved.

When it comes to marketing, one of the fastest ways to kill change is to assign marketing tasks to someone who is already overwhelmed. Let’s say, for example, that an owner comes back from a trade show with notes from half a dozen education seminars and holds a meeting with his team to share his enthusiasm. At the end of the meeting, he assigns various marketing tasks to already-stretched-thin employees. They promptly accept the assignments, but those assignments never get done. In these types of situations, I’ll sometimes get asked to work with staff to help them catch the marketing vision. If I have a chance to talk with them, however, I frequently hear this phrase: “We honestly don’t have the time to do this.”

From these experiences, I’ve realized that it’s crucial to make marketing easy. Making it easy may mean using the council’s tools (which turn tasks like making a postcard into something as simple as uploading 4 photos and a logo), hiring a firm to help, bringing in new staff, or outsourcing the work to someone else. Regarding that last suggestion, the Motorcoach Marketing Council recently launched a Do It For You program for busy operators who want to make sure marketing doesn’t fall through the cracks.

At this point in the article, I’m guessing that you’re coming up with a list of reasons why some (or all!) of those suggestions won’t work. I would also guess that if you’ve been in this industry longer than 2 years, you’ve had the experience of spearheading change by making assignments, giving deadlines, and asking your team for support, only to find that little or nothing came of it in the end.
One of my very favorite principles to teach is this: in order to accomplish something you have never accomplished, you must first do something you have never done. If you want to hire more drivers, land more charters, fill up your line runs, change your office culture, or recruit younger talent, you have to do something you’ve never done. And in order to do something you’ve never done, you have to make a change.

Making a shift is hard, but I can promise you a few things. First, change doesn’t need to be scary. Second, when you make a change and you’re consistent, you will see results. And third, if your change has to do with marketing, the Motorcoach Marketing Council is here to help you. Going in a new direction requires thought, input, and action, but change is the only path to achieving your end goals.

At the beginning of this new year, I challenge you to find something in your company that you want to be different. Once you’ve identified an area that needs attention, make a change and commit to it for a significant amount of time. Doing those two things will give you the opportunity to watch as the impact of that change generates results. Change will no longer be that big monster lurking in the shadows; instead, it will become the vehicle you use to make your business goals a reality.