Last Minute Orders -- A New Way To Do Biz?

Posted on December 7, 2010 by - Also by this author

LIMOS AYC & ASAP: For the past six months I have noticed a new trend occurring within our company. I don’t know if it is happening everywhere, or if it is just happening to us.
In the past, we used to take reservations far in advance. Weddings were always booked two to three months ahead. Even many corporate travel runs were booked three to six weeks in advance. This allowed me to look to the future and obtain a fairly solid revenue forecast for the next four to six weeks. It was a comfortable feeling knowing what we would be collecting in the future.
Then came the recession, corporate cut-backs, budget cuts or whatever you want to call it. All the new reservations dried up. Work was sporadic. The summer was brutal. We could still forecast out three to six weeks but the forecast was – broke! At least we knew we were going to be broke.
Then, as summer ended, business began to come back. However, business did not come back in the same way we were used to. In fact, the increased orders we started taking were for tomorrow or for next week. Nothing really beyond two weeks out. Thus, if I looked at orders one month from today, I would see maybe three advance bookings in a single given week. This continued to terrify me. It was so uncertain and so bleak.
As we now are entrenched in the month of December, I am clearly seeing a surge in business that is returning as well as new business. Part of that is attributed to the season, of course. With holiday light tours and corporate holiday parties, business is booming again, at least for this month. But those holiday light tours have even changed. People used to start calling in November and would pick a date in December. Now they call for tomorrow night or next week, but nothing too far out. Is it because they don’t know if they are going to lose their job in a month? I just don’t get it.
While the wedding business is not really brisk this time of year, you would still think people would want to make sure they have that joyous ride set up well in advance. Yet here we are taking reservations on Wednesday for service this coming Saturday. It seems to be a strange way to do business but I am learning to settle into it and have less anxiety knowing the business will be there week after week but just received with very short notice.
As the day ended last Friday, I was concerned that every day of this week had no more than a handful of runs. I was assured by my staff that new orders were expected from various networks and work would materialize on Monday. Well, they were right. Orders started pouring in on Monday at the rate of about six to 10 new orders for every day of this same week and new orders continue to come in everyday for service tomorrow.
I thought about private inn-keepers or small motels or hotels where the owner/operators deal with the uncertainty of guests, and probably just hope each nightfall is going to bring some weary travelers.  I suppose every business wonders where their next income will come from. While I am glad to see my local economy bouncing back, I am not so sure I like the new way of doing business. 
-- Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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