Female-Led Travel Company Successfully Navigates Pandemic and Leads to Growth
The pandemic has been tough on many travel-related businesses, but some outliers in the industry have gone beyond survival to thrive. Squaremouth.com is one such success story.
Like most businesses, Squaremouth’s sales have declined as borders closed and travel bans halted travelers around the world. Sales fell 90% in April 2020.
However, the management team is committed to maintaining all staff on full salary.
“We’ve always operated with transparency,” said Squaremouth CEO Jessica Burns.
And Burns means transparency. Employees know each other’s salaries, everyone has a vote on company decisions (including new hires and hours of operation). In 2020, transparency even meant knowing how much money was left in the bank.
“Sales weren’t coming in and refunds were coming out of canceled trips,” Burns added. “But it was important to us that everyone saw the steps we were taking to set aside funds and knew that their salaries weren’t on the chopping block.”
The company ramped up its efforts with current customers due to the changing travel climate and also started to think about what travel would look like when the world starts to open up. Squaremouth began targeting new markets with new products and reaching out to new customers.
“Navigating the pandemic from a marketing perspective can be difficult, it’s such a sensitive topic,” said Squaremouth CMO Megan Moncrief. “We’ve always approached our marketing from a ‘downsell’ perspective. So for us, it was no different. In most cases, we’ve explained why you shouldn’t buy travel insurance. »
Now, having survived the toughest part of the pandemic, Squaremouth is in an admirable position with sales expected to replace pre-pandemic numbers by more than 200%.
The company is also an outlier with a management team 50% led by women. Having worked their way up the multi-million dollar corporate ladder, women in leadership positions feel fully prepared for the change their industry has seen.
Burns started in customer service and is now CEO. She thinks her connection to Squaremouth’s clientele gives her an edge.
“These are unknown customers, and they have new and very real concerns,” Burns said. “People used to buy travel insurance for ‘what-if’ scenarios. Now they buy it because they’ve been affected before and want to be protected if it happens again.
Moncrief, now chief marketing officer, joined the company as a mid-level marketing manager with no insurance experience.
“At the start of the pandemic, we found new sources of income that depended heavily on our technical capabilities. Because we retained all of our staff, we were able to dedicate all of our resources to supporting these new partnerships,” Moncrief said. “We’ve always operated as a software company rather than an insurance company, and that ultimately allowed us to survive through the pandemic.”
Squaremouth is a small business with 44 employees. 64% are women, including half of the management team. The company more than tripled its sales this year compared to the same period of 2021, up 272%, and surpassed pre-pandemic sales levels in the summer of 2021, ending the year up 49% compared to 2019.
The company also offers a number of graduated benefits to its employees, including bereavement leave in the event of a miscarriage and 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all employees, including for adoptions. Employees have unlimited vacation, medical coverage for employees and dependents, and mandatory birthdays.