Steve Byrne, chief executive at Travel Counsellors, discusses some misconceptions about businesses operating in the ‘gig economy’ and offers advice on how to make this model work
Undoubtedly, you’ll have seen the headlines around the so-called ‘gig economy’. The common conception of businesses operating in this space has been one of exploitation, with a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggesting that companies were taking advantage of zero-hours contracts and lax regulatory controls to prioritise growth and profits over the wellbeing of their people.
While there is no doubt that these practices exist in the wider business world, it is wrong to assume that all companies in the gig economy operate in this way. In fact, if applied correctly, the self-employed model can actually be one of the most prosperous and fulfilling for both company and business owner.
At Travel Counsellors, we work with a global network of more than 1,600 franchisee tour operators, providing bespoke corporate and leisure travel packages to customers. While on the face of it, we fit within the concept of the ‘gig economy’, I am proud to say we could not be further from the stereotype of exploitation. In our latest franchisee survey, we found that 95% rated their level of satisfaction as high or very high, 96% were happier now than in their previous career and 75% per cent also feeling that the nature of their relationship with Travel Counsellors enabled them to find the best work/life balance. Just because someone is self-employed and has taken the bold step to back themselves, doesn’t mean they need to feel on their own, unsupported, undervalued or not cared for.
To create a ‘gig economy’ company that challenges the status quo, a business must be underpinned by a shared culture. This feeling of common values and objectives ensures that regardless of how spread out and independent self-employed business owners are, even across the globe, there is a connection and common understanding that brings people together and makes them feel part of a wider community. At Travel Counsellors, that is the caring approach that runs through the heart of everything we do, from interaction and relationships with our network of business owners to the provision of tailored trips to our customers.
This feeling of belonging is further enhanced by the application of the latest technology, including a video communications platform. This acts as a forum for people to interact with one another and share best practice. In recent years, we have developed our own in-house technology platforms, which also encourage the sharing of ideas, offer a direct line for feedback and ensure that the network of franchisees have the tools and products they require to provide the best service to their customers.
When you make the bold move to run your own business it should mean you are taking control of your future and reaping the rewards of your success. We encourage a ‘limitless future’ for our franchisees, where each individual is empowered to use the tools and training we provide to deliver an exceptional service to their customers. This care for their customers naturally brings loyalty and in turn the financial rewards of ‘doing the right thing’, with those that demonstrate these values consistently having the most successful and prosperous businesses. And this inherent care for our people extends beyond the ‘day job’ – it’s essential that people are happy in all aspects of their lives which is why we invest time and support into health and wellbeing programmes, including a personal counselling service for anyone who feels they need this extra level of support.
Regardless of how the ‘gig economy’ has been characterised by the media, it is important that we do not tar all of these businesses with the same brush. By working together with employees, workers or franchisees, companies can enhance productivity, profitability, and well-being and in doing so become known as some of the best places to be part of.