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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Decisive Flexibility

Why it's critical when things don't go as planned.

By now, I’m pretty sure everyone is tired of hearing how epic the inaugural PromoCruise was last week. Rest assured, this blog will not be about the business bonds that were forged during networking meetings, over laughs at dinner, or hanging at the swim-up pool bar on the private island of Coco Cay. Instead, I want to share something that happened last week that could’ve been a disaster but moved the day from epic to legendary.

When our ship arrived in Nassau Thursday morning, people were excited to take their choice of included excursion: a land and sea island tour, snorkeling, or a beach day. The first two were scheduled to leave at 9:00 AM, while the beach bums were departing at 10:30 AM. Around 8:55 AM, about 30 of us were anxiously awaiting our turn to leave the ship when we were told that our excursions were canceled due to a mechanical issue with the small boat that was to ferry us to our respective destinations.

While the cruise line was happy to refund the cost of the excursions, that wasn’t enough, as neither Josh Robbins nor I liked the thought of people just hanging on the cruise ship for the day. It’s just not what being on a Promocation should be.

It was time to be decisively flexible.

We quickly escorted the group up one flight of stairs and asked them to hold tight for a few minutes while Josh and I collaborated. We quickly decided to do everything we could to replicate what was canceled and divide to implement the new plans. Josh went with one of our PromoCruisers (Stephen McFadden) to secure a snorkeling trip outside the port. I stayed on the ship and simultaneously planned a walking tour of the island while waiting to hear from Josh so we could communicate with everyone via push notification on the Promocations app.

By 9:45 AM, Josh and Stephen found a boat that could take our group, and I had created a bit of a map – complete with stops for lunch and cocktails – for walking around Nassau with a bit of a purpose. We sent out push notifications to everyone when and where to meet each “excursion” and were all on our way by 10:30 AM. That’s when a simple pivot turned an epic event into a legendary one.

The snorkeling group had an absolute blast that simply wouldn’t have happened on a typical cruise ship excursion. They had locals that were invested in the group, didn’t have to share the experience with non-PromoCruisers, and could spend more time in the water than they otherwise would have. As for me and my merry band of ten, we walked the town, shopped a bit, enjoyed some local beer and conch at a spot off the beaten path, and laughed until we about cried.

By 2:00 PM, both groups met at the local Senor Frogs (or, as I call it, the Applebee’s of port cities) to swap stories and enjoy a few beers. Josh and I stepped away momentarily to reflect on what we accomplished by being flexible. In less than one hour, we sprung into action, made calm but quick decisions based on doing right by our guests, and left cost out of the equation. In doing so, we created something magical because we were flexible.

That ability to be nimble – especially in the face of a crisis – isn’t stressed enough in hiring or business school. Yet, it’s an essential ingredient for success, as things WILL go wrong. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve planned or how many times something has been done before, there will always be variables that are outside of your control. Rain will fall when you have an outdoor event planned, FedEx is late for a delivery, or, in our case, the ferry was out of service and canceled preplanned excursions. This is why flexibility during any event is critically important because you might go from a great event to an okay one without it. Instead, the legend of “We Outside” was born because we were flexible and decisive. Sorry, but that story is better told in person and not via the printed word.

Next time something goes wrong at an event – and it will – stay calm, breathe, and be both flexible and decisive. It’s the only way to regain control of a situation that is slipping through your fingers.

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