What I learned when the Charles de Gaulle Airport came to a standstill

February 12th 2018, 8:44am

We micro business owners are perfectionists aren't we?
We want to give 100% at all times and never make mistakes. We want everyone to love what we do, buy loads of what we offer and we never want let anyone down.

The trouble is, that's not real life and at some point we'll get it wrong.

Stuck in Charles de Gaulle Airport for around 20 hours after an amazing break to Rome, I had a fair bit of time to reflect on being realistic when bad situations happen!

1. Plan for things to go wrong because things are going to go wrong. The airport had a plan in place. There was a room for us to sleep in overnight, emergency washing kits and clean t-shirts for everyone. We were given money to spend in the airport to make sure we had something to eat. All of this contingency planning was great but how they communicated it to us was not.

Our hopes of getting on a flight were raised and dashed in the same breath, we weren't kept informed, app information didn't match what we received by email or text and we were abandoned to find the hall (where we had to sleep) as there was no-one available to show us where to go. 

What did I learn?
Bad situations happen and we need a just-in-case plan in place but the key to minimising disruption is to communicate properly, and regularly, with staff and customers alike. 

2. Have people in place who can take over for you when things go wrong. In my case, Michelle, my trusted right-hand lady, was online all day with me, rearranging afternoon appointments and doing everything we would have done together had I been in the office.

Action for us all ... 
If you haven't identified your own right-hand-person, a business buddy if you like, who can manage the fall out for you in an emergency, do it now! 

3. Take your kit with you. For me, it's absolutely no good suggesting that I won't work on holiday. It's not realistic and my anxiety is much larger if I don't have contact with my business on a daily basis. To that end, I always have my PC, chargers, phone and bits and bobs with me in my hand luggage.

I'd rather check in every day for a small amount of time than worry about not checking in.

However it's not just about sitting in an airport. I make sure to carry cables, chargers, plugs and all sorts wherever I go. I have to be prepared for something going wrong as the anxiety of not being prepared is just too great. 

4. If you're prepared, you can be productive anyway. When sitting around at the airport it was natural for me to just to crack on with whatever I could. There was no point in being more cross about it, I needed to stay calm and make the phone calls, return emails and do lots of social media marketing!

I may have been cold and tired, but I still got stuff done. 

5. Look for inspiration in all things (all the time) as it's great content. This blog post was inspired because of the poor customer service we received when we didn't have a clue what was happening with our flights. 

I took plenty of photos of my surroundings and shared them all over the place and the post I popped into LinkedIn was viewed 4,300 times. Not bad for someone going stir crazy in an airport!

Did the airline do enough to keep my custom? Nope, I won't fly with them again; but I will assess my contingency planning more frequently as a result.