Thomas Cook’s demise – what lessons can you learn?

Know the risks and issues affecting your business.

Talk of the collapse of Thomas Cook and the rippling effect it has had on its staff and customers has been occupying the media landscape since they ceased trading on Monday 23 September 2019. With many experts saying its fate was inevitable, what can be learnt from the demise of Thomas Cook?


Thomas Cook, with its 178-year history, was the go-to brand for package holidays. With the company’s humble beginnings of a simple tour via a train, to its role as a renowned package holiday provider across the world, at the height of its success, the company was an avant-garde of the travel industry. However, with such an established reputation comes a great responsibility not to become complacent and expect that success will never dissipate. It would appear, much like many other businesses that have failed to adapt to the fast and constantly-changing world we’re now living in. Thomas Cook became a little bit too comfortable on its laurels, and failed to innovate to keep up with the changing pace of the travel industry. 

communication is key

Communication is inherent to every aspect of your business, and this especially true when assessing the pitfalls that could cause your business to come crashing down. Several factors have been acknowledged as contributing to the end of Thomas Cook, from online travel agents and low-cost airlines to weather issues and tough trading conditions (thanks to the B word). These highlight just a few of the risks and issues that Thomas Cook had to navigate. So, how can this help your business? 

what issues affect your business?

Identifying the risks to your business, is the first step at being prepared for a variety of situations that could topple your empire. Creating a register of known risks, that covers such details as the cause and effect, the likelihood of it happening, along with the impact and level of risk, will allow you to create a comprehensive strategy to respond to each identified risk. No risk is too obscure or unlikely – think KFC and their fiasco of running out of chicken! Cover every conceivable idea of what issues could be detrimental to your business. Then make a plan, whether that involves creating a strategy for if something happens, or addressing the issue before it could happen. The goal here is to be informed, ready and prepared.    

never get complacent

Nothing lasts forever, and what might work for your business now might not in the future. Don’t dismiss utilising experts in research, communications and crisis management to keep your business constantly moving ahead of the curve, and ready for anything that comes your way. The biggest ‘take home’ you can learn from the demise of Thomas Cook is: know the arena you’re trading in, be aware of the risks that affect your business. And don’t ever get complacent – keep strategising, keep innovating.

Always be one step ahead.

This article was first published in the Suffolk Free Press, Thursday 10 October 2019.