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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

People Wednesdays >>> The Inspiring Story of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

Picture by: Pexels Cottonbro

When the pandemic struck in the early months of 2020, business owners and leaders were faced with the harsh realisation that unless they adapted to the new circumstances, their businesses would not survive. Among the most adversely affected industries was the travel and tourism industry. Airbnb, a popular American company which operates a platform that facilitates accommodation for vacation rentals and tourism was hit exceptionally hard as their business dropped 80% in just 8 weeks. But their CEO Brian Chesky understood that it was a time of crisis and that he had to implement change, and quick.

Brian understood that to save Airbnb, he needed to make the company more focused and scale back some of the business’s operations, commenting “We realized we had to get back to our roots”. So he decided to discontinue some of their new initiatives like transportation and travel content. “We turned what had been the equivalent of a ten-division company into a single-division functional organization”.

However, scaling down came with the problem of redundancies. Airbnb had to reduce its workforce by almost 25%. However Brian understood that, in a time where the whole world was struggling to find stability, he shouldn’t leave his former employees to also struggle to simply make ends meet. Thus, they decided to let their former employees keep their work laptops, provided US employees with health insurance for 1 year and even created an “alumni dictionary” which employers could access and offer job positions from other companies, and many of them got rehired.

Picture by: Roberto Nickson

Additionally, Brian understood that having to live with constant new travel restrictions meant people had to stop traveling across borders. Pre-pandemic, this factor weighed into account for almost 50% of Airbnb’s total business. So Airbnb came up with a new campaign called “Go Near” and helped their hosts to get ready to provide safe accommodation for domestic travel.

Amidst a pandemic which caused a rapid shrink in their market, Brian Chesky was able to keep Airbnb alive by embracing innovative solutions, cutting back discretionary costs, focusing company operations, and maintain a strong reputation between the company and its community.

“There is an old saying: the best way not to fall off a bicycle is to keep moving. In a world changing fast, what survives are the things that are the most adaptive, and the things that are most adaptive constantly change” – Brian Chesky

August 25th | 4:40 PM

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