Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
5:00 AM 27th January 2021

“Is Your COVID Cup Half Empty Or Half Full?”

Ryan Howsam, the founder and Chairman of the UK travel insurer Staysure, and its Group of Companies, looks at the effects of COVID-19.

This is without doubt the hardest period in my entrepreneurial career I’ve ever had to negotiate. If you’re in business, I would imagine it probably is for you too, unless you were fortunate enough to already be in an industry that could easily take advantage of the pandemic.

I strongly believe you can still take massive leaps past your competition even in these times: I’ve managed to drive my business forward and I intend to grow stronger, even though I am in one of the hardest hit sectors, travel insurance. What’s required is the right mindset coupled with focused action. Now is the time to ask yourself the tough questions, to look for ways to adapt, get clear on risks and get your business metrics sharpened up.

Growing up on a council estate in Sheffield, I wasn’t an obvious candidate for developing a market leading insurer and building it from scratch. My business acumen and understanding of money wasn’t something we were taught in the comprehensive schools at that time, I doubt it still is. What I did have though was a will to succeed and an almost oblivious belief that I would become successful, I wanted it so much, starting my first business at nineteen, and on a roller coaster until I finally made it. The one thing that really kept me going was that my cup was half full.

Mindset and attitude are very important. I’m constantly amazed when I meet business owners who throw in the towel too easily, the mildest of hurdles derailing them. So here we are faced with the toughest of challenges, let me make this clear, if your cup is half empty, you’re in serious trouble.

As a starting point, especially if you employ people it’s incredibly important to be upbeat. My outlook is generally positive, and it comes easily to me, but you can cultivate your mindset if you need to. Listening to the endless droll of negative news doesn’t help. Start by filtering the rubbish and feeding your brain with positive things, from books to images, and importantly make sure the people around you are the same.

Obviously, a positive mindset alone isn’t going to turn your business around, there’s still a need for action. So, here are a few things I’ve done that you should be doing in your business to make sure you survive and prosper.

1. Evaluate your business
Staying focussed and mastering your business will get you the rewards you deserve over time, but now more than ever is a great time to ask yourself this question, is the juice worth the squeeze? In other words, does your business opportunity have the right environment and metrics to succeed? If it doesn’t it’s time for a pivot or change. You need to be really honest with yourself. Once you’ve ascertained whether the direction you are going in is worth it, or you need to pivot, get a really clear vision of what great looks like, and make that your North Star.

2. Adapt
Keep looking for customers and build your products for a Covid world. If like me you’re in one of the worst hit business sectors, my main business is the UK’s market leading travel insurer, you may feel like giving up. But, if you think different, you can gain true competitive advantage. I remember at the start of the pandemic listening to a podcast with three so called travel insurance industry professionals, they were resigned to the fact that there would be pretty much no travel insurance sales until the summer of 2021 and promptly pulled all of their marketing. So how did I react to this?

Ryan Howsam
Ryan Howsam
First, I challenged the negativity and asked myself, was it strictly true that nobody is going to travel at all? I certainly didn’t buy it. I cut marketing on TV and press, but I kept all “on demand” marketing in place, meaning paying only when someone searching on Google clicked on my ads. With this strategy, we got in front of the majority of the audience, and as an added bonus prices per click dropped given there was less competition.

By April of last year, we were back up to 40 percent of 2019 sales, not great but I was still able to sell to thousands of customers. Had I taken the defeatist attitude purported by so called experts in the industry the situation would have been much bleaker.

I adopt a mantra of CANI. That means Continuous and Never-ending Improvement. Last year, this came into its own. Thinking about what customers needed and adapting as new situations emerged has helped to save my business: I was the first in the market to offer fifteen months for the price of twelve for annual policies, I waived admin fees for date changes should customers need to change their plans and I even negotiated Covid-19 cover with my underwriters. I became the only player in the market who could cover people if they got Coronavirus abroad. If someone tells me something can’t be done, I take it with a pinch of salt!

So, later, when The Government declared the Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) not safe to travel message for most of the world (meaning travel insurance was invalidated) I brought out a specific policy for travelling against FCO advice. My goal was clear, help keep customers travelling and keep adapting to their needs. None of this was easy but thinking laterally and having a can-do attitude made it happen, meanwhile my competitors sold literally nothing.

3. Streamline and Cut Costs
Next, think of your P&L, cut non-essential costs and streamline your processes: Whilst driving sales is paramount, looking at costs and mitigating any non-growth spending or nice to haves is a priority. Don’t let a penny go out of your business unnecessarily and re-negotiate any contracts you possibly can. Now’s the time to get the best deals, as your suppliers are struggling too. When it comes to your processes, have you done an end-to-end review of every area of the business? I can assure you, you will find many ways of making your processes more streamlined, and now is a great time to do this.

4. Get What you’re Entitled to
Keep abreast of government financial support - There is a myriad of government financial support out there, have you really looked at every possible angle for getting cash in? There’s a great guide on my website for those of you that want to double check what support you can get. (

5. Evaluate risk
I remember before the pandemic started, giving a speech to a group of business owners just as the news was coming out from China, asking the questions, what would you do if sales went down by 25, 50 or even 100 percent? How long could you survive? I was met with a ridiculed tone, and most companies don’t really look at risk. What’s more, whilst the vaccine looks like it’s going to help us get back to normal in a few months, it might not, so if it doesn’t what can you do?

I’ve taken this time to develop a product which is immune to this issue in a growth area ready to be launched in March, it’s taken time to find the right product and proposition but as of quarter two of this year I expect to be also operating in an unaffected growing area. This mitigates my risk in travel just in case the restrictions and difficulties continue. I would highly recommend doing something similar just in case.

I’ve taken massive market share in this downturn, it all started with a mindset of half full, this may seem like a never-ending saga, but it will end. When it does, make sure you have made the moves to build the future you deserve, the future is bright if you do what you need to do, your cup should be half full.

Transform Your Business in 90 Days
Ryan is the founder of and mentor behind the 90 Days business system and method that can help businesses and entrepreneurs achieve dramatic results – both in business and personal life. He has used this system for two years to successfully grow his companies.

The toolkit will soon be fully available for CEOs, businesses and entrepreneurs to sign up and reap the benefits.

Ryan says that any business owner or individual entrepreneur can connect and also share their success with him at @Ryanhowsam or find out more at

If any of these topics have resonated with you – Ryan’s business advice and content is available at -