Running a business is hard at the best of times. Right now, it feels even harder. These are strange and unsettling times for us right now and we do not know how long it will last. Life as we know it has been changing daily, hourly even. It is hard. For many it will be harder mentally than physically. But the key in times like this is not to give up. Even when things seem impossible, a way can be found.
“You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.” ―Chuck Yeager
While some businesses are experiencing over demand such as mobile networks for home working, many more are experiencing the opposite. However, I would like to share with you some great examples of businesses that are changing, adapting, still finding a need they can fill in these turbulent times.
Identify the need and adapt
The key to any successful business is to find a need that needs meeting, a problem to be solved, a way to delight customers and to do that with excellence. This principal does not change, but we need to. We need to change the way we do things, our offers, our products even. It has to be done quickly but it can be done. Business large and small are making changes to adapt and do the best they can.
What to do when your customers can’t come to you
Pubs and Restaurants
A small village I know of has already showed some great examples of this. The local pub, the lifeblood of the village, always organising and supporting community events has had their customers taken away from them. So what do they do? Go to their customers. They have now started a takeaway food service for the village. With delivery for those that cannot come and get it. They did not originally want to start a takeaway business, but they looked at their capability and they looked at the need of their customers and matched the two together. The Government has allowed all pubs and restaurants to become takeaways without permission. This means that this option is now open to more of us.
The only shop in the village, the small Spar, changed its policies even before the high risk groups were told to isolate for 12 weeks. They published to the whole village that they would be happy to offer a delivery service for those in self-isolation. They would also limit the sale of certain products to ensure that everyone would have a fair chance to purchase all products. This is obviously easier in a small radius than a large but again, they have found a way to change their service to meet the needs of the community.
In a town in the South East, a paint your own pottery company has refused to give up. Whilst they have not been forced to shut, their customers are being advised to stay at home. Fired Frog pottery café’s reaction was not to give up but to focus on the need. Now they have adapted accordingly to keep income flowing as best they can. They have put together baskets of pottery, paints and paint brushes for sale to collect so you can do the activity at home instead. Fantastic for the full spectrum of their usual customers. For parents with the thought of home schooling for months in the backs of their mind and for those in isolation needing activities to keep boredom at bay. They saw a need and a way that they could fulfil it.
A fitness company that specialises in pre and post maternity fitness was quick to adapt to the news that all pregnant women should self-isolate. Maternally Fit usually run fitness classes in various locations for pregnant and post-natal women. Obviously, when the news came out that all their customers would be house bound, they came up with a potential solution. The very morning after the announcement was made they issued an update to all their contacts. An update about a new trial, a pilot class that very evening. A way to bring their classes into their customers’ own homes. Will it work? (I am really hoping it will). The team don’t know but they are giving it a go. They have reacted quickly with new ideas that they had not tried before. The team are not giving up; they are adapting instead.
These are just a few examples and there are many others coming out day by day, hour by hour. Examples of businesses big and small that are struggling and yet adapting to make things work as best they can, especially whilst benefitting their community at the same time.
When you have the resources to do something completely different
A gin maker and a beer and spirits company know that the social distancing measures will impact their sales into pubs, so what have they done? Some producers are offering delivery or pick up of product bundles so people can ‘have a pub session’ at home. However, in the case of Silent Pool Gin and Brew Dog, they have thought a bit further and looked at their resources differently. With the shortage of hand sanitiser and the fact that it is made from ethanol, they have made their own! In the case of both Silent Pool and Brew Dog, this is not for sale but to be given out for free to local communities.
When you have the resources and the need is great, so is the responsibility
Then there are examples of businesses that have the opportunity to thrive in these circumstances; web based communication companies such as Skype, Zoom or MightyCall, suppliers of paracetamol, hand sanitiser, cleaning products, delivery companies for supermarkets, online shops etc. What these companies do with this opportunity will be telling indeed. There is a line between making the most of increased demand and profiteering. While it is great for your business to thrive when demand is high, it is not ok to do so at the purposeful disadvantage of others.
It has been great to see there are many examples of companies that are putting their values before their profits and sharing what they have with the community.
One example of this is that of Twinkl, an educational resource company, specialising in resources for schoolteachers and home learning. They made an announcement to say that they will provide their educational resources free of charge for a month, to help with home schooling. It would have been very easy for Twinkl to put prices up at this time of increased demand. Now, of course, they are potentially getting thousands of people trying their product and even when this is all over, I expect that a proportion of them will stay. So, while they are likely to get a benefit, and certainly significant positive PR, they are also helping a community in need.
Similarly, the National Trust has announced that it is closing its houses, shops and cafes but is keeping its parklands and gardens open for free during the social distancing period. No extra income but great for PR and advertising for the future and certainly better than simply giving up.
The key message in all of this is not to give up. It is to take action and to adapt. Look for the need, look at your resources and find where the two meet. Circumstances are constantly changing but do not let fear of the unknown paralyse you. The Government have announced measures to help businesses struggling at this time. Make the most of any help offered, find out all you can. Remember to focus on the possibilities; if you look for fear, you’ll find fear. If you look for opportunities, you’ll find them.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ―Dale Carnegie
If you do need business advice in these difficult times, call 0203 500 1200. No fees, just advice.
We are happy to do what we can to help you and your business with free advice on the phone (0203 500 1200). Jess and Anna at Emerson Nash have decades of business experience gained at Innocent Drinks, Cadburys, Unilever, Fosters, SAB Miller, E&Y, PA Consulting and many medium sized product-based businesses.
Jess has personal experience of managing a business during the downturn of 2008 and has been involved in turning around businesses in trouble as well as improving business performance in fast growing successful businesses.
Call us if you would like to get business advice or use us a sounding board for current ideas. If we are not able to help, we have a growing list of businesses who might be able to.
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