Covid Diary: Finding direction within disruption
A short collection of Covid-crushing insights to help businesses navigate the ‘new normal’. By editor Glenn Baker. When you consider how this insidious virus has wreaked havoc on the economy, and how New Zealand’s diverse SME community has generally responded, you can’t help but be inspired. We’re smart, we’re inventive, we’re gutsy in this part […]
A short collection of Covid-crushing insights to help businesses navigate the ‘new normal’. By editor Glenn Baker.
When you consider how this insidious virus has wreaked havoc on the economy, and how New Zealand’s diverse SME community has generally responded, you can’t help but be inspired.
We’re smart, we’re inventive, we’re gutsy in this part of the world. There were, and will be more, business casualties, but they’ll be outnumbered by the survivors and successes – businesses that have embraced new thinking, new technologies, and alternative revenue streams.
“Pivoting” became the new buzzword during, and after, lockdown. We’ve all read about the companies that reinvented production lines to make hand sanitizers or face masks; the tour operator that delivered food parcels; the retailers whose online sales suddenly went ballistic.
As we move deeper into uncharted post-Covid territory, pivoting will continue to be an option. But just blindly doing what everyone else is doing, or simply adding a ‘buy online’ button to your website, is not going to cut it.
Author, speaker and entrepreneur Sam Kamani (pictured) believes pivoting requires thinking about your whole offering. “The key thing to consider is what problem you are solving. And what are your strengths and current assets?
“Maybe you have an empty car yard – you could use it to establish a click-and-collect facility. Or maybe you have a factory with equipment that can be easily retooled to cater for another niche.”
In his book Business in the time of Corona, Kamani says that while it makes sense to look for different ways of generating business in an extreme downturn, it’s equally important to follow the innovation-led pivot route when times are good.
“You should especially look at an innovation-led pivot when people don’t like your product, or you are relying on heavy marketing, or only competing on price.”
He says most businesses simply keep doing what has always worked, especially if their business is stable or continuing to grow.
“This is the correct approach if we live in a static world where nothing ever changes. However, we live in an ever-changing world, where everything is in a constant state of flux. We need to constantly adapt so we don’t end up like dinosaurs – such as Blockbuster and Kodak.
“That’s why you need to pivot yourself before external disruption forces you to – by that time it could be too late. Be the business that disrupts itself before others disrupt it. Use innovation to find new ways to solve customers’ problems.”
Kamani says this was the thinking behind his own business pivots. He recalls when he started out, when TV, radio and print ruled the marketing world.
“I started asking myself what would make my job obsolete. I saw huge potential in the Internet to disrupt my career and immediately started learning everything about online commerce and online advertising. My bet paid off, I started helping small to medium businesses in 2004 to acquire customers using Google Adwords. I was buying Adwords for a few cents which now cost $10. I was so successful that I was recommended to a few different businesses and that’s how I got my first break to buy into a business, which I grew and later exited.
“The best way to pivot is by innovating around your strengths and assets. Instead of just blindly following what everyone else is doing.”
Supplement or painkiller?
The new business environment will create numerous opportunities in the months and years ahead. Sam Kamani suggests you ask yourself:
• What problem does your business solve for your customer?
• Due to the change in environment is your product or service even needed?
• Can people access it?
• How badly do they need your service or product?
“The answers to these questions will help you pivot towards success.
“Whenever there is a recession, depression, or downturn, people focus on the essentials. The demand for ‘good to have’ type products and services is generally a lot less during a recession.
“When I went through a recession as a business owner in 2008-09, I read an article online that emphasized ‘be a painkiller, not a supplement’.
“Figure out if your product or service is a supplement or painkiller. If it’s a supplement, can you use your current assets and strengths to pivot towards becoming a painkiller?”
Tech, the great enabler
Technology has had a major role to play in assisting businesses to function in this post-Covid world. We’ve all become proficient in conducting Zoom online meetings, but the push is on to make online meetings more functional and this requires a sharpening in meeting etiquette, explains Simon Mundell, CEO and founding director of strategic execution consultancy Advisory.Works. It has also paved the way for ‘blended meetings’.
Mundell’s initial experience with blended meetings came through a company he launched in the US. It ran many virtual meetings via GoToMeeting, but soon realised it needed a dashboarding tool to tie the conversation together. The result was a software platform called Resultsbi.com.
“I’m a firm believer that a meeting without metrics or data is just a talk-fest. When running meetings virtually, it’s even more important.
“Even when it’s a project that is largely subjective being discussed, there should still be two simple elements visibly on the screen guiding the discussion. These two measures are a percentage of the way to completion and a traffic light sentiment (red, yellow, green) to show whether we’re on track or stuck.”
In having people talk to these two things, everyone can quickly get a sense for how people are tracking on a project, he says, or how a KPI itself is tracking.
“You can set this up so easily. It matters far less which technology you use, and more that you’ve got the visible metrics, project goals, and KPIs on the screen to guide the discussion.”
Mundell believes virtual meetings can be far more productive than face-to-face. And if some employees prefer to work in the workplace, rather than at home, or perhaps it’s not practical to work remotely, then blended meetings are the answer.
“Blended meetings maintain the discipline of a virtual meeting, while bringing the connection and the flexibility that people are seeking now even more than ever,” says Mundell. “With two different ways that people can attend, these meetings are highly and easily accessible, so no-one needs to miss out. And this keeps execution and collaborative work moving forward without non-attendance being a reason for stalling or non-delivery.”