Where to next for a business?
Once you’ve dealt with the immediate issues of cash-flow or supply, how do you move forward in our new world?
In partnership with the Nelson Tasman Business Trust I presented this first in a series of ‘Coffee Break’ sessions, to help small business navigate through this crisis.
I’ve compiled the transcript into this blog post.OR you can take your own coffee break now, and watch the recording.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed. Our whole world has been flipped, and it would be inhuman to not feel a bit daunted.
You're not on your own, everyone is going through the same thing. In our podcast I get to talk to people around the world, and they've all got the same problems and issues.
You're not in this place because you put yourself here. It's just the way the world's evolved. And it's up to us to evolve with it, and go along for the journey … and it’s possible. There are a lot of exciting opportunities, and we have to dig through the clutter to find what’s right for us and our customers.
One of the things to me that comes out of this, is that business needs to be flexible, because what was normal last week isn't going to be normal next week … or the week after that!
Potentially this could go on for a year or longer. And I'm not saying in our current situation … it will change constantly.
A lot of business tends to be quite rigid. They have systems and processes that they've had in place and that have worked for them for years. And that, of course, is what has made a lot of businesses successful.
That's not going to wash in this new world. Systems and processes are critical. Don't get me wrong. They must be in place, for a business to be able to have the freedom to create. But they have to be flexible. So, the system you had in place, pre-virus isn’t maybe right moving forward.
And of course, the big word that's being used at the moment is Pivot. I was talking to a business owner in Canada, and she reckoned that day she'd pivoted fifteen times. That she was talking to the team and they'd go off in one direction and then someone would say, oh, yeah, but I heard this … right … phew! … you just keep tweaking.
It's like that constantly. So, get support from those around you, whether that’s your team or even if that's a partner in your life that can help you. To just clarify the thinking, be a sounding board. Use these types of forums to talk to people, get a mentor if you can.
You do need other people; you need other people to bounce ideas off and to share because this is a big load for anyone to take on. Business really does need that support network to go forward.
I know this current situation has had huge negative ramifications for not only business but the community. And I don't want to dwell on those negative aspects because you only have to read anything online. It's just bombarding you with all the crap that's going on.
So, let's just think about the good things that have come out of this. One of my favorite articles I read last week, called this period in our history, ‘The Great Pause’. And to me, that is just the most powerful, motivating, term. Covid-19 has given us, as a world the opportunity to take a breath, to think about community, to think about those we really care about in our lives.
You’re probably like me, but I've got a list of people that are on their own, my family and friends I spend about an hour or so a day calling, texting. Before this, they didn't have time to speak to me. Now they're looking forward to my call. They want to talk to me. I'm loving the interaction.
But as a society, I'm seeing people calmer in a way. Yes. There’s level of stress, of course. But something’s shifted.
I lived in the centre of Brisbane a few years back. And I remember coming home to our apartment, trying to understand the stress I was seeing in people.
People running around, looking at their phones constantly, not taking a breath. And I said to Eriks when I got home. How long can this world survive like this? How long can we keep up this pace? And, you know, I think we've basically been shown that it can't survive and that's what we're being told. So, The Great Pause makes so much sense, and it’s a much nicer term than the Great Depression or the recession or the battle, the virus etc.
Learning how to deal with our new world will take a mind-shift. If we can see the positives, the love, then all of a sudden, creative juices start flowing that were otherwise restricted.
I love what's coming out of social media. Families getting together and they're playing creative games. Mum and dad are home more. They're spending more time with the kids.
They're home schooling. Yes, there are challenges. But it’s shifting our communities. And no, we're not going to be in this strict lockdown forever. This will obviously start dissolving over the next week or so. But it will be a slow process.
But there are some key things we need to take home from this. To me, the number one is safety. As a community, we no longer feel safe going to the supermarket.
You actually turn around and you're going, am I safe to go? Am I going to come back with a germ? Who am I going to infect? It changes everything in a person's psyche.
In my inbox this morning was a HubSpot newsletter. It was about the data that they've been collecting during March, since lockdowns were introduced.
They looked at what Internet usage rates are like, how people are interacting with businesses, their consumption. Are they buying? It's showing that there's more interaction with businesses, but we're buying less. And in some ways that makes total sense.
Firstly, we've got more time. We're investigating and identifying the business that suit our needs. What are those businesses that are going to satisfy my new need at this time in my life? My needs have changed.
And I want to build a relationship. So, they're reaching out more with Facebook messaging, and in website chatbots. So potential customers are asking more questions. They want to know how you can fix and solve their problems. So, again, having an understanding of what those needs are is critically important. And the only way you can do that is by reaching out to customers.
If you're in business, you have some customers. And I hoping that you have some sort of way of identifying who those customers are.
If you're in a business that just cannot operate at this time, that doesn't mean you just close a door and walk away and have a holiday or just sit and stress about the balance sheet. That's not going to help the balance sheet when we get out of this. Now is the perfect time to build that relationship. It will be businesses that build a strong relationship that will get through the other side of this.
Most of you will know the stronger the relationship you have with customers, the more likely they're going to come back and purchase from you. But it's not just saying hello, how are you? It's finding out what their real needs are. Finding out how their needs have changed.
Are they making different purchase decisions? And what is the value that you provide in your business that can satisfy those needs?
What your value was a month ago, may not be the same today. So, what you can do to change your value to fit their needs? That's why it's really important to sit and take this opportunity to reach out to people, find out what it is that they're needing that you could do.
To use a personal experience Raewards in Richmond. Yes, they are an essential food business. But they were retail only, no delivery. But overnight, they realised they needed delivery, they couldn’t build an online store that quickly, but they reached out to their customer base via social media.
In a warm caring tone, they said they’d do their best to help. Just email us what you need, and we’ll deliver free. I love this, yes, they're owned by New World. And I didn't know that, by the way, when I first reached out to them. But they clearly have a culture that is about relationships. So, I emailed them “I've never been into your store, I have no idea what you sell.” And this beautiful lady, Holly rang me - the whole experience was warm and caring.
And you know what? I'm looking forward to the day I can go into the store and thank them because of what they've done. They've made me feel safe. They provided a valuable service. And it's that that will take them through to the next stage.
Every business can do this. You're starting to see those like yoga classes, online restaurants who are selling, certainly in other parts of the world, their packaged up recipes that you can cook at home and maybe a video instruction on how to produce it.
That's the point. We need to be creative about how to build that relationship through these tougher times, where everyone's feeling that need to connect. If we do that as a business, if we provide and support that community connection now, that is what can hold you over until the next stage.
Going back to value. It’s not only what you can provide your customers, but think laterally. What other business is out there, you could partner with to enhance your value to new customers, to provide new markets?
The other thing I want to share quickly is to say none of that is possible, if you’re in a place of fear. If you’re looking at your business and your balance sheet and saying, I can't do this. I just don't know what to do next. And if that's your place. Then I'm here to tell you that the first thing you need to do is change your mood.
Start doing some deep breathing. Go and walk in nature and find something to love and to be positive about. You need to change your mindset first, because with a positive mindset, I know that we can create an exciting new world and all sorts of possibilities come out of it.
When you free the mind and you don't worry about it, the solution will present itself.
We're all creative. We all have the ability to solve our problems, provided we understand the opportunities that are out there for us. We understand what value we have for our clients, for our team, for our broader community. You can create a new world. Think laterally.
As Kiwis we've got a mentality here of the old Number 8 Wire. We can create a new world; we have potential to be leaders in small business. We have exciting opportunities because of our size and flexibility. We can blend and mold, and work with our community to create something really exciting. Big business doesn't have that opportunity as easily. They've got too many mechanisms, too many people that can stuff it up and make it complicated.
You can do this. And I really believe we have an exciting future for us.
A question that Gina Munro from NTBT asked …
“We've just had an abundance, overwhelming amount of information coming our way. And then when we digested that and tried to get it out, we’re trying to find space in there where we could provide value that wasn't already being done a million times elsewhere.”
“It became all encompassing. And it’s probably the same for other businesses experiencing all of their competitors and other people in other industries coming up with all of these things that they've sort of thought, well, oh, I was gonna do that. Or now it feels like I'm copying them or there's no space for me. What would you recommend?”
You know, there’s space for everybody for a start, and it’s often an iteration that you can expand on. Almost nothing in this world is new. Creativity is borrowed, and that's how innovation happens. Someone might create an innovative way of doing something. But in the end, it's borrowed from some other industry or whatever.
You’re right there's so much information. Our inboxes are full of what you should be doing. And Facebook now has gone insane because everybody's trying to sell their cure.
I think some of it comes down to the mindset, again. If you’re going into it with a feeling of being overwhelmed, then the whole thing starts piling on top of you.
I did a podcast recently which was just talking about breathing and how it can, literally change the way your brain is wired. You can’t possibly deal with everything. If you breathe and you calm your mind, your mind will tell you which piece of information will help right now, and you will create something that's right for you.
You can ask customers for guidance. We've been doing market research for four decades and the number of people who say to me, I don't want to pester people and ask them, I know my customers. I ring them and they say they're okay.
But people love helping people. And in a situation, in a time like this, they actually want to help you. They know that it's tough out there for business.
If you spoke to them and asked … “How has your need changed? What's of real value and what isn’t?”
Next week in the ‘Coffee Break’ we’re going to discuss marketing language. If you’re in the Nelson Tasman area and would like an invite, you can email Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org