November 24, 2020

How To Pivot Your Business (And Thrive) During The Pandemic

Many local venues and community hotspots have had to shut their doors, with 23% of small businesses reporting temporarily closing their business entirely since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. While things have started to turn around, with 86% of remaining businesses in July reporting they are either fully or partially open, more than half still worry about having to permanently close their business, according to the US Chamber of Commerce. 

And yet, some businesses have been able to pivot their model entirely and thrive during Covid-19.

According to CNN data: 

  • Video game company sales are up 21% to $1.52B in the first quarter of this year. 
  • Disinfectant products were up 230% in March and April.
  • Peloton revenue grew 66% in the first quarter of this year.
  • Slack added 9,000 new paid customers (up 80% from last quarter)
  • Zoom’s stock is up 120% in 2020.

I am reminded of a saying I once heard about relationships: bad relationships fall apart in crisis, good ones get by, and great ones are better because of it… The same can be said about a business. 

Seeing these wild success stories got me really curious to understand why some businesses are thriving right now, while others are falling apart. After putting on my investigative hat, I identified three key characteristics that helped thriving businesses pivot quickly, strategically and successfully. 

Here are some steps to take as you pivot your business during the pandemic:

1. Take a fresh look at the foundation of how you execute business.. 

Most states are still following stay-at-home orders at the moment, with many employees tuning in remotely to keep the gears grinding. Instead of cutting any salaries or laying off employees, consider making this move to remote work permanent and ditching the office completely. According to Global Workplace Analytics, “a typical employer can save about $11,000 a year for every person who works remotely half of the time.” Workers can also save $2,500 to $4,000 a year working remotely only half of the time. According to USA Today these savings vary person-to-person, but will add up when you include commuting cost, meals, car insurance, and dry cleaning costs. Another Global Workplace Analytics study analyzed the costs and benefits of remote work and found some astounding savings when companies did away with in-person offices: 

  • IBM slashed real estate costs by $50 million.
  • McKesson saves $2 million a year.
  • Nortel estimates that they save $100,000 per employee they don’t have to relocate.
  • Average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000/employee/year.

The days of expecting your business to happen all on one campus are over, and the sooner you can accept this, and lean into the benefits of change, the more agressive your recovery can become.  

2. Optimize how your teams communicate. 

Allowing your employees to work from home requires a great deal of trust, both that your team is really working as much as they say they are and in your own overall communication skills. 

A Gallup poll found that less than half of employees (48%) strongly agree that their immediate supervisor keeps them informed about what is going on in the organization as it relates to the impact of Covid-19. A lack of communication is a guaranteed way to damage trust, especially when your employees are managing the emotional turmoil present due to Covid-19. 

Moreover, the need for successful communication isn’t solely linked to Covid-19, communicating as an executive is key to ensuring that your employees feel like they are part of something worthwhile. According to an SMARP survey, 72% of employees don’t have a full understanding of the company’s strategy. It is critical to make sure that your employees are able to comprehend and get behind your goals, as the same survey found that organizations with effective communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. 

Instead of getting lost in an email thread, or missing important information due to server issues, transition over to an office chat environment such as Slack or even Skype. Lack of clear communication between team members can be an office killer.

Pivoting from relying solely on email communication will save you time, get your ideas fleshed out quicker, and have your team collaborating more frequently.

3. Explore the next version of what you know

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal”?  While this is an understandable hope, the better thought to focus on is, how to create a new normal that you thrive in. 

So, how can a pivot happen, or what can it look like? If you’re a garment maker, consider shifting into making masks throughout the pandemic, and focusing less on fashion. If you work in the fitness world, consider utilizing online courses and classes, and create an online environment that can still lead to success. Even education has taken some drastic pivots with teachers and tutors being hired for microschooling or “pandemic pods”, where groups of three to 10 students from various families learn together.  

Moving your business online might seem like a big challenge, but it’s gone from being a good idea to something you simply have to do. Not only are essential industries moving online in order to stay afloat, but many self-improvement and DIY industries are finding that people are using online resources to improve many areas of their lives they didn’t previously have time to focus on. According to CNN Business, the online marketplace Etsy has sold 12 million, or $133 million worth, of fabric face masks from 60,000 sellers since the beginning of April.

According to LoveMoney: 

  • Duolingo, an app that lets you learn a foreign language at your own pace, saw a 148% increase in sign-ups in the U.S. during March
  • Actor Chris Hemsworth’s fitness app Centr saw a 300% increase in downloads in April
  • Remote diagnosis and treatment service Zipnosis reported a staggering 3,600% increase in its usage as a result of coronavirus.
  • Eco-counter reported that in the first weeks of May, the southwest U.S. saw a 100% increase in bike use. 

Many occupations have had to drastically reconsider how they do business, and the good news is, with a little creativity (and the Internet), these ideas aren’t just working, they’re thriving. Every industry is taking a hard look at what was, and is adjusting into the future of what will be.

The shift to a mostly digital business model is not new, it just accelerated much faster than anyone could have anticipated. Fortunately, there are a plethora of apps, websites, and online payment processors that make the overall impact to your business a little easier to deal with. 

The real question to be asking yourself in this situation is not whether your business can survive this crisis, but rather, how willing are you to quickly modify what you offer as a business, in order to stay relevant in today’s world?

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