There is a lot being written right now on what small businesses need to do to survive the pandemic. Tips on marketing, social media and digital ecommerce and so on. While that is fine, you might need to completely reimagine your business from both a strategy and business model point of view. It might require a complete mindset shift on what products or services you provided before Covid to what customers need now. Let me give you some examples on how other firms are completely readjusting or pivoting their products, services and ultimately, their business model.
Texas Roadhouse. This chain of dine in restaurants had to rethink their business model when Covid hit and they did just that. Their thinking went from: “You visit our restaurant to dine on our grilled steaks” to selling take home steak grilling kits where the customers grills their own steak or perhaps stops by to pick up their meals. Because, what do customers want? A good steak. So, they pivoted to giving the customers what they wanted. Sales have recovered nicely.
Walks. This tour-based company was hit hard by the travel restrictions. Where they would book local in person tours all over the world before Covid, now they had to reimagine their business model to offer the same service but in a safe innovative way. Today, they offer tours to world popular destinations where you book a tour from the safety of your home and then “walk” with the tour guide who is live and walking in Paris or Rome, giving you the cultural history and visual dynamics of a real tour.
Brookfield Properties. Okay, so you own a lot of malls across the United States. Mall traffic is down because of the coronavirus, but Brookfield is at least making money from the empty parking lots. The company signed a deal with entertainment company Kilburn Live to use the lots as drive-in theaters in at least five cities, providing much-needed public entertainment options in a safe manner while traditional movie theaters remain shuttered. It may be a parking lot today but perhaps a film venue tomorrow.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. At the start of the coronavirus lockdown in California, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse founder Aaron Caddel was trying to figure out how to stay in business and keep his staff employed. Within the space of 72 hours, his bakeries had lost all their wholesale customers – around $3 million in business. However, he also noticed that the interest in home baking was sky-rocketing, which was causing shortages in ingredients such as yeast and flour. In response, he decided to pivot his entire business to start supplying home baking kits. Although he had no experience in e-commerce, he did have a large warehouse, a large Instagram following and a commercial supply chain. He turned all of this over to creating home baking kits.
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Ideal. In the face of the pandemic what do you do if you own brick and mortar jewelry stores? In the case of Ideal they converted their business model almost overnight from a traditional, bricks-and-mortar-based shop, to an ecommerce model that uses a growing trend, live streaming. Ideal dubbed the initiative, “Thousand People, Thousand Stores”. The company’s in-store sales staff have become live broadcasters, with each one managing their own live-streamed “store” as a type of franchise. Ideal has partnered with a retail software provider to build a mini-platform within the popular WeChat app. By using the new platform as a virtual warehouse, Ideal’s sales associates are able to share the company’s warehouse inventory nationwide. To appeal to the younger demographic who shop online, the company has also offered a new range of lower cost pieces designed to attract customers with less disposable income.
So, as this pandemic continues to play out you need to conduct the following analysis and mindset shift in your small business.
1. It’s not about what you did but what you can do.
2. Understand the benefit of your products and services and shift the way you deliver them to your customers.
3. Pay attention to the trends caused by Covid and see if you can leverage them.
4. Review your local two-mile area and see if the customer wants/needs something no one is providing – can you provide it?
5. Look into your network of small business peers. Is there someone you can partner with where the combination of your products or services provides customers with a unique solution?
Small businesses provide about 50% of the employment jobs in the United States. Do what you can to reimagine your business and stay afloat or even thrive as we need you.