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Why you should pivot your business to withstand the pandemic


With so many businesses pivoting in response to the pandemic, entrepreneur Sharon Williams takes us through how this strategy works – and when to use it.

As I write this, I am hoping you, your family and team members are safe right now and that you are managing your mental health and physical health because your wellbeing is everything when the chips are down.

As someone who has been in business for 25 years, I've lived through a number of crises and even in the darkest moments have come out the other side. I see these moments as opportunities to strengthen focus and tenacity and, of course, the key is to never give up – these are values which have helped shape my business, Taurus Marketing. COVID-19 has certainly called on these values. Life and business are hard, but it does have lots of rewards, and history is definitely worth studying for examples of this.

As you've probably seen in your own life and all around you, many business owners – both small and large – are trying to work out how to cope with these challenging global circumstances.

What has struck me over the past few weeks is that many of the approaches taken by business owners and brands are the same as they would be in more "normal" difficult times when challenges are less visible but still there.

So while there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment – for business owners and everyone else – here are some suggestions on what you can do to feel empowered in your business and branding.

Over the past few months, your brand would have experienced at least one of three scenarios:

  1. You have more business than you can handle
  2. Your business has closed or is going to close
  3. You need to pivot or reinvent to survive

If you are thinking of a pivot, rest assured you are not alone and there are plenty of examples of brands doing the same as you are about to. It is good to know that it's not only in a crisis that brands have to pivot and that this skill you are learning now will serve you well into the future – whatever happens next.

What is a pivot in business?

The pivot or fast-switch to something new and more viable is a staple strategy that has been in existence for a long time. I have worked with hundreds of brands that have suddenly had to pivot because of legislation changes, natural disaster, competitive activity or a change in technology.

From the edutech company with student management systems that is now focussed on corporate online training to restaurants re-directing to takeaway and tech firms launching free crisis response models, these are all examples of pivots. Then there are the businesses moving online in an increasingly virtual world, such as small fashion boutiques and fashion designers, which would have previously launched collections on runways or in stores. Almost all of us now have a story of a local business that has switched things up.

We have also watched global brands lead the way, with McDonald's offering drive-through bread and milk, Louis Vuitton pivoting to make hand sanitiser in a time of extreme need and Burberry switching to make personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical and care workers at its trench coat factory in Castleford, UK.

There are many other examples of pivots during coronavirus, which you could consider as case studies for your own business. The following are ones that are top of my mind:

  • Local restaurants turning into supermarkets offering flour, coffee, tea, eggs and all staples
  • Restaurants offering takeaway in a box and partnering with delivery services
  • Retail moving to online orders only
  • Fashion designers doing video showcases of their new ranges
  • Entertainers hosting live shows on Zoom to support charitable causes and keep people in isolation entertained
  • Real estate agents using innovative tech and tools for open house inspections

If you have been in business for a while, you already know that you have to continually reinvent and adapt to survive and remain relevant.

I know this only too well in my own business. When I started out as a strategic communications consultant, my tools were the post, the phone, a telex then a fax machine. And then the gift of all comms tools came about in the Internet – later replaced by the mobile phone.

Now I have an iPhone, apps and artificial intelligence to get my point across. One thing remains and that is this: constant change.

What about your opportunity to pivot?

Here are two tips you should know when you're getting started:

  • Your database is your most valuable thing. Those that have bought from you in the past will buy from you in the future even if your product has to change because trust is everything.
  • Focus on your database and get it up to date and start contacting those who know you with advice, calls, letters, EDMs (electronic direct mail), social media, call outs, webinars and offers.

Next, ask yourself the following:

  • What can you do with what you have?
  • What needs to be cut?
  • What needs to change?
  • What skills can you maintain to move to a new normal?
  • What new skills do you need?
  • What government grants or finance options can you obtain?

It's also important to reflect on the advisers you have and if they are still relevant. If they aren't, who do you need to get on your side instead? And finally, it's a good idea to talk to your bank so you can seek its help on how to get through any financial issues.

These questions and actions will guide your strategy as we all move forward in 2020 and beyond.

So remember: Your skills are valuable. Your network is valuable. You do have a new opportunity to master and it is there waiting to be uncovered.

Sharon Williams is a public speaker, CEO, entrepreneur, media commentator, international marketer, editorial contributor and founder of The Taurus Group. She was named in The Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs for 2019. Sharon's global knowledge and experience with entrepreneurs is an unbeatable combination and she has been reinventing brands for over 25 years.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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Image credits: Getty Images, Supplied (Sharon Williams)

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