By Bernie Dixon
Most organizations merely cope with change. Leadership teams all around the world are reacting to the changes caused by the global pandemic by limiting services, cutting costs, delaying product launches, or even shutting down completely. Other leadership teams are reassessing, pivoting, and reinventing their businesses. No one could have predicted the scale or scope of this crisis, yet the most successful organizations make change their mindset. Especially for early stage companies, change must be the way of their business. But how do you bring about change? How do you begin the process of reinvention especially when a change like the magnitude of COVID-19 threatens the very existence of your business?
Where Is the World Going?
Successful change does not merely stem from self-awareness, it also comes from an awareness of others around you and of the wider world. Before initiating change, it is particularly important to do the research and make sure those changes reflect where the market and the wider world are headed. Get the information and data you need to evaluate where markets are heading. In Part 1 of this series we identified several broad market trends:
Supply chains have taken a hit.
Businesses have little cash on hand.
Employees are anxious yet eager to get back to work.
Consumer confidence is low except for staple products and services.
Consumer habits have shifted to online-only channels
If you are unsure where the world is going - always follow the consumer. Consumer habits and trends are a barometer of most industries and businesses. Review the information in Part 1 to begin your research of current consumer behavior.
Deconstruct Your Business
While considering the trends and consumer behavior, the first real step for reinventing your business is to deconstruct your business operations; understanding every constituent piece of your business. Reinvention can be a subtle change where you tweak a few pieces while maintaining most of your core processes. In the case of Twice As Nice Uniforms (LP2X alum) who manufacture and sell uniforms for the health care industry, antimicrobial materials are used to make fashionable and practical uniforms with easily removable liners Their business has more than quadrupled in the past few years. Within days of the coronavirus outbreak, Twice As Nice Uniforms, anticipating the need for face masks for hospital workers, easily tweaked their manufacturing processes and patterns and geared up for large volume production of face masks for use in healthcare and other exposed environments and customers. It did not take a lot of research. Twice As Nice could use the same sales channels or related sales channels to reinvent their company and their brand. The manufacturing changes may be temporary and yet Twice As Nice Uniforms was able to prove out deep manufacturing capabilities that can be extended beyond their core product lines.
Most business schools use a tool for business deconstruction called the Business Model Canvas. Here’s an simple explanatory video. The tool contains the nine elements that are common to traditional businesses: customer segment, value proposition, channel, customer relationship, key activities, key resources, key partners, revenues, and costs. A few other Canvases exist for service and platform companies that can serve as a tool for deconstructing and examining potential business moves.
Brainstorm and Imagine
You know this as an entrepreneur. Imagining the possibilities and applications for reinvention is in your DNA. Maybe Twice As Nice continues with face masks for the foreseeable future. They can create different models, the toddler version that may be more difficult to remove in order for toddlers to keep them on their face, the surgical version that is lined with Halyard H600 material, the version for Costco employees with a company message, or a generic version for resupplying emergency stockpiles. All possibilities need to be solicited from the team. Don’t assume that your own idea is better than anyone else’s. This exercise is not about massaging egos. It is about reinventing the very business that sustains the team. Go at it with an open mind and imagination. By the way, most successful reinventions often are not huge epiphanies. The most successful ones usually are tweaks in the product or a company’s approach to the market.
Test and Confirm with Your Customers
Simply thinking you have a good idea and pursuing it without testing with customers will derail your most enthusiastic efforts. Talk to your customers. It does not cost much and most of the customers will appreciate having input and being consulted especially in our current environment of isolation. Forbes magazine recently cited a company selling computer monitors asking random people about their computer habits during self-isolation. There was realization that grandparents wanted bigger screens in order to have a better view when video chatting with their grandchildren. Younger children need screens that can hold up to rougher handling and fingerprints while working parents with kids attending school need multiple screens to accommodate both school requirements for video and their own employers’ requirement for video meetings. Lots can be unearthed with conversations with customers.
Develop Prototypes and Soft Launch
The final step in reinvention is creating prototypes and soft launching your product or service. A prototype might be as simple as offering your pre-coronavirus product with a post-coronavirus marketing and pricing. The computer monitor company could advertise a Grandparents version with an installment payment plan to a limited sample of people with targeted ads on Facebook. If you are offering a product or service that customers have already declared they need, you should experience a high purchase rate while spending minimal on marketing. Then, when the soft launch works, you can go about making more definite plans for a hard launch with the full product re-engineering and customer support for more success.
What all these steps share is an emphasis on evidence. Yes, brainstorming is important and yet it is equally important to get evidence as you reinvent. You can create resilient businesses and address real human and business needs by combining the two.
Be confident in your brainstorming, get evidence, and play this for a win.
Bernie P. Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO accelerator training program for women entrepreneurs. Find her on LinkedIn.