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Pandemic pivoting: Surviving through creative resourcefulness

By Jamie Prince – founder, flourish

“Pivoting” is not a new addition to business vocabulary, but it has, of late, been added to tabletop vernacular as more and more organizations look for ways to help in this time of prolonged crisis at best, and to keep the doors open at worst.

What is pivoting, exactly? The book “The Lean Startup” defines a pivot as “a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about a product, strategy and engine of growth.” In this unusual time, however, pivoting is not only an important shift in business strategy for young businesses but for all businesses who want to survive during and directly following the stay-at-home economy. Google “pivoting,” and you’ll find yourself awash in stories from major business media, illuminating what others are doing differently in the face of the global shutdown.

According to a survey conducted by Alignable, 37% of small businesses have only enough cash in reserves to stay afloat for a month. Out of necessity, organizations far and wide, small and large, have creatively changed course to mitigate financial stability, to come to the aid of community, and/or to maintain market awareness at a time when traditional promotional tactics would be largely tone deaf.

OCG Products, makers of Tech Candy, is a women-owned business based in Birmingham, Alabama, and sells a suite of products predominantly made in China. Leading into March – as China, followed by the United States, effectively closed for business – co-owners Cherie Stine and April Mraz immediately pivoted. Knowing the ins and outs of how to take a product from design to market, they partnered with a local distillery, and within a couple of weeks were selling out of “Distill” hand sanitizer. Though their fulfillment operations are based in the Midwest, Stine and Mraz are operating this effort directly from their headquarters. OCG’s new hand sanitizer being made in Birmingham will be available for sale next week here in Greenville. Distill will be available for purchase beginning next week at Smoke and Brew’s two local locations (1553 N. Pleasantburg Drive and 1401 Woodruff Road).

“We are working harder and smarter,” commented Stine. “We launched with 2,500 bottles and sold out in two days. Now we are negotiating significantly more bottles and expect this venture to last at least two years.”

Distill, by OCG products, is being sold locally. Photo courtesy of OCG Products

Closer to home, Greenville-based nationally lauded Methodical Coffee is keeping up with its customers’ appetite for crafted caffeine beverages, going beyond curbside pickup by instituting home delivery, reformulating a menu that features frozen foods to go and offering up local eggs and milk in addition to half-gallon sizes of their cold brew. Methodical Coffee is even conducting virtual DIY barista classes to capitalize on its audience’s love for coffee, while filling the need for educational content online while at home.

Closer to home, Greenville-based nationally lauded Methodical Coffee is keeping up with its customers’ appetite for crafted caffeine beverages, going beyond curbside pickup by instituting home delivery, reformulating a menu that features frozen foods to go and offering up local eggs and milk in addition to half-gallon sizes of their cold brew. Methodical Coffee is even conducting virtual DIY barista classes to capitalize on its audience’s love for coffee, while filling the need for educational content online while at home.

We ourselves, at flourish, anticipating that many small businesses can’t afford to “go dark,” have created special value-priced service packages for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that we began announcing last month. I started our firm in 2009, in the Great Recession, so we revisited the tactics that helped our very first clients through that time of hardship and have updated and enhanced them to serve others right now.

If your leadership team is not discussing how to pivot, you may well be missing a golden opportunity. Here are five considerations to guide you into creative resourcefulness.

  • Identify your purpose and lead with it. Now, more than ever, people want to do business with companies that know their purpose. Call out your core values and make them more than just tenets on a sheet of paper. How can you take those and use them for good?
  • Make effective digital communicating your business. Now’s the time to capitalize on the following your company has – your sales/email database, social media followers, community of vendors and suppliers – and talk to them simply and transparently. Forget the sales and marketing jargon – those are bygone days now. Focus on being a real person talking to another real person. This will matter more and net much better results.
  • Step out of your box and look at your products and services with fresh eyes. As business leaders, we often take for granted our strongest assets because we’re so used to them. Make an effort to identify what you do that can be tweaked to align with today’s needs. Don’t be afraid to manipulate your core business around testing a promising idea.
  • Add ideation to everyone’s job description. Some of the best ideas come from outside the C-suite. Involve every level of your staff when it comes to thinking of ways to weather this time and the months ahead. Our team dedicates the first 15 minutes of our Zoom-based team meetings each week to brainstorming on behalf of a client. It’s amazing the collective mindshare that happens when you allow it.
  • Partner with like-minded organizations. Consider banding together with other brands during a pivot. Select those who think like you, who share your values and who provide missing pieces that will amplify your chances of traction with your target audience.

Successful pivoting holds at least one key to opening up revenue streams that may take root and be fruitful long after the pandemic wanes.

Jamie Prince is the founder of flourish, an award-winning public relations, marketing and events firm based in Greenville. She can be reached at jamie@startflourishing.com

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