As an entrepreneur, your job is to solve problems. And I’ve got good news for you – there is an abundant amount of problems to solve right now because of the impact of COVID-19.
Now is the time for innovation more than ever because there’s so much room for growth and new ideas. If you’re where the majority of business owners are right now, you might have nothing to lose.
In my last article, I talked about how to come to grips with what is happening in the world right now and basic things you can do to thrive during this time. Now a new question has risen up from the readers – how do you pivot and innovate to stay relevant?
Over the past week, I’ve done some market research on how businesses are pivoting to meet this challenge head on. I’ve narrowed down their process to three core steps.
Define what your audience/customer needs right now:
Every business has an audience and/or customers. Start with the basics and write down what your customers needed three months ago. Then, write down your best few guesses at what your customers need currently.
Before COVID-19, the average person was looking for personal freedom or fulfillment at the core of everything they consumed or bought. And most business owners were marketing their products and services to target that underlying desire. Now, a few weeks into COVID-19, people are the most uncertain that they have probably ever been. Therefore, they’re looking for certainty. Every person will be different but common areas people are looking for this certainty in are health, safety, financial security, and environment.
So, ask yourself how you can deliver the most certainty to your customers right now and visualize what that could look like. For Fulcrum (the business I’m involved in), that looked like us opening the floodgates of resources to our audience of small businesses as much as we can – providing them with a new toolbelt of information online around the economy, finances, innovation, etc. We are taking the route of providing knowledge to give our audience more certainty.
What does your audience need from you right now and how can you deliver that in the best way possible?
Get clear on the available resources your business currently has:
Once you’ve narrowed down what your audience needs right now, it’s time to get creative. This is the fun part because you get to think outside of the box. Rules are being re-written right now so to a certain extent no idea is too crazy unless it’s illegal or unsafe.
What is your current business niche and what resources do you have available to you?
I’ll share a few ideas below to get the wheels in your mind turning.
If you own a restaurant, a need of some of your customers could be to take the food to them since non-essential travel most everywhere has been restricted. You already have the resources you need to make this food, so you just need to innovate in the area of transport and partnerships. You could partner with a local hospital and make a deal to help feed their staff/people on the front lines.
Yakima, Washington has a local restaurant called The Lab that wasn’t even a month old when COVID-19 hit. Instead of freaking out because they weren’t established yet, they have been one of the most innovative restaurants in our valley, leading the way for more restaurants to join in on the creativity and support. One thing among many that they did was partner with local nursing homes to help feed them.
Ryonet, one of the country’s top screen printing, supplies and education businesses wasn’t deemed an essential business and had made all the arrangements to close down until the mandate was lifted. But overnight, the founder, Ryan Moor, decided to do whatever it was going to take to make his business essential. He looked at what his customers needed now and the current resources he had. This evolved into him using his material and equipment to make masks out of t-shirts.
These are just a few examples, but the point is, you need to get creative and think outside of the box. Pivot within your niche of current resources (because that way you can do it fast) and go from there.
Pivot using the Lean Startup Method:
You’ve now accomplished two important pieces of the puzzle. You’ve defined the new needs of your audience and then did the creative work to figure out how your business can use it’s current resources to pivot into a new product or service that is relevant to these times.
Now, its time to take action and do it as efficiently and fast as possible.
One of my favorite ways to launch a startup or any type of new product or service is by following the rules of the book, The Lean Startup.
There’s a lot of valuable information in this book but the main point I want to pull from it is the concept of Build, Measure, Learn. How can you build the simplest version of your product or service (Minimal Viable Product or MVP) in as little time as possible? Once you have your MVP, you can launch it and immediately start measuring its effectiveness and learning how to innovate it into a better version of itself. This also helps you fail fast so you can succeed faster.
The reality of COVID-19 is that if you take two weeks to build out a whole new product or service, you might have missed your wave because of how fast everything is changing.
The businesses I’ve been following have usually done these three steps within the course of 2-4 days. I know, that’s record speed. But I think it’s necessary right now.
What is the simplest version of your product, service or new idea that you can launch and immediately start testing with minimal time and money risk? It could be a big pivot or innovation like Ryonet’s example, or even a small one like deciding to finally put your restaurant on UberEats.
Normally, Fulcrum does one big event a month called a Fireside Chat where we interview an inspiring entrepreneur or leader. In two days, from idea to launch, we decided to do a whole series of events this week instead of one. We knew this was what our audience needed right now and that we had all the resources to do it. I sat down and mapped out the simplest route to launch a “Fireside Chat Week” with three separate interviews with experts and hustled until I pressed “go.” After this week, I’ll have a load of new data to measure and learn from. From here, I can pivot this into the next idea I already have brewing but need to validate.
I know fast change can be scary. Believe me, I used to hate change. However, the people who aren’t changing quickly to meet relevant needs, might not have a business after this is over. That’s just the harsh truth.
View this as an exciting adventure because who knows what long-term business success you’ll build out of this season!
Cheers entrepreneurs and business owners. You got this!