Let’s Talk: Pivoting and adapting your business due to coronavirus


Coronavirus business pivoting: Marko Njarvo of FlexCareers, Aaron Smith of KX Pilates and Elisa Marie Dumas of Investible (from left to right)

Marko Njarvo of FlexCareers, Aaron Smith of KX Pilates and Elisa Marie Dumas of Investible (from left to right)

Featured | Let's Talk

By Loren Webb

In the midst of the coronavirus lockdown in Australia, we wanted to ask small businesses first-hand how they are pivoting and adapting in the circumstances. 

With so many businesses forced to close in a matter of days, it’s been a challenging time to survive. On the other hand, some businesses are having to survive through a hugely increased demand. Both situations are requiring rapid adaption and agility. 

With today’s Let’s Talk discussion, we hope to provide small business owners and business leaders with inspiration and hope in this time of crisis. Commentators today are answering our question of “How has your business adapted or pivoted since the coronavirus outbreak?” They give plenty of examples of creativity and flexibility, with most new ways of working launched in a matter of days.

This discussion also provides the much-needed reassurance that we are all in this together globally. By sharing ideas, we can learn together and help one another.


Joanne Painter, Managing Director, Icon Agency

Adapting to the COVID-19 Crisis Economy is all about being agile, flexible and adaptable.

To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on revenue, we’ve looked at where opportunities will exist in the quarantine economy and focused our efforts there. Digital is in high demand, so we’ve shifted our focus to how we can apply our digital capabilities and services to help clients navigate the new market landscape.

We’ve modified our Google Ads, promoted LinkedIn campaigns and SEO efforts to focus on crisis communications, digital marketing and website support; and launched a targeted reputation management website.

Lastly, we’ve doubled down on partnerships, collaborations and CSR in the firm belief that by helping other businesses survive, we increase our own survival chances. From donating time to help a local pub publicise its new e-commerce service (built for free by our digital guys in their own time), to sharing staff resources with other agencies, we’re stronger if we work together.

Tim West, CEO of 12RND Fitness

Tim West, 12Rnd Fitness

The Australian government’s mandated social distancing, and now forced closures, has naturally impacted our franchisees quite significantly, however as a Franchisor, we are doing all that we can to soften this impact and continue supporting them until we can resume business as normal.

Throughout this time, our entire head office team has been putting together assets, resources and guidance to develop a digital counterpart to our existing brick and mortar model. As of this week, we have now launched an “At Home Training Pack” including daily workout programs, a mobile training app, an eBook, and instructions for our franchisees to provide members with online workout walk-throughs, coaching and support via video conferencing and social media.

We have been quite fortunate through these challenging times that as a franchise network we have cultivated such extreme advocacy and loyalty within our club community that members have even offered to continue paying despite the circumstances. However, with this At Home pack, our franchisees can continue fulfilling their member’s needs as paying customers, and even continue selling memberships with this online offering until clubs can re-open.

Elisa Marie Dumas, Global Head of Programs & Partnerships, Investible

Like many businesses, we’ve had to toss a few plans and timelines out of the window, but this crisis has also brought new opportunities to light. We’ve encouraged founders to use this time to go through their budgets with a fine-toothed comb, develop more capable, scalable products, and validate potential new revenue streams, and what we’ve seen so far gives us confidence that strong businesses can emerge from this period of uncertainty.

While Investible has committed to continue investing at its usual rate, we’ve also accelerated efforts to scale our investor and founder events and the delivery of our business development programs, all of which have previously relied heavily on face-to-face interactions and relationship-building.

Many businesses may bide their time until they can resume their normal events and sales activities. And as we work with investors, founders and partners across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, we know just how important it is, under normal circumstances, to be on the ground, building relationships in person.

But this is also an opportunity to re-think your experiences for an increasingly digital world. It won’t be enough to try and transition a high-impact event into a webinar or Zoom call. We are working hard to ensure we can continue to deliver high-quality outcomes and impactful experiences, regardless of the environment or method of delivery so that we can maximise our impact and continue to grow.

Philipp Thurner, CEO & FounderNexl

Our solution helps lawyers stay connected virtually and provides firms with tools to simplify collaboration on international legal matters across borders. With many firms still relying heavily on ‘in person’ teams and events, our customers need our solution now more than ever, so it’s up to us to deliver.

We’ve quickly adapted our services and products and overhauled our entire marketing efforts to support those changes. We have also created an online COVID-19 Relief group for lawyers globally to share information on the quickly changing regulatory landscape. The group now has members from more than 100 countries.

With in-person networking events out of the question, we are now also offering webinars on how to run successful virtual networking events for legal networks and associations world-wide. By analysing the impact of COVID-19 on our industry, we have been able to assist lawyers and other legal professionals when and where they needed it.

This has resulted in significant growth for our business and positioned us to help thousands of lawyers around the world.

COVID-19 became personal for our team when one of our team members tested positive for the virus and needed to spend 14 days in strict self-isolation. As a founder, the experience reinforced the importance of culture and connections.

While culture has always been important to our business, we have increased our efforts to reach out and connect for work reasons as well as socially and it’s already improved the way we think and work. Now, instead of sending a message or email, our team picks up the phone, and I think that will have a positive effect on the business as a whole.

Ben Lucas, Director, Flow Athletic

It certainly has been an unprecedented change and not one I think anyone was expecting.

First and foremost, our team are like family, many have been with us since our doors opened 7 years ago and therefore doing everything we can to ensure we can keep as many staff as possible is the priority.

The first move was moving personal training to FaceTime or 1-on-1 outdoors. A client actually requested that and people got on board really quickly. It is a great way to ensure our PTs have work.

The second one was getting out classes online. We have decided to live stream our classes via Facebook live and the reason for this is so our trainers have classes to take, but also to do our best to keep our community connected. We have worked very hard on our community and for some clients it is a big aspect of their social life. Now more than ever I feel that Australians need to be supportive of each other so I hope this approach has helped.

We are also hosting a Flow After Dark event next Thursday 9/4 night at 7pm. We are selling tickets for $10 and our goal is to connect 10, 000 people from all around the world. All money will be going to the staff.

Aaron Smith, founder, KX Pilates

We are a boutique fitness brand offering high intensity Pilates workouts with reformer machines, Australia’s largest Pilates franchise. We have had to close all 67 studios across the country and quickly pivot in order to support our franchisees and keep the business going. We are providing free and premium access which includes at home workouts, training and education videos ($20 per week) through our app.

We’ve decided to rent out our proprietary machines, which will go through the studio owners to help them cover costs while the studios are closed. We’ll also offer these clients at-home training through our app. The mental wellbeing of our studio owners and trainers is paramount. We have an emotional coach on hand to conduct regular sessions and our business advisor has also posted training videos for our studio owners to help guide them through these uncertain times.

Mark Calabro, cofounder, HungryHungry

With cafes, restaurants and bars no longer open for in-venue dining and drinks, our ‘at the table’ ordering technology is currently not in operation. Likewise, in our other business Order Mate, our point of sale system technology only operates for in-venue ordering so we realised that we quickly needed to pivot.

We were already building online ordering platforms for some of our customers and suddenly the demand for this jumped dramatically. Our team has been working around the clock to reduce the time it takes to get a site live from two weeks to two hours and we have added additional functionality to the ordering system like number plate and car colour fields so venues can run orders out to cars to limit contact and the spread of disease

Anthony Welsh, Director of Popcar

Popcar recognises that we have a role to play in supporting locals and businesses in our community. That is why we have announced some changes to our plans for our current and potential customers. We have decided to waive membership fees for all existing, new and business customers, cutting our rates (hourly and daily) by 50% and reducing our sign-up fees to just $1.

We have hundreds of cars available for different usages and want to support Australians who have essential obligations and must travel but want to minimise or avoid physical contact during this time to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The small costs we are charging are to cover our expenses such as petrol, insurance premiums and cleaning fees so that we can continue to offer these services. To reflect the current environment, we have also increased the frequency of maintenance and enhanced our cleaning protocols for our vehicle fleet.

Ruwin Perera, Co-Founder at :Different

As a property management platform, the Government’s move to introduce social distancing measures, and specifically banning group inspections has meant we have had to pivot quickly. A lot of what we do relies on physical interactions — showing properties to potential tenants, giving tenants keys to their new homes, addressing maintenance requests; it’s mostly done in person. But to ensure the safety of our owners, tenants and prospective tenants, and to minimise disruption to these essential services, we’ve adjusted our approach.

For example, we have introduced 3D virtual inspections, allowing prospective tenants to conduct self guided tours from the comfort of their home. The experience mimics reality so it is like you’re physically there. You can explore basically every corner of a property. We’ve also moved to one-on-one inspections where needed.

We’re a tech company at heart so we’ve been able to pivot quickly to reduce potential impact on our property owners, tenants and internal team. We’re facing unprecedented times — for all business, it’s important to be proactive, act early and think ahead as things are changing by minute.

Laura Keily, Founder at Immediation 

COVID-19 has seen the legal industry move online. Traditionally, the industry has relied heavily on in-person communication to do their job but as strict regulations come into place, including the closure of courts across the country due to COVID-19, we’ve seen a dramatic shift to online via online dispute resolution platforms to keep the industry moving forward.

Legal experts are turning to online dispute resolution platforms that mimic real life mediations and hearings, to connect with clients and settle disputes effectively. This ensures that law firms and legal practitioners can continue their trade, and also ensures clients can still access justice in times of legal disruption.

Moving forward, perhaps COVID-19 will push our traditional legal industry to better adopt virtual legal technologies; ensuring justice and legal counsel is fully accessible to more people and businesses in the future.

Omar Sabré, Co-Founder & Creative Director, MAISON de SABRÉ

Omar Sabre - coronavirus pivot

As an ecommerce business, we are fortunate enough to still be able to accept orders via our dedicated online stores, even while our team works remotely to adhere to the latest government policies. Over the past couple of months, we have actually seen an increase in sales, which we attribute, in part, to people shifting their spending habits to online during lockdown and self-isolation. As a result, we’ve doubled down on localising our offerings and ensuring information on the way we continue to do business is as transparent as possible for our customers.

While this is undoubtedly a very difficult time for retailers around the world, our mission of encouraging our customers to make a positive mark on the world around them is continuing to inspire and uplift the people and businesses that need it most. Extensive planning in the early stages of this crisis has meant that, to date, we haven’t encountered any significant delays in processing orders for our customers. The ability of our business to be nimble and adapt to the changes as they come has proved vital during such a turbulent time.

Matt Codrington, Managing Director, Lenovo ANZ

At Lenovo, our main goal is to bring smarter technology to all – this is now more important than ever before, with COVID-19 causing unprecedented change for individuals and companies across all industries. We’re seeing an increased demand for technology solutions that can help to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Lenovo’s current priorities are the welfare and health of our workforce and helping those working to contain the virus. As a business, Lenovo is also emphasising support for our partners and customers on the coronavirus front line, and the team is rallying to come up with creative ways to help customers overcome the disruptions caused by the pandemic. We are reshuffling our resources and working together to provide support for organisations that have had to change their work practices or business models quickly. This includes specific actions like short term equipment access, advice on how to enable and mobilise employees that aren’t working from the office and expedited solutions to our customer workforces at their homes.

Flexibility, team work and an overall supportive environment that includes suppliers, partners, the industry at large and the Lenovo team have been key to successfully managing these challenging times. Additionally, we are continuing to keep our partners, customers and staff informed on ongoing business developments, to ensure we are working with them closely during this time – ongoing clear, consistent and concise communications are so important at this time.

Troy Mossley, Senior Associate, Sierra Legal

As a boutique M&A, corporate advisory and commercial law firm, we have had to completely reconsider our deal pipeline, the legal issues faced by our clients and the way in which we can continue to assist them.

A key part of this is continuing to have conversations with (and be a sounding board for) our clients, at no charge, to discuss their businesses and concerns, and the ways in which we can help each other through this period.  At the very least, we think this is just the right thing to do in these difficult times.

We also believe that continuing these conversations, regardless of whether any work will arise, will lead to new opportunities for us and our clients in the future.  We are also fortunate in that our ‘lean’ business model means that pre-CVOID-19 all of our lawyers primarily worked from home offices, so while we have not had to adapt the way we work, we have been able to quickly adjust to our clients’ circumstances by being very flexible in the way in which we charge for our legal services.

Richard Dicello, Head of Motors, Gumtree

In a fast-changing situation like the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, flexibility and continued support for each other are crucial. Australia’s automotive industry has been severely affected by the pandemic, which is why Gumtree Cars has decided to respond by announcing initiatives to immediately support Australian dealers.

Supporting dealer partners has always been a top priority for the business. As car dealerships across the country are currently facing unprecedented change, Gumtree Cars actioned additional measures to provide financial relief for its partners: We decided to waive all listing subscription fees for new and existing partners, remove overage charges for the month of April, providing dealers with immediate financial relief, as well as the opportunity to extend their dealership online to retain their visibility.

In this current time of change, what’s important for businesses is to find new ways to reach customers. As many dealers are pivoting their business models and fast-tracking digitalisation to accommodate new customer behaviour, Gumtree Cars has actioned additional support by providing data and insight on search behaviour, customer trends and best practice on listing stock online, to help its partners with the transition.

Brett Kelly, CEO Kelly+Partners Chartered Accountants and author of Investment Wisdom

Brett Kelly, adapting

At Kelly+Partners we look after more than seven and a half thousand private business owners across New South Wales and Victoria. These businesses have been profoundly impacted by the virus and the various government measures that have resulted in many businesses not being able to operate, or being able to operate only at reduced capacity. Specific steps we’ve taken to adapt our business to the crisis include:

  1. Remove all non-core costs
  2. Adjust the size of teams for expected revenue changes
  3. Increase free services to clients in need
  4. Increase marketing to our target markets
  5. Offer our services via digital channels

The impact of these changes has meant we have needed to become a stronger unit to get ourselves and our clients through this.

Nima Yassini, CEO, New Republique

As a digital consultancy focusing on UX and experimentation, our role for clients is about understanding customer behaviour and what motivates them to act and then helping them improve the online experience. Many of our clients have had to pause on their bricks and mortar retail so 100% of their focus has shifted to online. COVID has changed the way people are thinking and spending.

As a result our primary focus is less about experimentation and more on research as we help our clients better understand the rapidly changing behaviour of existing customers and potential new ones. Only with an in-depth approach to research can we help our customers understand this new age of consumerism and behaviour and help them quickly adapt their online offer.

Alison Lee, Head of Marketing, ipSCAPE

As a cloud communication technology provider, ipSCAPE was well prepared for COVID-19.

Our customer service and sales teams all use ipSCAPE to route calls, help customers over the phone and through web chat and email. ipSCAPE staff and our customers were able to seamlessly transition to a remote working environment and used ipSCAPE and our direct routing for Microsoft Teams to enable continuity of business communications.

This pandemic has impacted different industries, and we are experiencing a significant growth in interest in our cloud communication solutions especially from:

  • Unions who are seeing an increase in membership enquiries.
  • Retailers who are shifting from physical customer service to digital channels such as web chat and email and who want PCI payment solutions for orders over the phone.
  • Contact Centres who require enablement of remote working for their customer service and Sales teams.

ipSCAPE is proud to be an Australian technology company that is helping other businesses navigate through these times of unprecedented change.

 

Mark Buckley, Vice President, Australia and New Zealand, Genesys

As a cloud software company, we’re fortunate at Genesys because we can help customers adapt and pivot quickly so they can redefine the way they operate. Many businesses’ requirements have changed overnight, whether it’s moving all staff to remote working within hours or scaling down or redeploy teams. On the other end of the spectrum, several are experiencing massive surges in customer enquiries and need to expand rapidly.

One of our first priorities at Genesys has been to make it clear to customers we’re here to help them, regardless of which end of the spectrum they’re on. That’s why we’re giving businesses added flexibility in their use of our software. We’re enabling organisations to use our cloud solution for free so they can launch a remote contact centre in 48 hours, and we’re not charging fees for overages so they can manage unexpected bursts in customer service demand.

Marko Njarvo, FlexCareers

Marko - FlexCareers, on coronavirus pivots

As FlexCareers is a platform dedicated to promoting flexible jobs, return-to-work programs and future of work consultancy services, we are in the fortunate position of being able to offer our clients a variety of products for different economic cycles.

With the latest data indicating a drop of over 50 per cent in advertised vacancies in the second half of March, we’ve shifted our focus to assisting clients who’ve had to rapidly transition to remote working by helping train leaders to lead productive remote teams.

We are also helping with career transitions, as well as keeping workers who have been stood down connected to their place of employment at such a difficult time until it’s time for everyone to get back to business.

Alan Manly, CEO of Group Colleges Australia and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur

Alan Manly, pivoting your business

“Change is the only constant in life.” So declared Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, around 500 BCE. In 2020 CE these words ring loud and clear. Converting the lessons for an MBA business school for entrepreneurs from face to face lectures to on-line in a few weeks was a double challenge. Not only did we have to change and fast but we had to do so in front of our customers, being students plus the regulators, potential students and the ever watchful public. We have now been tested in real life as preachers of innovation and entrepreneurship. How did we rate? Time will tell, but early signs are encouraging.

David Pich, CEO of the Institute of Managers & Leaders ANZ and author of Leading Well

The impact of COVID-19 has seen our business adapt the delivery of our offering, and take sensible measures to ensure the wellbeing of our staff during this period. As the peak body for managers and leaders, IML ANZ has evolved to continue supporting the development of organisations and professionals, particularly as sound leadership skills are crucial to navigating these new business challenges. From March, our staff transitioned to working from home full time. All programs, masterclasses and networking events were moved to be delivered online, and we developed a new suite of virtual sessions aimed squarely at equipping people to manage the impact in their workplaces. Ultimately, our priority is to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers, and to support the country’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect the wellbeing of all Australians.

Arun Maharaj, CEO, HashChing

With the outbreak of COVID-19 there a number of ways in which our business has had to shift in order to push through these trying times. The first and obvious one being the transition to having all staff work from home. Luckily for us, this was a relatively uncomplicated process.

The second thing we’ve had to adapt to is the changing needs of our customers in how they utilise our platform. We’re working very hard to update existing tools as well as introduce new ones to allow mortgage brokers to be able to efficiently transition their businesses to a digital-led model. We’re helping our mortgage brokers effectively communicate with existing and potential customers whilst also putting in place the technology to ensure their actions remain completely compliant with relevant legislation.

David Blakers, Managing Director, APAC, InMoment

David Blakers, pivots in business

At InMoment we provide a mission critical role for many of the APAC regions leading brands – so the first thing we focussed on was business continuity. This meant pivoting to a 100% WFH model.

We needed to ensure our Experience Intelligence (XI) professionals could continue to provide real time customer and employee insights to help our clients drive staff engagement and customer advocacy as they adjust their business models.

The current priority for our clients is support – supporting customers with what they need and employees with step-changes like working from home. We’ve enabled managers to use employee feedback capabilities to get a sense of whether they feel enabled to help customers and even provide an aggregated view of team members impacted by COVID-19.

Showing customers and employees empathy and essential help will go a long way for businesses now and beyond the pandemic – as society returns to life without lockdowns.

Peter Di Prinzio, Inspirational speaker

Running a business that relies on human interaction and people attending our workshops and events means we have had to quickly adapt to the changes COVID-19 has brought upon us.

From an operational standpoint, we now run all of our team meetings online using video calls, we have daily check-ins, and I also send daily positive/inspirational emails to my employees keep up staff morale.

Being an events-based business, we have had to pivot our business strategy and leverage the technology around us by moving our community events online using platforms like Facebook live, Skype and webinars.


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