Pivoting during a pandemic

Times are a’ changing in this new decade.  We were not even 2 months into 2020 when Covid-19 hit our shores. Times change, technologies change, markets change and in the case of 2020, diseases can also impact change. To survive, the best leaders realize that their businesses must change as well.

As we settle into our new normal of social distancing, working from home or not working, young kids having zoom meetings with their friends and absolutely no sports, I am reminded of my mom’s life.

“The factory is closing”, I heard my mom whisper into the phone. I was old enough to understand what that meant, but still too young to truly comprehend the magnitude of what the factory closing meant for us. My mom had worked at the pajama factory (town population 5k), sewing on the production line, for several years throughout the 1970s. Then around 1979, when the company sent their operations out of the country, my mom lost her job. It was at this point in her life, with only a high school diploma and a young child still at home (me) that she was forced to decide what came next. What she did decide was life changing, to say the least.

With nothing to lose, and all the pressure to support herself and me, mom took a chance. In her eyes she had no other options, because all she knew how to do really was sew. But, she did have a small dream of being a nurse. She received a grant from the state and applied to vocational school to become an LPN nurse in 1980. She would go on to work as a nurse for the next 20 years making a better life for us and certainly changing the direction of both her life and mine.

“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

Pivoting in life or business is not always a voluntary option, especially in 2020.

three tips for prospective BUSINESS pivoters.

  • Ask yourself if you really need to pivot. In a crisis we often respond to things more abruptly than if we had time to consider things more thoroughly. It may seem like everyone’s pivoting, but that doesn’t mean you need to. Give yourself a sanity check first.
  • Start with the basics. You may be able to change your business format from offline to online, but if you can no longer physically do what you were doing before, be more radical with your thinking. Turn the ice cream van into an organic fruit and veg van, or open up a paid membership site for your clients that you can’t see in person,. Nine times out of 10, when people think they can’t pivot, they can.
  • Think ahead, not just about the here and now. You need to do all you can to drive revenue today, but you also need to be building the business you want to be running in six months’ time.
  • What is a public need that you can fulfill.

TIPS FOR STRATEGIZING YOUR LIFE PIVOT (AND YES BUSINESS)

  • Pivoting is a mindset – life is always changing, but if you fight it every single time then life will become a never ending battle. Life is all about change and change does not have to be bad. Step outside of your comfort zone and embrace change. Because wouldn’t you rather pivot on your own terms?!
  • Decide to STOP being unhappy – happiness is a much better feeling than dread every single day.
  • Talk to people to get more information and feedback, but ultimately it is your decision and does it make you happy and it is pushing you into a better situation
  • Start looking for new opportunities – keep sending out new job applications, networking with more and more people in the right industries or jobs. Once your momentum builds, you’re going to get into the groove.
  • Try & fail – Each interview that doesn’t work out, each product or service design with glitches, all of these get you to your ultimate goal. And with a ton of knowledge when you get there.
  • Count your wins & honor the fails – Don’t be focused on the end result or you will lose momentum, instead celebrate your daily wins and write them down so you can see the progress and feel like Rocky Balboa! Also write down the fails and what your learned from each.
  • Be strategic – think outside of the box and focus your time on what will get you to the finish line. Don’t let others propel you off course.
  • Take chances on the unknown – embrace uncertainty and risk, but also keep in mind they are completely separate ideas. Some of the best things in life come with risk and taking chances. Remember “uncertainty is also a sense of possibilities”!

Just this week, I was reading updates on how some industries were getting creative in their inspiring and essential pivots.

RESTAURANTS AND DISTILLERIES

Some restaurants are getting creative in their takeout and delivery offerings, adding special items that function as meal kits for guests to prepare at home.

Monument Charlestown has sought creative ways to package its meals to go. It’s offered Make Your Own Pizza Kit, an EBTV (which includes everything but the vodka) take-home Bloody Mary kit, and a taco-making kit Monument calls “Takeout Taco Bell Tuesday.”

Monument is also embracing the opportunity to offer these special items in a way that directly supports their employees. For example, Monument recently hosted a “Social Media Silent Auction” offering diners an opportunity to win an exclusive takeout Taco Tuesday experience for four guests — including a margarita and taco tasting menu. Bidding started at $250, and all proceeds went directly to the Monument staff relief fund. 

Other restaurants are tapping into the more fundamental needs of their communities. For example, Inver Grove Brewing is offering take-and-bake pizzas and fried fish, along with “crowlers” of craft beer to go. The Minnesota restaurant and brewery never previously offered online ordering or even takeout, but they quickly pivoted to introduce both on April 1.

Meanwhile, Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles developed an “emergency taco kit,” which includes everything customers need for a taco night, along with the biggest incentive of all: four rolls of toilet paper.

Craft distilleries nationwide have responded to the pandemic by pivoting away spirits and toward another product: Hand sanitizer, which is sorely needed by health organizations on the front lines of the virus. Eight Oaks Distillery in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, was one of the first craft distilleries to pivot its manufacturing process from spirits to sanitizer. Owner Chad Butters was appalled at the hoarding that characterized the early days of the pandemic. He saw how people hoarding sanitizer and cleaning products was crippling nursing homes and community health organizations in his area. 

“This isn’t a time for panic or chaos,” Butters told CNN. “But it is a time of a sense of urgency and purpose, and… that’s what’s happening in the community right now.”

Recently, Anheuser-Busch jumped on the sanitizer wagon as well. “We live in these communities. We know these people. We’re watching them suffer, and we have the ability to help,” said Brad Plummer, a spokesman for the American Distilling Institute and editor-in-chief of Distiller Magazine, to the NY Times. 

It’s definitely not business as usual for any restaurant these days. But with a little creativity and adaptability, restaurants and food businesses are showing how they’re fighting to make it to the other side of this crisis.

Though it feels like nothing is how it was two months ago, one thing hasn’t changed: Restaurants are still showing up and making a difference in the communities they serve.