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Leadership & Strategy


Three successful coronavirus-led business pivots

Business pivotsWith continuity a thing of the past, business pivots are something leaders everywhere will need to be thinking of. We look at how three shifts have produced quick and effective results.

Their efforts demonstrate how simple but well thought through changes can help businesses regain control, protect revenues and keep staff engaged in what is going on.

We’ve also brought together what we think are the four key lessons that can help shape your business pivots.

Case study one: Dunsters Farm – Tom Mathew and Hannah Barlow

Dunsters Farm is a food service based in Bury, founded in 1963. Some 70 per cent of customers used to be in education, with the rest made up of hospitals, restaurants and cafes. Coronavirus led to 95 per cent of its business drying up.

In response, Tom and Hannah, the brother and sister team now at the helm of Dunsters Farm, moved into business-to-consumer (B2C) sales and immediately started building a new website for their own online shop. They wanted to grow into the home delivery space and had been thinking about this, but with the business growing in current markets it was hard to find the time.

It was demand from the company’s own staff that gave Tom and Hannah the encouragement to press go, with the website now up, running and taking orders.

Results so far:

  • Achieved initial target of £10,000 B2C sales a week, now aiming for £20,000 inside next month
  • Looking at manageable growth as this is something that needs to be future proofed
  • Home delivery very different from trade, so need to get that right and not risk reputation damage through bad delivery of new service
  • Actively partnering with local small suppliers to expand range for home-based customers – bakery in Stockport, pie and cake maker in Bolton, dairy base in Manchester
  • Engagement with media has helped drive initial demand
  • Opportunity now to do marketing push and fill void left by big retailers which are not advertising because each are already struggling with demand
  • Doing all of this against backdrop of home delivery not being a popular option outside of big cities like London
  • Expecting impact of coronavirus to drive much more demand for home delivery in the future as people see it as easy option to have to do big supermarket shop in person

Want to hear more? Listen to Tom Mathew describe how technology is playing a key role in business improvement.

Case study two: Flower & White – Brian and Leanne Crowther

Flower & White is a food production production business based in Telford which specialises in handcrafted meringues. Husband and wife team Brian and Leanne have spent ten years building the business and growing rapidly, with a recent factory move meaning they now operate out of a 13,000 square foot factory with 25-30 employees.

The two have so far been able to keep the factory open, but found they are having to make lots of decisions very quickly. Key focuses have been on keeping the staff well and healthy, but also keeping production going.

The business knew it needed to reduce its exposure to gifting market. Thinking creatively, and reacting to market trends, Flower & White teamed up with a local supplier to create direct-to-consumer (D2C) home baking kits – recognising this could be an area of growth. Brian and Leanne also brought in a new social media company to help drive online sales and help with cash flow.

Results so far:

  • Sales mix is now 90 per cent baking to ten per cent meringues
  • The business has launched nine brand-new products with a yeast offering arriving soon
  • Products are already on their way to the US
  • Have hand-filled so far over 35,000 units
  • Completed five QVC shows and have others booked over next few weeks
  • Facebook followers have increased by 18 per cent and Instagram by 22 per cent
  • Online orders are up 800 per cent
  • Haven’t furloughed any front line staff and are actively recruiting
  • Taken on three new wholesalers for longer-term opportunities

Want to hear more? Watch how Brian Crowther has adopted a small improvements can lead to big gains approach.

Case study three: Cube Video – James Hakesley

Cube Video is a Maidenhead-based animation agency specialising in creating content for business and brands. It previously did a lot of physical shoots at offices, on location or at events, but has now had to adapt. Shifts include utilising previously-shot content in new ways, giving guidance and training on how to film at home, and promoting additional animation capabilities.

The business has also been doing little things like activating business through its existing old newsletter database. Additionally, James is using some free time now to focus on the business and plan future pieces of work so they can come out of this fast, “like turning a switch back on”.

Results so far:

  • Service is now 90 per cent animation and video editing
  • Business has launched four new product offerings since lockdown which have all be taken up by clients
  • Has implemented a new social strategy that has amassed over 16,000 views on LinkedIn content in the past few weeks, with an increase of 99 per cent on impressions
  • Become a confirmed COVID-19 Crown Commerical supplier, leading to project with the local council for a food bank initiative

Want to hear more? James Hakesley explained how his business pivots have been rolled out.

Business pivots – What are the lessons for how to do this?

Lesson one – The opportunities are in front of you, they’re not magic

  • Listening to customers and seeing spikes – can be product types, channel types or customer types
  • Look at yourself – look at your existing assets (your strengths and capabilities) rather than your existing products and services

Lesson two – Act first, plan second 

  • Go online without fear of your IP protection
  • Try what you’ve always thought of
  • Partner for speed and to de-risk

Lesson three – Activate the whole organisation, don’t waste the crisis

  • Bring everyone along – let them know what’s going on, don’t hide it
  • Ask employees for answers – they see opportunities you don’t and will be excited to step up
  • Technology and data – CRM system, online collaboration, management information

Lesson four – Leaders step up, this is your time

  • Crises require huge concentration in leadership decisions – people, customers, operations, financials all within days
  • Pivots especially need decisiveness – your gut knows it, but you need to jump in first
  • There’s help – connect you to peers or mentors

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