The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Continuing to pivot

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Continuing to pivot
Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)

This has been a year when familiar terms took on new meaning and significance. Examples – “community spread,” “flattening the curve,” “nonessential businesses” and “pivot.” Let’s explore pivoting.

Among the imperatives for businesses surviving and thriving through the challenges of the pandemic is pivoting to new approaches. Most have experienced a drastic change in their market. Customers no longer have needs, or might not want as much as before, and fear of infection limits their dealings. Supply chains have dried up. Consumer priorities have shifted, and some central events or celebrations are now deemed too risky.

There’s no template for pivoting because the circumstances differ by industry and approaches are unique for each business. The concept is to carefully consider all the direct and indirect conditions that have changed your market and determine whether it’s possible to adapt your tactics to the new environment.

There are physical aspects such as social distancing and capacity restrictions, but also challenging are the emotional considerations where customers become afraid of involvement with your product or service. Consumers also have pent up urges for luxury, if you can find safe ways for them to indulge.

There are several fundamental strategies businesses can follow to adapt or grow their company. One is to develop new products, services or concepts. Another is to refine the product or service delivery to a level that appeals to the new circumstances or to new customers. Technology can play a key role.

Perhaps you can partner with or outsource to another business, or team up to mitigate one another’s challenges. 

With shock and awe, COVID-19 unfolded in unpredictable ways, and we had no solutions on the shelf. Aside from the disease itself, coronavirus also precipitated reactions and conditions that took a toll on almost every person and every business.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel with new vaccines and treatments. Scientists are hopeful that we might be able to resume some of our prior approaches within months. We know, however, it won’t be like flipping the switch back to normal. Proceeding purposefully into 2021, it’s essential for businesses to anticipate the possible shock and awe coming out of COVID-19.

Even under the best scenarios, getting back will not be seamless. Restrictions will lessen and opportunities will broaden, but not everybody will be on the same timetable returning to old routines. Those who provide products and services will again have to recalibrate approaches – not doing it like we’re having to today, and not like we did it before. We will be entering an even newer new-normal.

Even while we grumbled, many have become accustomed to working from home and will find it stressful returning to the worksite. We’ve developed new patterns over the last nine months, and it will be interesting to see how we unwind those.

This offers opportunities – but also challenges – for businesses to develop new pivot strategies focused around the circumstance of returning to our earlier lifestyles. 

We are all in this together, and will be coming out of it together!

The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.