Across the globe, businesses large and small are struggling just to survive. But savvy ones are using the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic to reinvent themselves — not just to stay viable now, but to thrive into the future.
Three Bpeace Fast Runner businesses in Central America exemplify this type of intrepid rethinking.
1. Flip your business model.
When Walmart halted all their orders in a matter of days, Jose Valladares and Yayun Chung, owners of Best Melamine — a Guatemalan manufacturer of artistic and durable tableware for individuals, restaurants and hotels — swiftly transformed their traditional sales and distribution model to one fueled by neighborhood networks.
With a warehouse full of products and no buyer, Jose and Yayun turned to two resources: technology and community. Using Whatsapp Business, they developed an e-commerce marketplace, product catalogs and other online advertising to facilitate direct customer purchases and boost visibility.
Best Melamine then hired individuals across Guatemala who had recently lost their jobs due to national stay-at-home orders as their new sales representatives, including many women entrepreneurs. Using Whatsapp, one of the country’s most popular communication platforms, the new employees built on their existing networks to sell the company’s unique and continuously redesigned tableware.
By transforming their entire business model from B2B to B2C, Jose and Yayun were able to turn adversity into an opportunity to create a more engaging and inclusive business while diversifying their customer base.
Do think creatively about how to reach your end customers.
Don’t underestimate the resources you have at your disposal.
2. Be bold.
In February 2020, Tuco & Tico’s two grab-and-go pastry shops were not making a profit. Owner Renata Moreno was considering shutting them down to focus on her main source of revenue: baking artisanal bread for high-end restaurants.
When El Salvador ordered all restaurants to close and bread was selling out at the grocery stores, Renata boldly led her staff into new territory. They piloted selling bread from Renata’s house, and in just a week’s time, sales were booming. The new exposure also propelled her pastry sales, which grew from three to 30 cakes a day as customers sought out affordable moments of joy and celebration.
Renata is proud to have translated this success into new jobs. Tuco & Tico has since hired a production manager to oversee new products, a procurement specialist to liaise with suppliers, a customer service agent to take orders, a social media specialist, and more cleaning staff. The company has transformed from a small family business to a well-structured enterprise with a strong foundation for continued growth.
Do engage your employees when making bold decisions, as they are among your best assets.
Don’t fear risk even when the future is uncertain.
3. See around corners.
That’s what owner Omar Egan did for his business, Market Beat — a retail marketing services and technology solutions company in El Salvador — and for his clients.
When 80% of his clients were forced to shut down, Omar and his team brainstormed what products and behavioral changes clients would need in order to reopen while allowing people to distance from each other. In this daunting context, how could Market Beat help make businesses and communities safer and more customer friendly?
The results include new technology that counts the number of customers in a shopping mall to help stores track against capacity limits, and equips shoppers with information to help them feel more confident entering stores. Market Beat is also helping restaurants eliminate menus, a potential contamination point, and replace them with smart menu displays and mobile-based ordering systems for in-person diners.
Analyzing his own business, Omar realized how many expenses could be cut through remote working and more efficient and effective client engagement. With cost reductions and some ingenuity, Market Beat was able to retain all its employees and create timely and intelligent products for clients.
Do develop strategies to grow your business for today and tomorrow.
Don’t forget to consider how changes and challenges will impact each of your stakeholders.
By seizing this moment of disruption to recalibrate, you can reinvent your business to be stronger, more efficient and more resilient for the future.