Scaling up in a Lockdown
Against a backdrop of economic collapse for businesses around the world and personal anxiety for many leaders, it’s encouraging to see that not every business is quite so challenged. If you are fortunate enough to be in the tech industry, pharmaceuticals or the food sector for example, you may have enjoyed growth this year.
After the initial shock in March to my own business as a practising management consultant and keynote speaker, my speaking business collapsed. No surprise there, as conferences were cancelled all over the world. So I spent a few months wearing the green jersey and giving free webinars to various trade bodies.
I’m encouraged however by the recent swing to virtual events, that kicked off in September. And thankfully I’ve also been Zooming my way around boardrooms in all time zones, facilitating strategy workshops and culture refresh programmes.
I say all of this with absolutely no hint of arrogance, more so with great appreciation for how my clients have remained resilient and positive throughout the pandemic. And I know that they and I have great sympathy for those less fortunate. But more importantly, I also want to show that things are changing on the ground. That’s even before the vaccines were announced and the Dow Jones index broke through the 30,000 barrier recently for the first time ever.
One such Irish company that has enjoyed great growth this year is Revive Active. Founded by Daithi O’Connor in 2011, it now employs almost 40 people between its two sites in Galway and Mullingar. With a range of scientifically formulated health supplements that are made in Ireland, Daithi’s pioneering approach has driven the company’s growth. He has built a team of experts in science, medicine, nutrition, manufacturing, logistics, sales, marketing and research and development.
Its range of super supplements are exported throughout the world to over 48 different countries, supporting optimum health in brain, skin, joint and energy and immune care. And they really work. I was amazed to discover that Nigeria is an important market for the company and there are plans to enter other African territories and the US market in 2021.
When the first lockdown happened, the company was keen to support pharmacies, its primary customers. Knowing that pharmacies had to disallow browsing in store due to social distancing, the company decided to significantly increase its advertising spend in April. The impact was amazing, and pharmacies are seeing Revive Active products being requested at the table at the door. I’ve no doubt that the success was also helped by consumers’ enhanced focus on health, wellbeing, the environment and buying Irish.
On the back of that success, the management team and I Zoomed together over a few days. We built a strategic plan to take the business to the next level. Here are some of the key questions we asked that should inspire you too, when considering how to scale up your business.
Tips for scaling up in tough times
What is the right organisation structure that will ensure there is no ambiguity about who does what? Is your culture clearly defined and understood by all? How effective are your communications? How engaged and committed are your employees to being highly productivity and to your brand? If not, why not? Do you take sufficient care of their wellbeing, particularly with home-working?
Does your product range match changes in the marketplace? When did you last audit your price architecture? Are your points of difference clear and sufficient? What can you say you ‘own’ in your segment? What is your product pipeline like, what’s coming in and what are you delisting?
Under the heading of ‘place’, consider your inbound supply chain and your route to market. For the inbound, how satisfied are you that you can effectively manage lead times? What impact does Brexit have on your imports or raw materials? Have you engaged with Intertrade Ireland to better understand the implications caused by Brexit? What role does digital have in your outbound route ton market? What new markets should you consider? What research have you done to justify your decisions?
Think about what your brand stands for and the kind of messaging you employ? Is it consistent at all customer touch-points with your brand values? Do you have a marketing strategy with appropriate budget allocation? Do you balance your budget and approach to marketing beyond just social media?
5. Internal Controls
Do you have a risk register that documents and scores all risks, using the headings above? Is your business well-managed from an accounting, IT and reporting perspective? Are you resourced sufficiently with adequate funds to support your plans? If not, how can you build a case to get some of the trillion euros being made available from EU funds?
These headings represent some of the questions that you should ask when building your strategy. But of course, you’ll notice that they are all internal questions. You should also consider all the external factors that might have an impact on your business, such as customer dynamics and changes, technological advances, currency fluctuations and Brexit.
There is a temptation for some to react to stress in a knee-jerk fashion. Subsequently it might be tempting to abandon the basic principles of what made you a success before the downturn. Here I’m referring to your brand dna and your culture. For example, Brown Thomas didn’t suddenly start to sell merchandise more appropriate to Penneys. Nor did Revive Active suddenly abandon its customer-centric culture and not care about its core customers, the pharmacies. So stay focused on who you are.