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Adjusting to the new normal by pivoting

In changing times, you have to adapt to the new normal in order to survive. Your Startup Guru

Pivoting in Business

I just got off a call with a client to discuss a brilliant pivot for the business he purchased using a business plan I created for him last year.  The pivot was an adaptation to the new normal and to mitigate the losses from the delayed renovation and opening caused by COVID-19.  A pivot usually occurs when a company makes a major change to their business after determining that their product/service isn’t meeting the needs of their intended market.

How to Pivot

This call reminded me of some other recent examples of businesses changing their operations to survive and sometimes thrive in the COVID-19 economy:

  • You might have heard of the now-famous Goat-2-Meeting.  That is the creation of Sweet Farm Foundation, a non-profit animal sanctuary in Northern California that is offering videos of their animals to be used for Zoom meeting backgrounds.  Due to the popularity of their service, sales are slightly higher than this time last year.
  • Lumen Couture makes wearables, which are fashion items that embed electronics and technology into stuff you can wear.  They design fancy, red-carpet-type gowns that shimmer and sparkle when you’re walking for very high-end events and ceremonies.  Because events and ceremonies are now on hold, they shifted most of their business to making masks, which people do want now. They designed a black mask that has a screen across the front almost like a scoreboard, saying things like, “six feet away.”
  • Golem Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Turin, Italy started free deliveries by bicycle in Turin in response to a shutdown order in March and began offering curated selections of books – themes like revolution, obscure authors you’ll love, indie books.  Customers loved the selections so much they started shipping orders all over Italy.  Normally Golem sells about $7,000 worth of books per month but in April, they sold almost $20,000 worth of books; it was actually their best month ever.

In times of crisis, coming up with a profit or even surpassing last year’s sales is ideal but anything to mitigate the cash hemorrhage is fine.  To pivot, for example, a business might have to change its revenue model which means potentially canceling contracts with existing vendors.  This is one of many crucial decisions that the business has to make because once the pandemic passes and the current new normal makes way for the new-new normal, it may be difficult to get supplies in time and at the original pricing.

Each business is different and solutions are not one-size-fits-all.  Contact us and let’s figure out what the best steps your business should take to adapt to the new normal.

Adaptability is the most powerful trait

You have probably noticed the deluge of advertising that is targeted to the new reality of being at home. This is obviously a response to the global pandemic we are all being affected by. The following is a breakdown of what is happening and how your business can harness the post powerful trait: adaptability.

Adapt Through Marketing Strategy Marketing

Aired prior to the COVID-19 crisis but replayed recently Campbell’s realized that people are stockpiling canned food. Set to a wholesome and nostalgic soundtrack without pandering to panic buying, they capitalized on an opportunity to remind customers of a classic pairing. On a side note, the music choice was oddly relevant — Thank You For Being a Friend was the theme song to the ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls and the elderly are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Also, more people are telecommuting and are realizing their home computers might not be suitable for work so Dell aired a commercial for one of their newest laptops. Peloton, home office chairs, etc. are all advertising the benefits of being healthy and productive at home. Also, mental health app Talkspace, Delta Airlines offering free flights for medical volunteers, online education, bidets, and more are using this opportunity to advertise their products and services.

Adapt by Seizing the Opportunity

Adaptability Charles Darwin - Your Startup Guru
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

When disruptions happen, it is important to consider alternatives in order to adapt to the new environment. I have advised a new restaurant client to pivot their business model from a brick and mortar location to a commercial kitchen or food truck and adjusted their ad hoc financial projection model to reflect the pivot. Of course, depending on the stage of a business pivoting to a commercial kitchen or truck is not an option; which is why I always provide tailored consultations to each client.

Many people have a lot of downtime now with not having to go into work. It is a good time to take a break from watching the news and start mapping out the idea that you’ve been mulling. Who is your target market? Where will you be located? What are your startup costs? These are all questions you should know the answers to or be actively seeking if you are serious about taking the next step. If you do not know the answers or want a second opinion on, I always provide free consultation so send me an email. Afterwards, those pushup challenges on social media are also a good healthy distraction too from all the dire news.

These are better practices than gouging prices like that hand sanitizer guy.

sanitizer price gouging guy

A great episode from a great podcast

Peloton - Your Startup Guru

NPR’s How I Built This is a fantastic podcast that brings the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies. How I Built This interviews innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists about the movements they built.

Peloton co-founder:  John Foley

In this episode, they interview John Foley, one of the co-founders of Peloton; the fitness and media company that you’ve probably seen commercials for.

In the interview, they greatly undervalued John Foley’s network and experience but nonetheless, this episode touched on several relevant topics my clients often face.  I picked this episode because it was a little more in-depth and enlightening than other episodes in that Foley he talks about:

  • having the discussion with this wife about moving in with her parents if the company fails,
  • how everyone is similarly able including Harvard MBAs,
  • the CEO being the janitor when starting out; something I discussed in a previous post about bootstrapping
  • how VCs are not very adventurous,
  • how Peloton is only recently profitable after 7 years

There are also great questions asked by interviewer that touches on market trends such as arcades no longer thriving due to user experience-to-price dynamics (i.e. video game consoles vs arcades due to quality of experience), penetration/awareness strategy which led to their distribution model given that malls are making an industry correction, and lastly the trademark question: “How much of this was because of your intelligence and hard work, and how much of this was just luck?”

FYI, I always discuss market and industry trends, launch and penetration strategy, as well as bootstrapping in all my business plans.

The entire podcast can be heard here

It’s not too late

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According to data from the Census Bureau and IRS the average age of successful business founders is 42; so the 20 year old entrepreneur is a true rarity.

The team looked at data around the 2.7 million people who founded businesses between 2007-14 and went on to hire at least one employee. Along with average entrepreneur age, they also learned those new ventures with the highest growth had an average founder age of 45.

The researchers broke out the data into high-tech employment, VC-backed firms, and patenting firms. Across the entire United States, the average founder ages were 43, 42, and 45, respectively for those divisions.

Part of this reason is because experience, social capital, skill sets, etc. play a large factor in the success of a business.  So even if you’re over 40, roughly 50% of successful entrepreneurs are above that age.

Read the complete article here.

True Religion files for bankruptcy

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High-priced denim jeans maker True Religion has filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it would be closing at least 27 stores.  (BOB CHAMBERLIN / TNS)

Fast fashion’s continued domination in addition to the popularity of yoga pants/leggings has helped finish a 15 year run.

Consumer purchasing habits have changed due to the great recession.  However as consumer spending has increased with the improved economy, tastes have changed.

But that growth has reversed in recent years. Sales of super premium jeans — brands like 7 For All Mankind, True Religion, Joe’s Jeans and Hudson — fell 8 per cent last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Overall, jeans sales grew slightly in 2016 after two years of declines, as Americans traded down to lower-priced brands like Levi’s, H&M and Forever 21.

Instead, buys are increasingly filling their closets with yoga pants and leggings, which they’re wearing not just to the gym, but also to run errands and meet up with friends. True Religion’s $319 skinny jeans have been replaced by Lululemon’s $98 yoga pants.

Read the full article here.

Last year, surf brand Quiksilver has faced a similar fate and I laid out a strategy that it could use to save its brand.

On a related note yoga brand Lululemon is selling board shorts (in the ad shown below) to expand their product categories to meet the ever-changing demands of their market.  Food for thought.

luluad

Festivals, Farmer’s Markets, Conventions, oh my!

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Ultra Music Festival – Miami, Florida

It’s summer and festival season is here.  Events are big business with over 87 million people attending trade shows, conventions, & conferences; while 32 million people attend music festival.  Some annual industry and market stats:

  • Trade shows, conventions, conferences
    • Number: 284,600 annually
      • There are 248 convention centers in the US with a total of 56.29M prime exhibit space.
      • The majority of conventions (21%) have 1,000 – 2,499 attendees
    • Participants: 87,728,000
      • Average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing trade show exhibits
      • 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority
  • Music festivals, fairs, and other festivals
    • Number: 1,413 annually. Music festivals alone total over 800 annually
    • Attendees: Over 102 million people annually. 32 million people go to at least one music festival annually.
      • Attendees spend on average, $207 a year on live music events and digital music/streaming
      • 1/3 of all festival fans go to more than one festival per year
  • Farmers’ Markets
    • Number: +8,400 markets that convene regularly
    • Attendees: 310,800,000
      • Farmers’ market shoppers spend a mean dollars/week was $25.38
      • Shopper visit an average of 6.12 times/month

What It Means To You

Events are targeted.  So attendees are in your market, many in your target market.  Renting a booth, depending on the event, can be fairly inexpensive.  This is an economical means of raising awareness for your product/service for the following reasons:

  1. You are not locked into a commercial lease contract
  2. Can test the viability of your product/service
  3. Get targeted market feedback

Some of what you may need depending on the event:

  • Mobile merchant services such as Square
  • Email collection method
  • Banners and booth appeal
  • Ready-for-market product/service
    • Or compelling marketing materials (videos, images, samples) of your product/service.

Read more about festivals and marketing.

Contact me and let’s see what strategy works best for your business.

The importance of niche-ing

Question:  How should new products/services be created?

A)  Make a novel untested product/service then find customers for the product/service?

Or

B)  Find a group of customers, find one of that group’s unmet need, then create a product/service to address than unmet need?

Answer:  B

Explanation:  The development process of the product/service will take time regardless of choice A or B.  However, with choice B, the likelihood of having to rework the product/service to make it more closely meet the needs of the target market is lower.  Also, with choice B, you have a better idea of the size of the target market.  Having a market large enough to grow your business is very important.  More on that below.

A great example of choice B is Girls Auto Clinic.  Girls Auto Clinic is a brilliant combination of female-focused auto repair shop and salon.

Girls Auto Clinic - Your Startup Guru

Founder Patrice Banks felt what many of us feel when car issues come up:

“I felt like an auto-airhead. I hated all my experiences going in for an oil change, being upsold all the time for an air filter,’ she said. “Any time a dashboard light came on, I panicked.” – Patrice Banks, Girls Auto Clinic Founder

Of course many people come up with business ideas like how Patrice did:  through personal experience.  However, where most people fail to consider is that their own experience might be too niche.  In other words, the market might be too small.  How do you know if your market is too niche?  Market research.  Market research is a process of analyzing factors such as demographics, purchasing habits, direct and indirect competitors, macro and microeconomics, and other elements.  As much art as science, thorough market research is a critical step before moving forward with any concept.

Market research is one of the many services Your Startup Guru offers at the most competitive prices in the industry.  Contact me and let’s find your niche for your new business.

Market adjustment in the retail space

According to a new Credit Suisse report, up to 25% of U.S. shopping malls may close in the next five years.

newsouthchinamall-downemptyhall

What are the reasons?  Of course Amazon and online shopping is a major reason.  However, another factor is mall overexpansion.  Currently there around 1,200 malls in the US.  Between 1970 and 2015, the number malls grew more than twice as fast as the population.  As such, it is predicted that within the next 10 years, that number will decline to 900.

Of course brick-and-mortar retail stores will never completely disappear because of the needs listed above and because of the fact that humans are social by nature.  Just the type and make-up of retail stores will change.  Possibly pop-up stores (a strategy utilized with great effect by Halloween stores) will become more common?

Another considerationmacys_dep_store

What to do with vacant buildings?  That’s a lot of land that could be used for other use.  Maybe mall owners will lower their rental rates.  In some areas of Manhattan, retail rents have declined 10-15%.

More housing? Closures from major chains like Macy’s and J.C. Penney are pouring up to 37 million square feet of space back into the market.  That could reduce some housing costs.  Although, generally more expensive housing markets have greater discretionary spending which is often used for shopping.  Also, the time and cost to demolish existing structures, rezone, and rebuild into residential properties along with its infrastructural linkages is not insignificant.

Some mall owners have indicated that vacant properties will be renovated and updated in efforts to attract new tenants and raise rental rates.

What to do?mindmap-2123973_640

Who knows that the future will bring but keep in mind that juggernauts like Walmart, Macy’s, and Sears are affected so starting a service or online store that doesn’t compete with what Amazon sells is a safer option.  Brand your own product (e.g. Bonobo, Dollar Shave Club), and controlling your own distribution is another option (of course be aware of knock-offs).  B2B businesses (e.g. no one buys industrial components at malls) are insulated from mall closures.

Services such as dentistry, restaurants, car mechanics, large difficult-to-ship products such as mattresses, etc. will remain (so far) an insulated industry.

Analyses such as what I have done above is a small and cursory part of the industry/market analysis and strategy consulting services I provide to clients.

The Hard Thing About Being The Boss

I was chatting with my buddy who is the VP of Product at MomentFeed, an online customer experience management platform for multi-location brands, and we talked about The Hard Thing About Hard Things a book by mega-investor and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz.

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Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  There are many very tough decisions with no “right” answer.  As such, I tell a lot of my clients that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.  To the many up-sides, there are many down-sides that unless entrepreneurship is a calling, can be too much.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems business schools don’t cover.

His advice is grounded in anecdotes from his own hard-earned rise—from cofounding the early cloud service provider Loudcloud to building the phenomenally successful Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, both with fellow tech superstar Marc Andreessen (inventor of Mosaic, the Internet’s first popular Web browser). This is no polished victory lap; he analyzes issues with no easy answers through his trials, including demoting (or firing) a loyal friend;
whether you should incorporate titles and promotions, and how to handle them;
if it’s OK to hire people from your friend’s company;
how to manage your own psychology, while the whole company is relying on you;
what to do when smart people are bad employees;
why Andreessen Horowitz prefers founder CEOs, and how to become one;
whether you should sell your company, and how to do it.
Filled with Horowitz’s trademark humor and straight talk, and drawing from his personal and often humbling experiences, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures.

An eye-opening, sobering, and inspiring read.  Recommended for anyone interested in business.

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