New Zealand’s Weird Business Future
Covid-19 has made it a whole lot weirder. Embrace it.
I never thought that New Zealand’s business future would get this weird when I wrote “New Zealand’s Weird Business Future’ as a prologue to 100% Kiwi Business.
In the first paragraph I imagined how we would self select the groups we wanted to join digitally. 18 months later and here we all are, witnessing collections of our friends and family and hobbies all through a Zoom lens.
More than that, we’ve participated and actively contributed to our groups via Zoom, via Microsoft Teams and any other remote work or remote social ‘room’. Covid-19 has proved to be a tech adoption accelerator for many business employees and we’ve watched it occur in real-time…live.
The challenge I asked to business owners in the first paragraph of 100% Kiwi Business is now more relevant than ever.
How weird would it be if what you sold was the norm in that group and was all they bought?
Because whatever level we end up in this Covid-19 world….we know that the world is working and socialising differently for a while. Some will never return out of choice, some will not have the choice.
Again from the book…. That change in how we arrange ourselves as a society is flowing through to how businesses address those group, and that is impacting our marketing, our manufacturing and everything else in between. You can fight to protect the old status quo (and ultimately lose) or engage in the most important kiwi business revolution of our time. We need more weird.
This isn’t a book promotion (you’ll find that here)… but it does use the foundation of the first chapter as a lens for dealing with Covid-19 over the next little while… or the next three years. I have a feeling it’ll fly by… but first let’s reminisce about the events and their impacts on Kiwi businesses over the last three weeks.
In the last three weeks
Few businesses were able to be as nimble and creative as they would have liked to have been. The rules were simple. You are an essential business or you aren’t. We all got used to our categorisation and if it was essential, you got to trade. If not, you got some forced thinking time to imagine your workplace and your customers when you got your chance to get back in the ring.
What I learned from those adapting in real time
I’ve interviewed over a dozen business owners since we went into lockdown and released these on A Kiwi Original podcast.
Those who got to keep working avoided the revenue carnage that closing doors has on a business. Those that stayed open have been in demand. Peter Cox at Harraways reported a 50% increase year on year demand for Harraways Rolled Oats products (listen to the full interview). That’s a business working at full capacity to keep up.
Food in demand…
…except food service
Simon Berry at Whitestone Cheese felt the same surge from supermarkets keeping up with customers emptying their shelves, however that demand only replaced the cliff drop of demand from food service for his epicly delicious cheese. (listen to the full interview)
Tech keeps growing…
Stuart Wilson at Modica Group hasn’t flinched a muscle from his growth plans because tech has been almost immune from this virus in ways that physical goods manufacturers couldn’t escape (listen to the full interview). 27 open positions at his technology company speaks to the confidence Modica has in their business model. If I was working in tourism or hospitality and loved people and was pretty good at working at the tech apps on my phone… I’d be knocking on Stu’s door asking how I could help.
Home working winners…
Bart at Limber Desks already had the perfect desk for home to reduce health and safety claims on home workers… except few worked at home full time. That’s just changed. Big time.
The changes are only just beginning….
In The Safely Operating Business Weeks To Come
Health & Safety has always been a central pillar of manufacturing because of the blend of humans and machines coming together to produce the goods that we all want, or at least the ones we wanted up until three weeks ago. Manufacturers have work safety plans and I have full trust that Covid-19 safe is simply another set of precautions, standards and processes to be followed.
OK imagine that’s complete…. now you’ve arrived at work and unlocked the front doors of your business. They creak. It’s been awhile. Your team arrives and within a week or two the new safe normal is humming. The phone starts going. Or maybe it stays eerily quiet. It’s time to ask Question 5.
Question 5. What weird things might customers ask of us in the future?
Socially Distanced Seating
Cam Wallace at Air New Zealand anticipated customers wanting social distancing on planes. So they made it so.
Fashionable Face Masks
Simon Hills Hats anticipated customers wanting fashionable masks to take away the foreign and often frightening nature of someone wearing a mask approaching.
Metalform Campbell Easton decided that it was time to retool to provide PPE for New Zealand District Health Boards… and so they did.
Virtual Queues At Real Doctors Waiting Rooms
It’s easy to see these becoming the norm. It’s easy to see the flexi plastic at supermarket checkouts once you seen them.
How do you anticipate what might need to be seen in the weird future we now all inhabit?
Questions for Sales, Marketing and Operations
Questions help you see things in a different light. After your business is operating safely and making products again.. I’d get the team together (with 2 metre safety practiced of couse) and ask some questions with the new environment in play.
Marketing — Finding customers when you know they’re at home
- How should we help customers find us, now that we know they’re almost always at home?
- Why do customers need us more now that they’re almost always at home?
Competition — Competing outside your product category
3. When budgets get tight and services get cancelled, what makes ours an essential product?
4. What feelings do customers experience with your product that other product categories are inferior at delivering?
Sales — Communicating with care
5. How can we deliver more value for the same dollars?
6. What can we say and do for our customers now at no cost that builds our reputation for the long-term?
Operations — Redeploying for the new needs
7. What skills do we have that can start work on the ‘new new thing’ to replace the thing that no one wants anymore?
8. What are the stories we’ve been telling ourselves about who we are that might hold us back in the new environment?
9. How should we define the boundaries of what our business is and does?
Post Covid — Are You Still Selling Gumboots?
I spoke with a gumboots company who sells gumboots to New Zealand manufacturers. They’re in the business of selling gumboots that last and fit the calves of Kiwis. Their competitors are in the business of selling gumboots that kinda last but aren’t that comfortable. Workers prefer theirs. Accountants prefer the discomfort is off the balance sheet.
The problem with the business model of making gumboots is that Kiwi factories can’t calculate a price on calf comfort easily. The second problem is that great products don’t need replacing as much. So… I proposed that they shouldn’t be in the gumboot sales business anymore. No more selling gumboots to businesses.
They should be instead be in th ethe workplace feet comfort and safety business. They shouldn’t sell gumboots anymore… but they should instead offer every new worker gumboots for size and for comfort. Gumboots couldn’t be shared because gumboots would be unique to the worker just like rugby boots for the All Blacks.
Of course the business model would have to change. They’d have to supply so many more gumboots. New worker? New pair of gumboots.
When a worker leaves the gumboot comes back to the manufacturer and is remade into a brand new custom gumboot for the next worker. Gumboot leasing makes sense in this environment. Sustainability and Covid-19 that is.
Ask yourself. What business are we really in?
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