Our original business plans for 2020 are long gone. I, for one, feel as if we’ve spent the appropriate time grieving for what might have been. We’ve done a lot as an industry to provide guidance, resources, and support on how to be positioned to survive this unprecedented moment in time. What I believe we’ve missed is how we find the opportunity amidst the chaos.
Every founder and every brand can take steps to leapfrog their competition. Some of those steps may be giant others small and iterative. But each of us can use this current disruption to move our businesses forward. Our natural proclivity in times like this is to become insular, to stay in our cocoons and ride things out from a position of relative safety. To do that, however, would be an opportunity missed. The magic of a snow globe only happens when you shake it up.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to lean into this uncertainty meeting it with curiosity and an entrepreneurial mindset. Everything must be on the table from your business model to your go-to-market and route-to-market strategy to your team and your products.
Start thinking differently. Consumer habits and behaviors have changed significantly since the outbreak of COVID-19. Which of those are unlikely to revert back once this crisis is over? I believe the heightened awareness surrounding immune health, social distancing, and personal hygiene are all likely to remain top-of-mind for some time to come. We each are likely to have a bit of the germaphobe in us. Howie Mandel could become a hero to many.
What about retail? I don’t think it is going anywhere, but I do believe specific changes will either result or speed up by what we are facing today. One thing that has been surfaced is the pressure SKU proliferation has placed on the stores and those that distribute to them. I think this will continue to cause the center-store to constrict and the perimeter to expand. Stores will also react to some of the new consumer behavior around hygiene and social distancing.
Then there are investors. What changes will occur in their investment triggers? I believe there will be more focus on brands that are genuinely omnichannel to limit to the potential impact of a channel shut down, much like what has happened in restaurants. Capital-efficiency will supplant velocity as the variable with the highest premium. Much of the gambling money will come off the table. Brands will be forced to go further with less.
I don’t offer any of this as an attempt to be a soothsayer. Instead, I offer it as illustrative of the way I’d encourage us all to use this time. We should be asking questions, looking at things through the lens of curiosity attempting to see if we can find opportunity amongst all the crazy sh$t that is going down right now. Bad things happen to those who wait and remember the magic of a snow globe only occurs when you shake it up. In the words of Shunryu Suzuki, a famous Zen priest, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.” In these times, we are all beginners, and there are many, many possibilities.