If starting a business and making it successful was easy, everyone would do it. And it doesn’t happen overnight. There are constant obstacles along the way and the pandemic continues to throw additional challenges in the mix. As if life for an entrepreneur wasn’t turbulent enough!
I certainly know first-hand the challenges of constant lockdowns and the stop-start nature of the current rollercoaster that we’re on. As the founder of Ninja Parc, Australia’s largest indoor obstacle course provider, we’ve had to regularly close our doors. It’s daunting and can leave you questioning your whole business model.
But in positive news our ‘new normal’ has us reinventing how we do business and has taught us that we need to constantly evolve in order to survive. Ninja Parc is seeing a huge increase in franchise enquiries (up 900% compared to pre-covid) and every time we have re-opened our centres after a lockdown, we also see a massive spike in the number of people through our doors. How is this possible? Every time we close our doors and we can’t work IN our business we work ON the business instead. We all focus on what we can control and certain areas of the business that we don’t normally make the time or energy for. And it doesn’t need to cost you a cent.
Five strategies for growth during the pandemic
- Get to know your customers. Do a deep dive on your customer base to really understand them and what makes them tick so you can start to strengthen your customer relationships. Let your customers know that you are still here, and that you value them. If you can, give them incentives to stick around and/or spread the word to their networks.
- Upskill yourself and expand your knowledge. As business owners we wear many hats, from IT manager to accountant and digital designer. What areas of your business do you struggle with the most and where could you strengthen your skills? Think about what’s going to be the most beneficial to you and be realistic about how much time you have. You don’t need to get a new degree or spend a fortune, it could be as simple as reading some articles, doing your own research or finding a mentor that could help you brush up on some skills or learn something new.
- Line up advertising and develop content. From social media to blog posts and newsletters, now is the perfect time to take some space and build a bank of compelling content that showcases your business, expertise and some of the great work that you do. Start also planning your post-lockdown advertising and marketing strategy. And if you normally have a budget for events etc. you might want to consider reinvesting that money into engaging specialists that can help support you to present your business in a positive light, and provide you with an edge over your competitors. Plan your marketing for when you reopen so that you can just flick the switch when you are given the green light to open the doors rather than having to then come up with how to promote the opening.
- Pivot by re-examining your business model. Now is the perfect time to step back and re-examine your business. The pandemic has obviously had a massive impact on many industries. So now that you have a little breathing room, what should you do differently? What are your competitors doing? How can you reinvent your business? What are your biggest weaknesses? And what opportunities have recently presented themselves that you can tap into? Are their areas in your business that you were wasting energy or money? Now is the time to get the business ‘fit’. New businesses, new franchises and new directions don’t just happen overnight – they take time – and time is what we currently have!
- Invest in your people. If you don’t reach out to your people during the closures then don’t expect them to feel part of it when you reopen. They look to you for direction so even if you don’t have all the answers, keep them informed. Now has never been a better time to invest in your staff and show them how much they are valued. A company is only as good as its people and the pandemic has obviously been tough on people’s mental health. Make sure staff have what they need to work remotely, from technology and online tools to flexible work arrangements and a good support network. Now is the time to be empathetic as an employer and show some understanding.
So, if you’ve been thinking of taking your business in a new direction or starting a new business – now is the perfect time to get the wheels in motion. After all, resilience gives you the flexibility to get out of your comfort zone. What we do now, will determine our future success post-pandemic.