There’s a strange thing happening all over the world right now as COVID-19 (aka the Coronavirus) continues to spread. Work is changing drastically as we remain cooped up in our homes forced to either shut down, work from home, or find some way to pivot. As businesses struggle to stay afloat, they are going to need to adapt to the changing landscape. Translating service offerings to a virtual world can be tough, but those who embrace technology will come out on the other side. If you are trying to adapt and/or pivot your business to move forward, use these lean startup methods to adapt and pivot your business to the changing landscape.

Pivot Your Business

Answer this question before you pivot: How can you solve a problem?

To avoid spending resources on technology no one needs or wants, you should first ask yourself and your team, “What problem are we solving?” This is a basic question you should always be able to answer before starting a business, pivoting your business, or offering a new service. 

One great example of that is in the fashion and apparel industry, where businesses who manufacture have been pivoting to meet the high demand for personal protective gear. From a technology standpoint, another great example is the small group of companies who are creatively designing events and conferences for the virtual world. You have a captive audience with a growing need to be entertained and feel connected. One business that has recently emerged, Run the World, is a platform entirely for moving conferences to the virtual space. 

Start small, then scale

We love seeing how entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions to the challenges COVID-19 has brought. As a business owner looking to pivot your business, one of the best things you can do as you begin to build solutions is follow the lean startup method and start small. Starting small means building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) first that will help you deploy your solution faster while you figure out ways to tweak and improve. 

We liken building your MVP to building a small ship. You build a small ship, make sure it floats, and then you keep building and adding to it. Your MVP is your starting off point. It’s what you use to pitch investors, attract beta users, and learn about your customers.

One example of this is in the beer industry. The hospitality industry as a whole is being crushed right now because they are forced to close their taprooms and restaurants. In response to that, local breweries here in Richmond are offering delivery and order ahead options for customers. They didn’t halt production to build out sophisticated online ordering apps. Many of them started the old fashioned way by allowing customers to call in their orders. Once they saw the demand was there, they began setting up ecommerce stores for online ordering. 

Don’t reinvent the wheel

For those just trying to stay in business or transition to virtual activities, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Having your own, proprietary software or mobile application is great but it’s not always the best – nor should it be the first solution. Use the tools that are already available online to get more done and maintain business as usual. Want to host a live stream? Use your own Facebook or YouTube channel. Want to have a virtual meeting? Check out Zoom. Need to get contracts signed? Try a service like Docusign. The digital tools are out there. 

One example of using online tools to pivot and offer virtual services is local coworking Space WORK & FRIENDS, who has launched a new online community called the GOOD WORK Society to combat the need for a physical space. They use Facebook Groups to stay connected to each other, they have a virtual “tea time” on Google Hangouts to share successes and challenges, and use a coworking space platform called Proximity to manage memberships and post a curated list of job opportunities and virtual events. 

Listen for feedback

Your first iteration is not going to be your best, that’s why starting lean is so important. It allows you to be nimble and make changes as needed. In the software development world we have clients often discover that all of those cool features they dreamed up are actually not wanted or needed by users. That’s why it’s so important to listen to customers and respond to feedback. Your solution may not be exactly what users need, but if you take the time to listen, it can be in its second, third, or fourth iteration. 

Stay connected

Finally, even if you decide not to pivot your business, don’t just fade away until the storm is over. Be present and willing to offer advice or assistance in your given area of expertise. Customers may not be able to physically come to you, but they can meet with you virtually, engage with you on social media, and interact with your website via online shopping or digital downloads. 

In the healthcare industry that could mean offering telemedicine through appointments online and in the business world that could mean offering webinars and live streams. We’ve seen tax preparers offer virtual tax preparation services, authors offer to do storytime online, and musicians stream live, virtual concerts with tip jars using money apps like Venmo or Square Cash. Local home integrator, Livewire is offering 30 minute virtual consultations where they check your home WiFi – for free – and offer solutions. 

It has been inspiring to see the creative technology solutions and applications that have come out of such a terrible situation. If your business is struggling to pivot and needs help with a technology solution, we’re here for you!