It’s good to talk

Its good to talk, to share the day

We know it’s good to talk. We are based at The Guild a coworking space in the beautiful Carlisle city centre.  Up until COVID our main business involved face to face contact with businesses large and small.  During Lockdown One we adapted to the new online world of Zoom ,Teams etc.  A brief respite during the Summer meant that we had the joy of actually talking to people face to face. Then Lockdown Two brought us back to the online world.

This week has really brought home how much we and other businesses have adapted.  We now all know more than ever that you have to talk and share your day with other businesses.

The new normal is not Shangri-La BUT it’s not Blade Runner either…

Our new normal is intense.  Like most SMEs we are probably working more concentrated hours than ever before. Some of this is good news and some not so good.  Answers to the following questions can have both a positive and negative impact on your life or on your business:

  • How many hours a week do you save not travelling to meetings?  But how many of those hours were non contact time that you could gather your thoughts in?
  • How many early mornings and late evenings can you fit in and not have to leave the house? Does this mean that work time has encroached on your home life?
  • Whether you’re working from home or from your business do you find you can focus on the task in hand quicker?  Are you focusing on business at the cost of everything else?
  • Does the loss of turnover ‘motivate’ you more to search out the new opportunities? Are you getting tired of chasing new?
  • Has the loss of regular income focused you’re mind on really cutting business costs back? Have you shrunk the business back to a point where you are doing everything again?
  • Or have lock downs and COVID made you really busy, where you are at full capacity? Is your business coping under the pressure and how much of this will continue once lockdown eases?

Questions, the good, the bad and the ugly can feel lonely without peers

The real danger of social distancing is that a cry for help or a shout of joy often goes unheard.  We know one of the main benefits of coworking is the ability to share the good and the bad.  Sharing this with fellow businesses just makes it better still.

We have found that we can now get some of this back online.  You don’t have to feel alone in the wilderness and you can share your joy outside of your room.

How we shared online…

Like many other businesses we have taken our established business relationships online.  Knowing who you are dealing with helps online relationship work.  We are working with a great business team who will launch a brand new product next year.  We were approached by an old business contact to write submissions for honours awards.  Knowing the team meant we could run phone interviews immediately and capture great stories around the nominees.

We are also working with a new business introduced to us by a fellow associate.  Here trust in the go between has meant we have all committed a significant amount of time to a project before any of us have met in person.

Trust is so important

Our final thoughts go to this week.  On Monday we held an ONIT Zoom meeting with our fellow Guilders. ONIT has been running for many months and it is now an online meeting of businesses (Guilders) connected with the Guild.  The agenda was simply how do we deal with our wellbeing?  We all laughed. We all reflected and most importantly we all shared our ups and downs.  Trust amongst a group of businesses that have shared the same experiences allows us to take on this new normal. We owe a personal thank you to Mondays group who just made our life that much better.

Peer to Peer, a place where it is good to talk

This week we also launched our first two Action Learning Groups for the BEIS funded Peer to Peer Network   facilitated by our Jacqui Jackson and the talented Tina Cook. This is where businesses can really share and work on solutions for their businesses with fellow business leaders. These groups will run through to March next year.  We are already really impressed with the level of honesty, trust and care our businesses are showing.  In Cumbria our cohorts and those of Cumbria Chambers are now full.  If you want to join the Cumbrian Peer to Peer Network there are still paces with groups led by Entrepreneurial Spark, the Leadership Secret and Skills for Care. Just contact Helen at the Cumbrian LEP for more details.

Final Word

It’s always good to talk.  The very act of saying out loud what you are thinking releases pressure from your brain.  We are sociable animals.  So please use what ever medium suits you AND get out there and talk.

If you want to know more contact us.


If

If you kept your focus when all about you

Were losing theirs and blaming it on COVID,

If you pivoted when others doubted change,

But made allowance for their doubting too;

If you’re waiting for normal and not tired by waiting,

You are a business in our new world

A ‘sticker’ who held a steady course and never wavered

Or an ‘innovator’ who pivoted in weeks

Or one of the ‘undecided’ who are waiting to stick or pivot

 

If you can plan—and not make the plans your master

If you can pause – and not make the pause your life

If you have met with Triumph and Disaster

And treated those two impostors just the same;

If you can keep your focus on the business

When everything is pushing you to work in the business

And have watched the things you gave your life to, broken,

And are now building them back with a furloughed team

 

If you are making one heap of all your reserves

To risk it on a pivot to a new future,

Knowing you may lose, and have to start again

And never breathe a word of your fears to those about you;

If you have forced your heart and nerve and soul

To serve your business long after you are done,

And are holding on when there is nothing in you

Except the voice which says to you: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with customers and keep their attention,

Or work with suppliers—to keep your supply chain alive,

If neither competitors nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all people count with you, but none too much;

If you can still fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you are a business leader my friend.

 

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling , Be the Business and our fellow Guilders at the Guild Carlisle

If you’re ready to talk we are ready to listen at

Thomas Jardine & Co

 


Have customer needs changed?

We all need to focus on what our customer ‘needs’.  Strategyzers Value Proposition Canvas is the best tool for this.  This tool works because it identifies what will improve the customers life.

Up until COVID, we assumed that customer ‘needs’ change as their individual circumstances change.  This made  our job as a business fairly straight forward.  We identified a customer type and targeted our services towards them. The assumption was that even if some customers needs change, on average there will always be a large enough segment of this type to keep our business busy.

In the UK  we always assumed we would be mainly dealing with peoples higher needs such as  products or experiences that were to varying degrees designed specifically for them.

From basic needs to self fulfilment

In the 1950’s a phycologist called Maslow captured peoples needs in a pyramid.  The base stage covered basic needs (food, safety , warmth etc.), the next stage was the psychological needs of belonging and self esteem and the final stage met self fulfilment needs.  Anyone who has done business studies at university should be aware of Maslow.

The use of Maslow led to an  assumption in modern business teaching. This  was that  the majority of the developed world were satisfied in the basic stage of food and safety. Then those in employment had to varying degrees met their needs of belonging and self esteem.  Finally those with financial stability tended to aspire to achieving self fulfilment aided by all sorts of services designed specifically for individuals.

The assumption was always that individuals would move up and down these stages as their circumstances changed.  Academics implied that economic blips such as recessions might mean that over a period of time larger groups of individuals might refocus on lower stages of needs.

COVID has led to a dramatic shift in these assumptions.  Now we have seen one event leading to a hopefully brief global change in societies needs.  And businesses have to now deal with the new normal.

Three stages back to normality

We suggest three stages of COVID for business.

Before COVID (BC) was the old business normality.

During COVID (DC) is the stage we are in now. Our current business normality has changed, sometimes on an hourly basis.  This is  because scientists, politicians, the media and economists cannot yet agree on how to control COVID.  More worrying still, no one can predict what the eventual final impact of COVID will be.

Post COVID (PC) has still to come.  One day we will be over this. As business we will adapt and we will thrive in a new normal.  We as individuals will fulfil the needs of our customers.  Eventually the experts will catch up and new models will evolve.  Until then here are some quick thoughts.

Before COVID

So before COVID (BC) we were all solving customers needs that were relatively stable. We focused on adding value by catering to their self esteem and ‘belonging’ needs. We were able to charge a premium if we helped customers achieve self fulfilment.

If we didn’t do this directly we were involved in a supply chain that catered for these needs.

During COVID

Pre lockdown we faced some uncertainty but not many of us changed our business model.

Lockdown saw the whole of the UK focus on food and toilet rolls.  Up until that point we hadn’t heard many experts predict this. Lockdown also saw many of us closed by government action.

The first few weeks saw society as a whole value their personal safety.  During this time many essential businesses continued to meet basic customer needs at a time when the advice on how to operate safely was still been developed. Others pivoted their business to meet new customer needs.

As lock down eases many of our businesses are reopening.  All those who are consumer facing are focused on the basic need of safety.

The next stage will be to satisfy peoples need of a sense of belonging.  One hundred days of lockdown means we all want to feel like we belong to society again.  Business has a huge part to play in this . We work in supply chains that now more than ever have to look after the weakest business in their links.

Whilst we live with COVID we will have to support each other.  We need to belong to positive groups.  we need to work with our peers to develop a new normal.

Then we can work on each others prestige and feelings of accomplishment as we bounce back from the brink.

Post COVID

This will end .  Hopefully we will have all learned something from the experience and our businesses will be more in tune with our customers and suppliers than they were before.

Actions for now

Work on your businesses future (even though currently  you are probably back to the floor working in it).

Take some time to stand in your customers shoes.  Really consider what their current and near future needs are.  Make sure your services/products meet these needs.

If you need someone to work with you on this.  Give us a call at Thomas Jardine & Co. We will help unscramble the noise and this will save you time.

Link to our video on changing customer needs and COVID here.


Fix what you can you are the experts

The new world order

Never has the mantra “fix what you can and leave the rest” been more important for business.

Our business ecosystem is now entering a new world order. As lockdown eases opposing forces will offer opinions on how we bounce back from COVID. Our economic and political experts will offer conflicting advice for the foreseeable future.  So leave the economy and the political solutions to the experts and focus on what you can fix.

You/we are the expert

We knew our business pre COVID.  Now we are getting to know the new reality.  This new reality brings problems we thought we had buried long ago right back into our consciousness. COVID19 in may cases now means we can’t see the wood for the trees.

We had systems that identified and funnelled customers to our well designed products and services.  The supply chain provided all the products and services required at exactly the time they were needed. In this transition time between lockdown and new reality no one can guarantee customer flows or supply chains.

What we as businesses are left with is all the expertise we have built up pre COVID, then during lockdown and the experience we are gaining daily in the world post COVID19.

What we can’t fix we can influence

We can’t fix all our customers pains BUT we can listen to them.  Similarly, we can’t fix all our suppliers problems BUT we can work with them.  Finally, we can’t tackle every new business that has or will enter our sector BUT we can learn from how they interpret our sectors problems.  So, if we listen, work with and learn we will can stop reacting and start influencing the businesses around us.  Ironically, if we all influence the business ecosystem around us  then the experts will notice the change and start agreeing on a direction.

Just look at the way the food eco-system has pivoted with wholesalers and manufacturers stepping in to sell direct to consumers during lockdown.  Now everyone in this ecosystem has to deal with a new reality way beyond just social distancing.

The new Food Ecosystem

 

Use the right tools to fix the problem

Jacqui and Keith do not claim to be business experts we only have MAs in business and 30 years each in running a fifth generation family business.  Business is about building systems that work around people.  the trick is to get the right tool for the right situation.

So post COVID if you are looking at pivoting into a new service or product then consider the 5P model courtesy of Prof Nigel Lockett (Proposition, people, place, process and profit).  Or if you are looking at building on an existing product or service recheck your processes with Strategyzers Business Model Canvas.

If unsure about the tools ask us

Thomas Jardine & co would be happy to customise your toolbelt.