Brad Stevens is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member and president-elect of the EO Atlanta chapter. He's an author, speaker, career entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Outsource Access, which provides highly vetted and trained virtual assistants from the Philippines to entrepreneurs, CEOs, and busy professionals worldwide. We asked Brad what tools are available to entrepreneurs as they pivot and reposition during the Covid-19 crisis. Here's what he shared:
I'm one of those people who can talk about a problem for only 10 seconds before my brain automatically shifts into solution-finding mode. And isn't solution-finding mode where we all need to be during Covid-19?
You're likely clear about the scope of the pandemic and its impact on businesses, so I won't restate statistics or fear-inducing data.
Instead, I'm focusing on the massive, evolving opportunities in a wide range of market sectors. These are resulting from significant changes in situations, behaviors, perspectives, and opinions that are driving dollars toward both new and existing product and service categories.
How to reposition existing products
Some businesses can survive with their existing product or service, but must rapidly reposition that offering to markets that are now growing.
To address this, take an inventory of your business's transferable skills, which can help identify what additional services you can offer to tap into growing markets. For example, a chiropractic firm--experts in helping clients maintain a healthy lifestyle--could shift their expertise to provide work-from-home consulting or training services for large firms that are transitioning employees but need them to be productive and motivated in a remote environment.
We've made a similar pivot in our business, which provides low-cost offshore virtual assistants and outsourcing. We lost clients in industries that saw six to 12 months of revenue disappear instantly. In response, we quickly shifted our marketing and sales outreach to emerging markets, including e-commerce, tech-support services, and online education--all of which now desperately need low-cost talent to support their sudden growth.
How to reimagine raw skill sets
But sometimes you can't merely reposition. There are a large number of market segments and businesses that have been flattened by Covid-19. These businesses may benefit from taking stock of their raw skill sets combined with relationship equity to identify growth opportunities where they can pivot entirely.
One example comes to mind: The owner of a premium ticketing company for live events whose business disappeared overnight when the crisis hit. In deciding where to shift, he took stock of what he had to work with. He had strong technological ability and incredible depth of relationships with high-end law firms and liquor distributors, who were his typical high-value event ticket buyers. How could he find a new path? (We'll revisit what he discovered later.)
Identify potential growth industries
Sometimes you need help to kickstart your adaptive thinking and creative juices. But don't try to sit alone and dream up strategies--tap into help from the virtual world.
People are talking about this problem everywhere. But they are also talking about solutions everywhere: In community chat groups, articles, social media, and blog posts. Those ideas simply need to be aggregated, organized, and categorized.
When the crisis hit--both to benefit our company and to help clients--we took action to rapidly assemble ideas and strategies around how and where to reposition. First, we did our own creative brainstorming. Then, knowing the power of using offshore, affordable virtual assistants (VAs) for data-mining crowdsourced information, we asked our VA team to assemble a list of more than 125 product and service categories that are being newly created or experiencing significant growth because of Covid-19. It took them three days and cost us $50.
To unearth such nuggets, we intentionally elevated our thinking to the next layer. For example, we know that people are homeschooling their kids. So, what product growth is that driving?
Personally, my wife and I bought more printer ink in the past 30 days than we had in the previous 12 months to print educational materials for our daughter. We can, therefore, identify printer ink and office supplies as a growth category. By uncovering that next layer to see where the dollars are shaking out of global behavior changes, you'll find potential growth areas resulting from this crisis.
Excerpts from the list of growth industries
Here are more growth areas we've identified, aside from the obvious one, personal protection equipment:
- Bacteria-killing paint
- Video training from professional stylists to coach you on home haircuts
- Anti-microbial brass material, used for contactless door opening and to touch surfaces instead of using hands and fingers
- Lean retail storefronts with direct shipping versus capital-intensive footprints and staffing
- Rebranding existing textiles as paper-towel replacements
- Amazon affiliate sites for niche products such as "work-at-home" equipment and niche growth areas like printer ink
- Cybersecurity software, consulting, and insurance
- Outdoor home services including gutters, roofs, and painting
- Online dating and matchmaking services
- Podcasting, plus its related software and equipment
- Routers and signal boosters for home internet
- Fitness coaching and in-home equipment
- A.I. and virtual vacations
We took our extensive list and organized it by primary industry, secondary industry, and short- or long-term potential, and added a rationale to explain each. We add to the list daily as new opportunities emerge.
Here's what happened with our example above, the owner of the high-dollar event ticket business whose revenue evaporated, when he applied this framework: Looking at our list through the lens of his expertise in technology and depth of attorney relationships led him to consider being a distributor or creating cybersecurity software for the legal industry.
The key to survival is making a substantial pivot in a challenging environment.
Our Outsource Access Growth Opportunities list has served as the basis for our own pivot and helped us recommend strategies for clients. It's also the basis for the webinar we've held for multiple EO chapters titled, "How to Triage, Reposition and Future-Proof."
We hope our list will help inspire your adaptive mindset to successfully refocus your business!