Alex Yastrebenetsky is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Cincinnati and cofounder of InfoTrust, a digital analytics consulting and technology company helping marketers use data to make smarter decisions. To gain perspective around the business changes and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, Alex consulted his mentor, Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman, formerly co-founder and CEO of Priceline.com, is a serial entrepreneur with a diverse experience set who mentors, engages and teaches entrepreneurs worldwide. We asked Alex to shared Hoffman's insights:
"Entrepreneurship is like a tool belt. Once you understand the basic principles of entrepreneurship, you can apply these principles to any environment."
These were the words of wisdom that Jeff Hoffman shared when I first met him at EO's Entrepreneurial Masters Program, an executive education program that provides business owners with the opportunity to learn from leading business experts first-hand.
Jeff Hoffman is one such expert. Scaling some of the fastest-growing internet companies of our time--including Priceline.com and Booking.com--and producing movies, a television show and a Grammy-winning jazz album are among the array of experiences that awarded Hoffman with more than one lifetime's worth of business know-how. Now Hoffman applies his wisdom to mentoring entrepreneurs worldwide as Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The global pandemic has resulted in staggering levels of unemployment worldwide and ushered in an unprecedented economic recession. This situation calls for Hoffman's unique, multi-business vertical expertise to figure out how to help the most severely impacted business sectors.
Hoffman shared his 3R framework: Repurpose, Retool and Redeploy, for finding a solution to the problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Let's explore those:
How can you leverage an existing capability or expertise to quickly pivot from producing a product that's not currently making money to something else that's in high demand?
You may be able to accomplish this by assessing your skills, your capabilities and your resources to figure out how to repurpose what you have to produce something that is in high demand.
Need help brainstorming which areas are experiencing high demand? Brad Stevens, an EO member from Atlanta, shares a crowdsourced guide of more than 125 growth areas that's free to access.
With demand for PPE and sanitizers far exceeding supply, you've likely heard how some entrepreneurs are quickly repurposing production facilities. Hoffman shared the story of a small distillery in Nevada that has chemists who make vodka in big tanks. They repurposed their chemists, tanks and alcohol processes to make hand sanitizer. Similarly, companies that formerly produced clothing or linens have retooled to make face masks.
It's a creative challenge to rethink how your business delivers value and asses what additional or tangential value you may also be positioned to supply to growth industries. Entrepreneurs are innate problem-solvers, so look for original ideas that help bring out the best of this new normal.
Retool means using unexpected downtime to learn how to do things that you'd otherwise never have a chance to learn how to do.
There is an abundance of free and low-cost education at your fingertips. You can use the downtime to re-educate yourself and your workforce.
These platforms include Udemy, Coursera, Alison, edX and Open Learn--plus dozens of others. In addition, the world's top universities are sharing their courses online, free of charge.
Maximize your quarantine time to learn something you're passionate about. You can sharpen basic cooking skills with Gordon Ramsey, brush up on Spanish or Arabic, study morality with Yale University, or commit to a daily meditation practice.
Encourage your team to explore areas that could have a positive impact on business. You can study the fundamentals of Blockchain, learn the basics of sustainable development, regain your financial footing with an introduction to accounting, study the principles of modern project management, or brush up on effectively managing tricky workplace situations.
By using this time wisely, you and your employees can increase the level of monetizable skills that could help your business pivot and grow.
If you can't repurpose your offering or retrain employees to make a product that will help now, flip the switch on your thought process by asking who on the frontlines you can help. Might your skillset or expertise help somebody else?
Hoffman shares one example from a technology company. They "loaned" their graphic designers and marketing staff members to healthcare companies that needed help conveying accurate information to the public in an easily understandable but engaging way.
Another example is from the restaurant industry, which has been devastated by mandatory shutdowns. There are millions of children in the US who are not being fed right now because they typically get free meals from school lunch programs.
Hoffman cites multiple examples of restaurant owners who are using their capacity to feed children who have no other access or means to buy food. In some cases, restaurant owners are accessing grants or corporate gifts from local businesses. This enables them to make meals to feed corporate or frontline employees and empowers them to donate meals to children, the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
Focus on finding your purpose
When redeploying, it's not about resources or a lack thereof--focus on resourcefulness and finding your purpose as an entrepreneur.
One of the most important lessons of my life came from Hoffman in the form of his quote, "There is no they."