By Atul Bhakta, CEO, One World Express
No one can continue living their lives as usual under current circumstances. And, subsequently, few businesses can continue operating as normal if they wish to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Though the idea of furloughing staff, closing up shop and relying on savings to ride out the storm might be tempting, this strategy put a business at risk of eventual collapse if the spread of the virus cannot be contained in the coming months. Moreover, many businesses could see themselves leapfrogged by innovative competitors.
Indeed, many businesses are concocting new ways of ensuring the continuation of their operations at present. Though high streets are abandoned, with bricks and mortar premises largely all shut, there are still plenty of opportunities for companies to sell goods right now.
So, how can businesses best adapt to suit the current climate? And what principles should guide the creative thinking involved in coming up with new solutions?
Being prepared to pivot
Any decisions about how to best pivot the business must start with the customer. Historically, those able to foresee what people will think, feel and want in the future have seen great success; the likes of tech giants Google, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are all prime examples of this, given as they all evolved significantly over time in line with what users needed.
Just as those companies benefitted from a change in consumer behaviour, companies should now be analysing current trends to uncover how best to provide services to those self-isolating. This, in turn, may require a business to rethink the nature of the product or service it is offering, or at very least how it is delivering it.
There will be some for whom entirely pivoting their model is necessary. For an independent artisan who typically sells their goods at a market stall, the only way to continue operations will be through online delivery services, an entirely new frontier for many.
Ultimately, if the produce is still there, it becomes a matter of finding new ways to get it to the people who will still pay for it. This pivot will take effort; for instance, online payment systems must be in place, as must order tracking software and the actual delivery networks. But the solutions are there for all these things, and they can be implemented quickly and affordably.
At the same time, it is important that businesses – from sole traders to large enterprises – consider reaching out to customers in new territories. After all, the wider a business can cast its net, the better chance it has at winning new customers.
At One World Express we often work with businesses who think global trade is out of their reach when in fact it is firmly within their grasp. To further bolster our support to clients at this time – we are waiving all of our consulting fees for the next three months (April, May and June 2020). This means we will be providing free advice to businesses who need help understanding how they can get their stock to different markets around the globe.
Embracing an entrepreneurial mindset
Unprecedented: it is the word of the moment. However, from a business perspective, global economic challenges that require swift and sometimes drastic action are nothing new.
Since founding One World Express in 1998, our business has had to adapt to survive the dotcom crash of the late 90s, the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2007, and four years of Brexit uncertainty since 2016. In every case, the leadership team had to make difficult decisions about the future of One World Express.
In the case of the global financial crash, for example, we invested heavily in our technology. From 2008 onwards we put software and data at the heart of our service proposition. Rather than relying on more traditional logistics services, simply helping merchants gets goods from A to B, we created technology-led systems to help manage the entire process from sale to delivery.
This change injected fresh life into the company. It opened up new international markets for us by giving us more advanced solutions. And it enabled us to scale with bigger vendors who needed that extra level of IT support.
For business leaders, mindset is everything. They cannot afford to be passive players – they cannot just sit tight and hope the storm passes. I would urge all organisations, regardless of their size or sector, to embrace the challenge of adapting to the current circumstances; opportunities are out there, but only for those brave enough to take them.
Atul Bhakta is the CEO of One World Express. Founded in 1998, One Express is a global logistics, e-commerce and IT solutions provider. The London-based company provides fulfilment, warehousing and final-mile delivery solutions for companies large and small around the world.