Innovation Junkies Podcast

BONUS: Innovation During A Pandemic

The Jeffs dig into how you can learn from some of the innovations that were created during the pandemic. Topics include: ecommerce & how to reach customers where they are, zoom & omni-channel pivoting, & rethinking travel & reusing travel money elsewhere in the company to meet business goals.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business or improve in growth strategy that generates sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, no matter the geography.

Jeff Standridge: We’ll be talking about everything sales and marketing, to organizational, operational and leadership effectiveness, to innovation, digital transformation, everything in between. Routinely we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Speaker 2: Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our strategic growth diagnostic, go to innovationjunkie.com/diagnostic. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine.

Jeff Standridge: We’re the Jeffs. Today in this bonus episode, we’re going to be talking about how you can harness the power of some of the innovations that have occurred during the recent pandemic and economic slowdown and how you can apply those concepts to your business.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, we sure will. To put a fine point on it, early in the pandemic, Business Insider came out with a report that said that most businesses only had 27 days of cash reserves. There was concern at that point that if something wasn’t done either externally or internally, we were going to lose something like 40% of all small business across the country.

Jeff Amerine: Now we know there’s some interventions that occurred with the CARES Act and Payroll Protection Program, but most importantly, I think the businesses that are going to come out strongest are the ones that took that time as an opportunity to do things a little bit differently. Jeff, you probably have some good examples of that of things you’ve seen.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, we worked with an organization that, they were in the … what would you call it? The farm to table kind of business, right? Grass fed beef, forested pork, free range chickens, and what have you, and they were selling pretty much through traditional means. They would sell wholesale to restaurants, they would bring people to the farm with an event center they had. They had a walk-in store, and then they were doing a little bit of sales via telephone sales and shipping around the country.

Jeff Standridge: Fortunately before the pandemic, they able to put in an eCommerce capability and really kind of displace, if you will, that analog telephone ordering process. So, then the pandemic hits and 70% of their wholesale sales to restaurants goes away because of the restaurant shutdowns, 100% of their bringing people to the farm and their catering activity immediately goes away, because they had to shut that down, and about 50% of their walk-in traffic to their store.

Jeff Standridge: Ironically, they were up over 1,000% in just a couple of months. They had to turn their event center into a distribution center to be able to package and distribute all of the proteins that were being ordered, because as you all know, it was difficult to find proteins in the grocery stores, because the grocery store shelves were empty.

Jeff Standridge: So it was real interesting, because they contacted me and said, “We have an opportunity here, but we don’t want to feel like an ambulance chaser, we don’t want to exploit people.” My response to them was, “If you have a product or a service that was viable and valid and appropriate before the pandemic, and it continues to be viable and valid and appropriate in the midst of the pandemic, then you have a moral and an ethical obligation to tell people about it.”

Jeff Standridge: So they started their promotion, they did it very tastefully. They compared buying their proteins online versus going to a grocery store, and their online orders literally went through the roof. So they innovated incrementally in their business, maybe even a little bit of breakthrough innovation in creating a new way for them to get their proteins. They’re now shipping to 48 states in the upper, or I guess if you’re in Alaska, you’d say the lower 48.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, we’ll be right back with the episode, but first we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. For a short time only, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether or not our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to innovationjunkie.com/diagnostic to learn more.

Jeff Amerine: Food is a particularly good one. It’s one of those things that if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everybody has to have it regardless of the circumstance, but some people who were in that food engagement, food service, restaurant, catering business, they really had to figure out interesting ways to react. So, I’ll give you one good example.

Jeff Amerine: In Umbria in Italy, which is sort of the Eastern adjacent area next to Tuscany, there was someone there that ran a family farm. They had all of Zad grapes, she put on cooking lessons and whatnot, but it was a very engaging thing. You had to show up at her place, stay in their bed and breakfast to experience it. Well, the pandemic comes, Italy’s locked down, what’s she going to do?

Jeff Amerine: Well, now what she does is she pushes out the ingredients that are going to be in a particular cooking lesson that someone would have been there to take. You can buy those locally or she’ll ship the ingredients to you, and then you participate in a Zoom episode and actually go through the very same lessons enabled by a Zoom cast, rather than having to physically be there.

Jeff Amerine: It’s just so innovative. Her revenue model didn’t change, people were hungry for that kind of experience. They paid the very same, maybe more convenient, and suffice to say, her audience actually expanded during the pandemic, because people didn’t have to travel to Italy in order to experience that.

Jeff Amerine: So it’s true, omni-channel pivot there in the midst of really dire circumstances. That’s just one of many examples of where people looked at if we’re going to survive this for however long this lasts, we got to figure out how to reach that customer in an efficient way so they could still have the experience and we can still figure out how to get paid. So, that’s another good example of a pivot.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, and we work with a number of organizations as well that have salespeople distributed across the US, and for the first time in their professional lives, they were prevented from getting on a plane and flying to another city and holding up in a hotel and going and seeing clients face-to-face. They had to get out of the box and think about how to cultivate those client relationships. They had to innovate retroactively and go back to the smiling and dialing and making phone calls and getting people face-to-face on Zoom calls and Google Meet calls and what have you.

Jeff Standridge: So, what they found when they did that was it gave them back an enormous amount of time and they were extremely more effective and more efficient, because they weren’t having that wasted time getting on an airplane, and then the travel time when they’re disconnected and what have you.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, and I know with what we do in our sister organizations at Startup Junkie and at The Conductor, we were faced with the very same thing. When the word came down March 11th that the state is shut down and keep social distancing and probably don’t go into the office, and at that time the vaccine was not anywhere in sight. This is back in 2020. Well, we typically put on somewhere between 250 and 300 events a year that tens or hundreds or thousands of people would come to. So, what are you going to do?

Jeff Amerine: Well, very quickly the teams got together and they said, “Well, we can make all this stuff virtual. It will all be on Zoom. We’ll create a digital YouTube library, we’ll make it very accessible.” So, what did that do? It actually expanded the reach of the organization. To our core premise on that side of the business is to empower and enable innovators and entrepreneurs, now we’re reaching them everywhere, because it’s readily assessable through YouTube.

Jeff Amerine: So, I think it’s another example of people that went through a digital transformation that they ultimately wanted to get through. But rather than that being something that was worked slowly over a few years, it happened in weeks or months out of necessity.

Jeff Standridge: So, let’s talk about how our listeners can take these examples and apply them to their own situation so that they can use these examples of mid-pandemic or post-pandemic innovation and use those in their own business. What’s the first thing you would have them do?

Jeff Amerine: Well, the first one I would say is figure out how to reach your customers where they are. Make it frictionless and make it easy for them. What that means is people are going to be still uncomfortable with a lot of face-to-face engagements, is figure out how to meet them with the digital content or digital engagement that makes it easy and comfortable for them to enjoy your product or service. So, I would say that’s the first one. Question why you haven’t been omni-channel before and figure out how to have this sort of omni-channel approach to meeting your customer, if you will.

Jeff Standridge: That’s great, that’s great. I think asking the question why over a variety of your business processes and the things that you do. It reminds me of the story of the man who asked his wife why she always cut the end off of her roast every time. She said, “Well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.” He said, “Well, but why is that?” She said, “Well, because my mom always did it.”

Jeff Standridge: So Thanksgiving, they’re at the mom’s house and said, “Hey, Sally always cuts the end off of her roast. Why do you always cut the end off of your roast?” She said it was because you taught her that way. She said, “Well, because my mom taught me that way.” So, they went to the residential facility where great-grandma lived and dad said, “So great-grandma, Sally always cuts the end off of her roast, and she said that she did it because her mother always did it. Her mother said she did it because you taught her the same way. Why did you cut the end off the roast?” She said, “Well, I always did it because my pan was too small.”

Jeff Standridge: So sometimes generations of people come and go within businesses, and I use the word generations loosely, and you look down and it’s the third or fourth layer of someone executing a process. The times changed, but the process didn’t, and there’s enormous waste inherent in some of those processes. So asking the question, wow, why don’t we do it this way and how can we make it better?

Jeff Amerine: Well, and that gets back to the original thinking that Deming had around lean, right? You look at any particular task and you say if we do this, is this going to add value to the customers, value to the shareholders or value to the employees? If the answer is we’re not sure why we’re doing this because it doesn’t do any of those, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Jeff Amerine: I think business travel is one that’s going to be under a ton of scrutiny. So, I would say coming back out of this, scrutinize. Do I really need to travel in order to achieve the goal or can I do a large majority of what we do remotely? If you don’t need to travel, save the money. Save the money and figure out a way to provide more value to your customer rather than spending it on travel and overhead that’s not adding value.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, redeploy that travel money toward better ways to serve your customers.

Jeff Amerine: Better products, better services.

Jeff Amerine: Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in, we sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor, click the subscribe button right now and leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us, and don’t forget to share us on social media.

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