Welcome to The Pivot Pod, where we'll figure out together what's next for small business. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new expert on each episode. Today it's how one company changed its business so successfully, they're taking on more staff.
When the pandemic hit, Joe Bradford watched his entire industry shudder to a halt.
As co-owner of Fiasco, a company that supplied equipment to musicians, tours, and festivals, the events that he supplied were now shutting down around the world.
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With no timeline for a vaccine, and travelling, crowded events being one of the worst businesses during a viral outbreak, it was reasonable to wonder about the future.
Bradford said they lost 90 per cent of their core business within 10 days. He knew then it was pivot or die.
So he pulled the staff together to brainstorm ideas. Now, a few short weeks later, he's bringing in more staff to help with their new business.
"We have a pretty cool team, so we pulled together and we kept going, but we also started having conversations," Bradford said.
"We got about 20 different ideas on the board. The driving factor was, do we have the supply chain and the materials to make it?
"As morbid as it sounds, one of the ideas was plywood coffins. If that was going to become an issue, could we mass-produce them fairly fast?
"We decided it probably was a bit premature to start getting too far down that, so crossed that one off the list. But desks were on there, screens were on there."
The team hit on plastic screens for shops and wooden work-from-home desks. They changed to producing them within a week.
Both used materials that they could source from reliable suppliers who were less likely to be disrupted by border closures. They could also produce them using their existing machinery and staff expertise.
But it's one thing to hit on your product, and quite another to get it to market and find new customers.
Bradford needed to have an online shop-front, and advertise to reach customers. He started using Shopify and Facebook, but soon discovered teething issues.
The small issue of a different shipping and billing address saw Shopify lock them out for six days. Meanwhile "work from home" turned out to be a red flag term with Facebook, that saw their ads repeatedly barred.
Digital giants ruled by algorithm are inflexible beasts, so Bradford had to figure out solutions, fast.
Small tweaks ended up being enough to get around the issues, such as rebranding the desks "home desks" for Facebook.
The changes were successful enough that they've been able to keep their New Zealand team working, and support their US branch as the pandemic escalated there.
They've even managed to bring in some extra helpers who had lost their jobs because of Covid-19 impacts.
"To actually give a few extra jobs is kinda nice," Bradford said.
"Both here and in the US. Our first-ever customer in the US has given us two staff members, who we'll now pay, because he didn't have any work for them.
"If we can keep them employed that will be great, thank you."
Listen to the full interview on The Pivot Pod episode above.