Adapting Your Business to a Post-Pandemic World

Shop operating with Covid restrictions
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If they weren’t aware already, the second lockdown in Victoria  is a stark reminder to business people that things aren’t going back to normal any time soon. The shockwaves COVID-19 will cause in our culture and economy are unpredictable  and ongoing. The businesses that survive  will need to be agile, innovative, and ready to meet unexpected challenges.

Peter Irvine was the co-founder of Gloria Jean’s, which had more than 1000 franchises in 39 countries when he sold it for $163 million in 2014. But on the road to that success, he dealt with some devastating setbacks. He called into Vision’s 20Twenty to talk about the attitude you need to keep, or even build, a thriving business in uncertain times.

Peter started his career at 14, as a junior with advertising agency DDB Needham, which, among other high-profile clients, was responsible for the launch of McDonald’s in Australia. He worked there for 30 years, through several recessions and attacks on the company from unhappy clients and the media. Then he had to steer Gloria Jeans through the global financial crisis, and many other difficulties.

Peter Irvine
Peter Irvine

But even with all his experience, he admits he’s never been through anything quite like 2020. Watching the ongoing crisis in Victoria, he’s seeing a lot of people shouting from the gallery. “Most of the opinions are criticisms and not ideas,” he said. “I’d hate to be Prime Minister or Premier. Are people doing everything right? Probably not.  But we haven’t faced something like this.”

Without downplaying the situation, he’d remind Victorian business owners that six weeks is not forever. Psalm 23 tells us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. “Setbacks aren’t campsites,” he said. “And unfortunately too many business people actually camp in where they are now.”

But Isaiah 48 shows us how God always offers ways to walk through the valleys we couldn’t escape alone. “I have a lot to tell you, things you never knew existed. This isn’t a variation on the same old thing. This is new, brand new, something new you’d never guess or dream up. When you hear this, you won’t be able to say I knew that all along.”

In Isaiah 43:19 NKJV, God promises “I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”. “From a Christian perspective, I’m actually excited by the opportunities this has created for Churches and ministries to reach out, using social media and the internet, on a greater scale.”

Similarly, Peter has been encouraged by the creativity some businesses have shown in their responses to the pandemic. Coffee shops have become social media powerhouses. Hotels have arranged high tea for pickup and serving at home on Mother’s Day. Plumbers and electricians have minimised their contact time by having customers show them problems via video call before they arrive.

Peter says there’s a precedent for creativity emerging from hardship. Uber, MTV, Craft Foods, Burger King and Chevrolet are just a few massively successful businesses that started during recessions. Apple, Google, and Amazon all began in garages, and went on to be among the biggest corporations in the world.

Many of us will now have no choice but to adapt and change, but is that such a bad thing? “God doesn’t change,” Peter said. “He’s the same, yesterday, today and forever. So if he’s birthed something in us, then he’s going to make it happen. But maybe we’ve got set in our ways, and we need to rethink. Maybe this is a chance for a new direction.”

“What we’ve got to work out is what’s the bruise that our customers have now that we can provide for with our service? What’s the need, and how do we go about solving it. And we may want to ask how a few companies have done that over the years, how they’ve changed or innovated.”

A big part of readiness for this new landscape is openness to new ideas. Check out the podcast of Peter Irvine’s conversation with 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson for plenty more tips on how to make your business adaptable, especially to new digital trends, as well as lots more great ways businesses have responded to change and fostered creativity.

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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