Transforming Your Business — Tips From the Experts

Learn how local businesses are pivoting their approach and transforming their businesses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our third conversation in our webinar series with Nextdoor Canada dives into strategies and tools that can help small business owners transform their businesses, and is hosted by Karisa Marra, Square’s small business expert.

Joining Karisa are guests:

Learn how local businesses are pivoting their approach and transforming their businesses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disaster Struck Small Business – What Can We Do Now? And What Have We Learned?

One word — pivot.

That’s the difference between the small businesses still open to the community and those that are not. They pivoted. According to Darryl, Digital Mainstreet (DM) is the ultimate pivot. If your business doesn’t have an online presence yet, reach out to the folks at Digital Mainstreet and let them show you how easy it is to get your business online and run your store in the cloud.

Serene and Pixeltree learned that the level of communication they were already providing their customers was of a level that most of these small business owners had never enjoyed before. By simply listening to their customers and helping them figure out their needs, Serene helped turn Pixeltree into something that really fit what small business owners today are looking for.

Actively listening to your customers lets you know what a great pivot really is — if your customers are happy, you’re doing something right. After active listening, engagement is next. How can you keep your customers engaged with your shop? How can you continue to show your appreciation and dedication?

The disaster that struck our world this year has somewhat separated people into two groups — those that try to get as much as they can (remember when there wasn’t any toilet paper?), and those who try to help as much as they can (remember paper towel companies pivoting to make toilet paper, and alcohol producers began manufacturing hand sanitizer?).

The most obvious pivot for a small business owner is to get their shop online. That’s most important. Next, make a new value and mission statement. Then, walk the walk. Show the world your small business’ values actually mean something to you — that you mean what you say. More and more people have realized they enjoy their community’s amenities, moving them to support small, local businesses more than ever before. Transitioning and transforming are small words, but they mean so much now.

But how do you really transform your business? What’s the process?
Some potential steps to transformation include:

  1. Take a step back
  2. Examine your core values
  3. Don’t think of your bottom line right now, focus on values first and revenues will follow
  4. Decide what you need to do to get to where you want to be
  5. Find the tools that support that direction
  6. Build your solutions as you go

And some brilliant advice for your transformation? Don’t do something just for the sake of doing it.

Use this pivot to identify your processes, streamline operations, make yourself and your staff more efficient, and, most important — make you and your team happy.

If you keep your eyes on the bigger picture, you’ll realize that just one minor change you implement could change your entire business for the better. Sometimes, these transformations are so huge, you might need to bring on more staff. Whatever you do within your transformation process, make sure you’re able to manage the transformation.

What Are Some Common Mistakes in Pivoting?

No matter how long you’ve been in business, we all make mistakes. It’s much easier to make a mistake the more pressure you’re under. So, one of the first mistakes you can avoid when taking on a business pivot is this — don’t do something without a valid reason for doing it. Say you know a business buddy who swears by this new payroll app he found — don’t take on the $99/month new subscription fees if you have two or three employees. Bottom line, there is no best tool — every business is different.

Some other common mistakes include:

  • Not asking for advice or help when things seem too big
  • Not listening to your employees if they say something isn’t working
  • Not defining your values, your mission, and your goals
  • Forgetting to ask software providers about the security of their applications
  • Break your big decisions down into smaller ones. It makes the whole pivoting process easier. Use what you have available. And remember, you will make mistakes! The key is to not let them demolish the future of your business.

Long-term Changes

COVID has changed the way people in communities interact. But this is a good thing. Especially for small, local business owners, they are seeing firsthand how human interaction is not only a necessity, but how there are still ways it can be done on a whole new, more personal level.

Some of the most important changes the pandemic brought might actually be long-term shifts in the way we do business in the future. For instance, that corner bistro that started delivering food to customers — can you imagine if they suddenly put an end to delivery service? It’s changes like delivery, curbside pickup, and other minor efforts that should stick around long term.

In fact, ask your employees and your customers — what do they like? What don’t they like? The truth is, this might be an ongoing pivot for the foreseeable future. What are some things you can think of that would work for your small business?