July 31, 2020
The Making Lemonade Blog –
We’ve all heard the expression; when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It’s a nice way to say you should make the best of a bad situation. Well since my last Blog in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we at Broner have been making a lot of lemonade. So much has changed since March, when our country was basically shut down. Yet in reality, not that much has changed. People are still getting infected. Most people are working remote. Schools are teaching remote. Restaurants are closed or limited to 50% capacity. Entertainment and travel are basically closed. Retail stores are capped at the number of customers allowed inside. Masks are required everywhere. Social gatherings are limited. Religious services are limited. So, I’m wondering why it feels like a lot has changed since March. That’s when I realized what has really changed. We all learned how to make lemonade.
Teamwork, Customer Relationships, and Technology
Another expression heard a lot in the business world since the Pandemic started is “Pivot”. It’s a trendy way to say change plans and commonly used by business coaches and industry leaders. So, “pivot” we did. Or you could say that we started to make some lemonade. The thing that stands out to me most in our “pivot” is the way our team and our customers responded. We are a team of 32. You don’t need me to tell you that change is difficult. I’ll tell you it is impossible to change a team of 32 without a lot of agreement, communication, and some compromise. I’ll call that teamwork. Initially, in March, we closed our building (including customer pick-ups) to everybody except our distribution center staff. The rest of us had to change habits and learn new skills. We communicated together more than ever. We “Zoomed” three and four times a week to stay on top of the ever-changing situation. We cancelled all sales travel and communicated with our customers via phone and email. We altered our plans for trade shows. We opted for a digital catalog rather than our traditional print catalog. Some of these changes were due to the government rules and some were done as a result of fiscal responsibility. We changed our plans with our customers in mind, knowing they rely on us for products that keep their businesses running. Fortunately, but not surprising, our customers respected our new policies and appreciated our transparency. It reaffirms what our customers expect most from us – honest answers along with quality products and fair pricing!
As the governor loosened restrictions and allowed more industries back to work, we reacted. We opened customer will call and we put in strict rules for our employees to slowly come back to the office. We started seeing local customers face to face. As May turned to June and now July, we have made several “pivots”. We have a max capacity in our building which allows us to physical distance more easily. I expect we will be a hybrid of remote working and limited access to our offices for the rest of the year.
Who Moved My Cheese
In 1998 the book “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson took the business world by storm. I’m sure it is one of the most read business books (although I have no facts on that) of all time. I know we had all our employees read it back in the day. Its message - in a simple and easy to understand story – is that the only constant in business is change. Given the realities of 2020, that message seems like an understatement! If I were to write a business book today, in a similar format to what Spencer Johnson wrote in 1998, I would call it “Learn How To Make Lemonade”. Here are some of the flavors of lemonade we are making at Broner:
• If you can’t travel and visit customers (and suppliers) physically, learn how to do it virtually.
• If you can’t exhibit at a trade show, learn how to turn your showroom into a virtual trade show booth.
• If you don’t want the cost of printing a new catalog, make one digitally that your customers can browse electronically.
• If the team is working remote in a fast changing world, over communicate in a virtual environment.
Which takes me back to the beginning of this blog and me wondering why it feels like so much has changed since March when really not that much has. The answer is that we have changed and adjusted. At least to the current “normal” – and we all know how long that will last for…
A Little Humor is Necessary
Lastly – and with moderation I must add - it doesn’t hurt to add a little vodka to the lemonade every now and then. Might even be healthier than watching the evening news…
New morning rituals…