Startup vs Survival: The Similarities
The Food & Beverage industry is in a tough spot right now.
For most business owners, one aspect of 2020’s challenges do not feel completely new. Whether you got started months or decades ago, the pandemic likely has similarities to your “early days.”
Cash is tight, and the future is unknown.
And while these two traits also characterize a lot of businesses in our current environment, the way we should proceed is dramatically different.
It’s common as an entrepreneur to be optimistic. This is helpful when we are fearlessly charting a course that others don’t yet believe in.
However, this optimism can be dangerous during a time with so much uncertainty. Business leaders across the world are trying to wrap their head around how 2021 is going to look for their business, putting the finishing touches on budgets that seem doomed from the start.
Instead of guessing when and what government assistance might be coming, predicting how effective the vaccines will be, or hoping that consumer confidence will return by some specific date, I suggest this: build adaptability into your model.
I believe every company should have a strategic plan, a long term vision, and well-communicated core values.
Seven years ago, we wrote a vision for what our company would look like in 2030. Over the years we've gotten a lot closer to turning that vision into a reality.
The key difference between a vision and a strategic plan is that a vision describes a single point in time instead of a plan on how to get there.
It can sting when you have to crumple up well laid strategic plans, but sometimes it's necessary to achieve your vision ... and you certainly can't achieve your vision if you go out of business.
So far this year we've scrapped dozens of well laid plans, closed warehouses, and been forced to say goodbye to some amazing people. But this pain is ultimately worth it because our vision lives on.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve worked harder than most on our culture and brand. We’ve done our best to prioritize our people and said no to opportunities that would have increased our revenues if they did not align with our vision/values.
For these reasons (in addition to some very tasty pops), we have a following that cares about us more than most food brands.
Since we started, people have been asking us if they could buy a cart from us and sell pops in their community. We were flattered but always said said no without much thought. We were doing pretty well, growing year after year, and this model was not in our strategic plans.
This year, with our plans scrapped and a bit of a blank canvas in front of us, that all changed. We decided to start the Neighborhood Partner Program in April of 2020.
Creating an opportunity for folks in our community to make some extra money felt good as people's financial situations were suddenly less clear for no fault of their own. It also allowed us to run a more efficient business and reach customers and events that our lean sales team could not.
Nine months in, it has been a huge success. Our program is unique for a lot of reasons. It's rare for established and beloved businesses to open their doors in this way.
We're taking on a lot of risk, because the wrong person could do a lot of damage to the good will that we've built over the years. We know that their execution will reflect on our brand and for that reason we are extremely selective.
I'm extremely excited about our first year operating this model and am proud of how we have adapted during the pandemic into what I think will be an even more successful, dynamic company in the future.
Cheers to the future. - Steven
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