When your business is either stopped in its tracks by an unforeseen pandemic, or you see unplanned opportunities during the crisis which would not otherwise have been considered, what should you do? Panic, wait for an upturn, ignore the new opportunity, or think outside the box? Feedback from three Shannon Chamber member companies would suggest that this is the time to be proactive, examine business models and see if and where new opportunities lie.
A conversation with member companies, each facing different issues with their businesses, promoted Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes to link up with entrepreneurial specialist at UCD Innovation Academy, Fergal Brophy, to see if he could devise a programme to help members navigate through the issues caused by COVID- 19 lockdown and the associated economic downturn.
“We wanted to support companies and do so quickly. The companies who signed up were given an opportunity to engage and ultimately challenge themselves to rethink their businesses,” stated Ms Downes.
A facilitator, mentor and founder of Open Innovation Services, and well-practiced in helping businesses increase their creativity and innovation, Brophy knew that his Business Blitz model, designed to specifically help small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) quickly adapt alternative business models to better meet the needs of existing customers in the ‘all-new’ world we now find ourselves in, would help companies in the Mid-West.
Funded via Shannon Chamber Skillnet, this programme was quickly offered to Chamber members on a pilot basis. All that was required was that they would partake in a five-day programme, commit to two to four self-directed hours per day online, during which they would be energised, motivated and supported to re-evaluate their businesses and identify new opportunities in light of the current situation and its potential impact on the future.
Delighted to roll-out this programme to Shannon Chamber members, Fergal Brophy said it was about getting them to think in a big-picture way, reimagine how they will need to do business in the future and be more creative in their outlooks.
“I sent each participant a simple instructional email appropriate to their business at 8am every morning. This was accompanied by links to short, highly relevant explainer videos. I set them daily tasks such as gathering customer information and framing a problem to be solved based on their empathy. I also called them each evening to share outcomes and examine creative, innovative ways to address the following days’ tasks. They had to generate and assess potential business models, prototype and test a chosen model and, at the end of the week, pitch an implementation plan for that model.”
Caroline Dunlea, CEO of digital marketing agency, Core Optimisation, was delighted to be part of this great initiative from Shannon Chamber.
“Our business, like so many others, has been impacted by COVID-19. Having that intense time-sensitive focus on one area of the business was great. The one-to-ones with Fergal from the UCD Innovation Academy were invaluable and I would highly recommend it to other businesses looking to either pivot or focus in on an area of their business, especially during these uncertain times.”
Prior to COVID- 19, Get The Shifts, an innovative staff solution company for the hospitality sector was providing bar staff, wait staff, baristas, kitchen porters, event staff and cleaners to a wide range of customers but as CEO, Hannah Wrixon, technology business woman of the year 2019, states: “As a hospitality-based staffing company our business came to a full stop in March. We needed to think outside the box and quick. We realised that we are experts in temporary staffing and that a broader range of industries could benefit from our experience and our innovative tech solutions.
“It was great to be able to explore these new services and potential new clients in a structured environment. It was great in the midst of all the chaos to be able to put some structure around our pivot. I felt equipped to bring the idea forward to the next level. We are launching our new business offering in July, all thanks to participating in the Business Blitz programme.”
Innovation is at the heart of Troy Packaging’s business and despite continuing to serve a wide variety of essential service sectors from the outset of the pandemic, owner Ger Clifford’s motivation for partaking in the Business Blitz programme was to find new opportunities that were there for his company.
“I learned how to find new revenue streams for my business based on how we used our mindset to embrace the future trends that now form the new normal. I was forced to look at our business in a different way using a new mindset, which I think we will all need for the future. I would highly encourage Shannon Chamber Skillnet to continue to run this programme as it will benefit companies in so many ways.”
Delighted with the feedback from this pilot undertaking, Shannon Chamber CEO is looking at rolling it out again.
“We have a wide range of programmes on offer via our Skillnet over the coming months, all of which will be offered online. The topics are very diverse and include Microsoft Excel intermediate and advanced, lean yellow belt, business and executive coaching, coaching for leaders, frontline management, sales skills. It is not surprising that a programme on sales planning and lead generation, which we are running in September, is already booked out.
“All of these training programmes are being offered in response to demand from members. We just need to find a window to run another Business Blitz programme and we will. It has been so positively recommended by those companies that took part in the pilot offering and we will proactively act on this feedback.”
Full details on the training programmes offered by Shannon Chamber Skillnet can be found at www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training