There’s no denying that 2020 has not shaped up to be what any of us had envisaged. I’m a planner by nature and inherently like to do the research to help drive strategy. However, COVID-19 and the resulting aftermath has been a blow that none of us could have predicted. Until now I’ve struggled to put pen to paper to articulate my thoughts of what we’re dealing with in a useful manner. But as we start to navigate these unchartered waters ahead, now is the time to think differently and I finally felt compelled to write.

There’s been so many mixed emotions of what we’ve been through in the last few months and I know that we’ve been fortunate to have been kept busy and know that what we do has (hopefully) mattered a lot to our Mastermind clients.  There is an unconscious feeling of mourning though for the plans that were to have been executed in 2020, as they will no longer eventuate in the planned way and that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Farewell to the plans that were 2020

After mobilising all we had available to help with the bushfires that consumed Australia over summer, a wave of uncertainty hit that none of us could have predicted. We thought that in many ways we were set up for growth, but the plans which were well articulated went out the window overnight when COVID-19 hit and many businesses needed to rapidly change tack and direction (I’m not going to use the word pivot as it’s been so overused!).

For our team it meant we’ve pulled some crazy hours, in amongst the challenge of home schooling, inducting new members to the team and leveraging technology in a way that we had not utilised to this degree in the past. Yes, crazy for a business that prides ourselves on our digital and social footprint that we had to try things differently to how we’d operated before! Even the best crisis management training was put to use in ways we would have not envisaged but there was a single focus to help our clients in whatever way we could given our skills to sell online and direct to consumer plans were needed now more than ever – it was a matter of survival for many and we understood our role to help be a true partner which is very much our mantra.

Working from home actually came quite naturally to most of us – for over 10 years it was how our business was run until we decided that face to face interaction was invaluable and we took the plunge in moving into an office and immediately saw the benefits of how much more fluid the communication could be in person. But that plan was not easy when there were little people demanding attention and some love, wanting help and guidance for a prolonged period that stretched well beyond any patience over school holidays! Plus, a new team member who’d recently joined stepped up to learn the business in an environment that was far from normal! Not something that anyone envisages when they go to start a new job but that’s the reality that was faced.

Personally, after returning from what may be one of the only in-person international conferences of 2020 with Social Media Marketing World in San Diego, we bought a house after a five-year search and then literally a fortnight after signing contracts we went into lockdown, faced with the challenge of packing and moving house and being forced to sell in such a climate. Years of marketing financial service products teach you there’s ebbs and flows in a market, but being caught in a moment at the top and seeing the market fall beneath you overnight is not what you’re trained for! It was exactly what we were living through though! Added stress to exacerbate the business pressures.

It’s been tough, but rewarding and draining in the same breath. I know that for many of you reading this post you may also be feeling different emotions and that’s okay. We very much have all had a different journey through this turmoil and all have our own war stories to convey. It will be the discussions that memoirs are made from and we’ll pass down and reflect upon to a different generation over time I’m sure.

The aftermath and moving forward…

I feel like we’ve just emerged from a battle, knowing that many have faced far worse than we have and in no means do I want to draw comparisons to what others are enduring as I know we are very fortunate. Each of us have a different situation to deal with, but the only way forward is one with empathy and to have a little more tolerant thinking about what is happening behind the scenes in many businesses. You may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I could not be prouder of the Mastermind team. We added up the online sales we’ve made for Mastermind clients over the last three months and online sales via google analytics has been over $1 million! Yes, a big number but it’s not about the dollar amount. It’s been collaborative thinking holistically about the marketing plans and putting foundations in place over many years that have paid the dividends when it mattered.  About our clients trusting us to be able to be nimble and try things based on gut instinct because we had a hunch. So thank you Emily, Emma, Melissa, Tom, Rochelle, Deb and Rebecca! You are my rock stars!

We’ve hosted webinars, trained new teams, welcomed new clients into the Mastermind family (thanks Coravin and Margaret River Wine) and pulled together as a team to think about how we can deliver more with less…

With mixed emotions we move forward, not the same as we did before but with a new vision to operate in a different environment and respond differently. Sadly, we have had to make some tough calls and reshape our business for the future and that’s been the most heart wrenching part of this, something I still struggle to come to terms with given it has an impact on my own tribe. We’re thinking about the 2020 plans differently than what we did before knowing that we’re still in for a long road ahead.

The next steps

Wine Australia have facilitated some fabulous sessions through Pragmatic Thinking over the last few weeks and it’s reminded me of the need to reach out to others for guidance, or just verifying your thoughts as there’s strength in numbers and sometimes just knowing that you are not alone is the comfort you need to move forward. Having a group of trusted advisors for your business may seem like an investment, but it’s more important than ever as we seek some clarity on what the next steps look like.

The point I want to make though is that we need to move in a different direction and there are things we can do to take control of our own future. For some of us it is an opportunity to change the way we’ve done things in the past and lay a different foundation – alleviating some of the challenges we’ve faced with a clean slate.

It will never be business as normal, but as Australia and the world starts to re-open we can look at what we can control and what our vision may look like. Here’s a few suggestions that might help you reframe 2020 and make the second half of the year look slightly different.

Some practical things you can do:

  • Give yourself some time to plan and evaluate what is next

Taking time out from being busy and just keeping afloat can be hard! But giving yourself some time to plan and evaluate what the future looks like for your business deserves some time out to plan and reflect. Whether you’re re-opening a venue, or relaunching your offering, dedicate some time to plan out what the short- and medium-term may look like and then you can put some plans into place to execute.

  • Look at what’s not working

This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and do things differently. Consumers are in many cases are adapting to a different reality of how business will operate so look at how you can position yourself for future growth and get rid of products and services that are no longer efficient or profitable. Here’s your chance to reinvent your brand and do things a little differently.

  • Leverage your online tools

With restrictions still in place about how you can operate, your online ecosystem has never been more important. Think about the customer journey with your brand and how you can do things differently to offer value and help to solve some challenges for your customers. This could be via different booking systems, enhancing your online web presence, sending better emails – there’re lots of tools to leverage to build your brand online.

  • Nurture your communities

Don’t neglect those who are most loyal to your brand – keep nurturing those relationships and demonstrate that they are valuable. This could be via a personal phone call or alternatively shifting the metrics for measurement. It’s not always the time to sell and so how you see your social media and digital campaigns may need to be measured accordingly  – long term customer value is the ultimate goal.

  • Think Differently

It’s a chance to challenge conventional business models and do things a little differently without the shackles from the past dictating how things are done. Here’s your chance to really challenge conventions, collaborate and think about how you can bring your product or service to your customers differently to how you’ve done things in the past.

  • Have some patience

Remember it is unchartered waters that we’re facing and it is tough for many brands and consumers. Look after yourself, those around you and have some patience as you start to execute your plans. Doing something and testing may be a more effective plan than moving backwards or remaining stagnant.

I’d love to know your thoughts on what other suggestions you might have to move forward or how you have survived these challenging times. Remember I’m only a phone call away so if you do need to chat, please remember I’m always up for a good old yarn! Good luck and look after yourselves.