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Lessons from pivoting a business after disruption

Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Gospel distillery, Andrew Fitzgerald IMLa, shares his insights on pivoting a business in response to disruption.

In 2020, the challenges of running a business took on a whole new meaning. Despite the lockdowns, border closures and a heightened level of global uncertainty, the bills didn’t stop. Many of us had very difficult decisions to make in the midst of no end of sleepless nights to ensure the survival of our businesses.

My business partner and I were well into planning the global expansion of our business, The Gospel. I had received my Green Card and was due to visit New York in May 2020 to look at schools for my children. And then everything toppled over. We lost one of our biggest contracts and revenue sources from the US. Australian hospitality venues were shuttered. Those expansion plans? Who knew how long the door would be closed on them.

So, as many businesses did, we pivoted. Looking back on the year that was, there are a few lessons we can all take from surviving business after a major disruption.

Map out the scenarios

The first thing I did was step away from the panic to regain control. My business partner and I mapped out every possible scenario we could foresee along with how we would react to each scenario.

This gave us a roadmap that we could continue to evolve as the situation changed. We knew how much money we had in the bank and what we could afford to do so we used this as a reference point for moving forward.

Predicting and planning for the different scenarios gave us a sense of calm, which made relaying that sense of calm to our employees much easier. They knew we had thought things through and had a plan to respond.

Consider the short and long term

One of the things I learned from the Deakin University MBA program is the concept of steering the business. Every business should have short-, mid-, and long-term goals. What I’ve learned is that changing your long-term goals, as we had to do as a result of the pandemic, also changes your short and mid-term objectives.

Andrew Fitzgerald IMLa talks about pivoting a business after disruption.
Andrew Fitzgerald IMLa

As the full force of the pandemic lockdowns hit in March 2020, we responded quickly, as did many other distilleries, to produce hand sanitiser. This was about survival and not a revenue stream we wanted to pursue long term, so we didn’t add huge margins onto the price. This helped to keep our staff employed, paid our rent and kept us afloat without us capitalising on the shortage. By October, we had stopped producing hand sanitiser as we had started to rewrite our strategy and shifted the goals.

Our new strategy saw a new focus for The Gospel. We could see the potential in the Australian market so pivoted our strategy to build on that opportunity. We have now changed the way we recruit for our team and market our business to align our short-term strategy with our long-term goals.

Look at your resources and how you can redeploy them

Every business has resources. Whether those resources are people, equipment, machinery or IP, you have resources at your disposal. In times of crisis or ultimate change, you need to look at your resources and reengineer how you deploy them.

We had the resources to quickly move to produce hand sanitiser so we did. But we also had the resources to produce the liquid chalk used for rock climbing or powerlifting in gyms. This is a product we still make today.

While “sanitiser gate” is not something I ever want to experience again, it has made me look at business assets differently. By keeping an open mind to change and doing the strategic work early, we’ve come out the other side with a renewed energy and a completely new focus to drive us forward.

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