There’s nothing like a global pandemic to change life as we know it, eh? But while social distancing meant simply staying inside for many of us, small business owners were faced with a tremendous challenge: how to continue “business as usual” through highly unusual circumstances.
We chatted to Lucy Macdougald, managing director of Biologi, about how her business adapted to not only survive, but thrive!
As a business owner, what was the biggest challenge COVID-19 threw your way?
By far the biggest challenge for us was having to transition the majority of our staff to work from home. Besides out dispatch team, our entire staff had to adjust to new ways of working during this time. Prior to COVID-19, some of our team did work remotely from time to time, however others worked in the office full time so it was still a big adjustment for all of us. From IT changes to figuring out cohesive ways to communicate, the first few weeks certainly was a bit of a juggle. Another challenge was supporting our staff from a mindset perspective throughout this time. It was such a time of uncertainty and not surprisingly, many of us felt scared, uneasy and worried about the future.
What was your biggest learning through it all?
Our biggest learning was that we can survive anything! That might sound extreme, but we all saw how heavily some businesses were affected and this made us feel extremely grateful that we could survive that phase. It also taught us that our business model is very flexible and can adapt to change pretty quickly. Within the first week we were able to function almost as normal, even with staff working remotely. Yes, there was a lot happening behind the scenes to make this happen, but thankfully it didn’t affect our front end.
What is one way your business got creative in order to survive (and hopefully thrive!) during COVID-19?
Because we were relatively unscathed by COVID-19, the biggest focus was to be supportive to others during that time. We added more ‘random acts of kindness’ (where we send customers additional products as a gift in their packages) and created care packages for some of our stockists (especially the bricks and mortar stores). It was a very tough time for retail, so we wanted to ensure that our stockists knew that we had their backs. We also ramped up our communication efforts during that time, whether it was direct to our consumers via social media or using zoom calls for our stockists, we wanted to ensure everyone felt supported.
How have the past few months changed your business strategy moving forward?
The past few months have allowed us to place an emphasis on our strategy and focus on areas that we might not have had time to focus on in the past. As part of our B2B strategy, we knew there was an opportunity to expand in the multi-brand e-commerce space, so we opened ourselves up to more platforms. We’ve also looked promotional plan and how we can continue supporting our stockists who can then support their customers.
What does your new normal look like?
Thankfully, we are fully functioning again, so it feels like we’ve already adjusted to our new normal! Our office is large which means social distancing between our staff isn’t a problem. However we are mindful that we need to make an effort to adhere to those measures as well as keep our thorough hygiene practices in place. Hygiene practices in our office have definitely increased with new hand sanitiser stations, with products like sanitiser sprays and lotions available throughout the office if needed. We also don’t allow the postman/delivery people to come further than the front door when they’re dropping off parcels. We’re of course so appreciative of the amazing work they do but we have to remain strict when it comes to contact.
From a commercial side of things, business is actually booming for us – April was the biggest month for sales we have had in our 2.5 years since launching. We are incredibly grateful for this and are ensuring we can give back wherever we can. The silver lining through all of this is that people are shopping a lot more online now and skincare and skin health is a huge focus. Thankfully we were already in that space so can capitalise on the shift in consumer behaviour whilst continuing to look at ways that we can keep improving!