Tackling obstacle after obstacle is all too often part and parcel of doing business. But what can be done when a business is confronted with a challenge which – if not overcome – will destroy it? When the cost of failure is high, finding the best course of action can seem impossible. Discover how three businesses managed to find the right approach – plan b – against all odds.
The power of a sprinkle strike
The unwillingness to give up in the face of a seemingly impossible business challenge can appear reckless or even foolish at times, and doing so may look different for different businesses, but there are times where such perseverance is invaluable.
Rich Meyers, owner of British bakery Get Baked, swears by the power of persistence. In October 2021, Get Baked was reported to Trading Standards for using illegal confectionary in two of its bestselling product lines. Meyers was using American sprinkles which – because they contain a restricted additive – are banned in the UK.
Meyers’ bakery used American sprinkles because of their added value: they provide bright bursts of color when used in baked goods. Conversely, British sprinkles are not bake-stable: the sprinkle colors either bleed into one another or fade. Get Baked’s owner used a unique and humorous tone on social media to declare that while he would comply with British regulations, he would not use inferior products: ‘I will be on a sprinkle strike and won’t budge for no man.’
The owner remained resolute despite the fact that his bakery would lose significant revenue from halting the production of its sprinkle products. Meanwhile, Meyers coined the term ‘sprinklegate’ and continued to broadcast his frustration with the British confectionary industry. His Facebook posts ended up going viral, and his sprinkle grievances were even validated by two well-known British bakers, lending credibility to his complaints.
Get Baked sales surged, and suppliers from all over the world contacted Meyers to seek his collaboration in creating a new sprinkle variant. In December 2021, Meyers announced that with the help of an American company, he had successfully developed a new sprinkle brand which was both bake-stable and compliant with British regulations.
Meyers’ refusal to accept the status quo led to extensive media coverage which raised the bakery’s profile and helped him build the right connections to solve the challenge he was facing.
This story captivated many for one very simple reason: Meyers was unwilling to give up on his dream. Perseverance and passion are indeed imperative for achieving entrepreneurial goals and overcoming obstacles. These qualities are also integral in crafting a business’ vision and selling that vision to anyone who comes across it.
Disaster planning: pivoting strategically in times of crisis
While it is easy to see the value in business models which create or deliver innovative products or services, understanding the value of business agility is equally vital. The ability to pivot in good time to address changes to the market can determine the longevity of a company.
When all non-essential retailers in the UK closed their doors at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fiona Jamieson and her manager Sergio Mastrodonato were concerned about the fresh products sitting on shelves in their cosmetics store on Oxford Street (London).
This shop is the British cosmetics retailer Lush’s biggest: 8,800 square feet and full of diverse products. Jamieson and Mastrodonato knew they needed to act fast since the Lush manufacturing centre was already overloaded with requests from all over the country, leaving them unable to return their store’s stock of products.
This impasse was particularly troublesome because the Lush brand emphasizes freshness: its slogan is ‘Fresh Handmade Cosmetics,’ and the company does not sell products past four months of their production date. The Oxford Street store thus needed to quickly create a plan to get their products to consumers without relying on the process model in place.
In just three and a half weeks, Jamieson and Mastrodonato created a plan b: turning their store into a local distribution centre. They launched a brand-new delivery service, Lush Local, which distributed products from the Oxford Street store directly to customers in the London area.
Lush Local was marketed on social media as: ‘An experimental project, following the philosophy that ‘If a Lushie can’t get to a Lush store, the Lush store will go to the Lushie.’
The Lush Oxford Street store also introduced virtual product consultations to assist customers in selecting products over the phone or through video call. Lush Local was consequently adopted in 45 stores across the UK.
The Oxford Street store’s quick transformation from in-store sales to e-commerce services was expertly handled. Lush was able to overcome business disruption by adapting internal processes to suit new demands. This illustrates the importance of being able to swiftly adapt to market shifts: adapt or die.
It is crucial for businesses to inspire and encourage agile thinking across all levels of the business. When companies show their talent community that they truly care about their ideas and opinions, their people are much more likely to dedicate time and energy to develop innovative initiatives, projects and solutions.
Make or break relationships
Relationships have a huge impact on a company’s success. Building and maintaining strong relationships, externally and internally, sets companies up to perform strongly in all growth and development stages.
Upon Himmat Singh’s appointment as CEO of AIS Adhesives Ltd., he discovered that its operations were stalled, its cash reserves were depleted, and it was operating at a $200,000 loss.
Singh quickly created a plan: prioritizing the restoration of trust among suppliers, clients, and the talent community. He spoke to all three parties about their issues with the previous management team and clarified the steps which would be taken to address ongoing concerns.
The CEO planned daily and weekly updates with suppliers to demonstrate his commitment to transparency. He also met with each client to reassure them that changes were being implemented to avoid further disruptions. Singh thus positioned himself as accountable and accessible to suppliers and clients: he showed that he was invested in developing a reliable and honest relationship with each of them.
External relations were not the only ones which needed repairing: AIS Adhesive Ltd.’s people were concerned about the economic state of the company. Singh addressed this discontent and set out to find ways to boost morale by re-working internal practices and policies.
Singh motivated and energized his talent community by offering upskilling opportunities, organizing regular social events, eliminating timecards, and implementing teleworking. Trust, autonomy, and accountability became the cornerstones of a thriving internal culture.
In just one year, AIS Adhesives Ltd. was once again profitable – with an 80 percent growth in sales. Even more remarkably in Singh’s eyes, the internal retention rate stood at almost 100 percent.
‘All businesses are all about people, both internal and external.’Himmat Singh, CEO of AIS Adhesives Ltd.
This company’s remarkable turnaround was made possible because of the CEO’s plan to invest in people. The new CEO saw that his company’s connections had deteriorated, and consequently, re-opened lines of communication at every level.
It is important for businesses to build strong rapport both internally and externally, and to understand how standardized processes, policies, and systems can be changed to suit people’s actual needs. Without the right people and the right connections, operations can be compromised all too quickly.
Perseverance, agility, and strong relationships are key to business success. Leaders need to know when the time is right to buckle down and refuse to accept the status quo. Companies must also strive to create an agile and supportive environment so that when disaster hits, teams are willing and prepared to find the way out themselves. Moreover, trust and transparency should sit at the foundation of all businesses. Management teams should commit to openness and accountability in order to build a strong company culture and to maintain a respectable reputation. When these abilities and connections are lacking or non-existent, companies may struggle to withstand the bumpy road of business.
At Mantu, we ensure that our clients are prepared to face any and all business challenges. Our expertise allows us to help businesses plan, adapt, evolve and expand.