7 Ways to Reinvent Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World
Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC
Like a global pandemic or recession, major economic disruptions are filled with lessons for business builders—some painful, others profitable. Karen Stahl, co-owner of Moake Park Group, shared some valuable lessons she learned during 2020 at The NIIC’s Innovation Leadership Showcase Breakfast in April 2021.
- Rethink the status quo. Moake Park is a commercial architecture firm that has been around for more than 30 years. Most of the staff have worked for the company for an average of 15 years. “As an established company, we can get into a rut. COVID-19 made us question everything,” said Stahl.
During the pandemic, every part of the business process was disrupted, from the sales pipeline to project leadership to construction management. “We needed to very quickly rethink existing assumptions and reimagine ways of doing business,” said Stahl.
- Adapt to survive. “We quickly discovered our company is more resilient and adaptable than we thought,” she said. We learned we could do things very differently,” said Stahl. For example, working remotely. “When we all walked out of our offices with our monitors and our computers, we thought it would be for a week or two. We can do anything for a week or two. Then, one week turned into six weeks, which turned into a year.”
The company was in the midst of some large projects and had not worked remotely before the pandemic. “Our work had always been done in person. Yet, we discovered we could navigate through the whole videoconferencing process, the Teams process, and sharing of screens and documents. Our clients were wonderful. Together, we discovered we CAN do this.“
Now, they use a hybrid approach based on client preferences. This approach includes meeting in person, remotely, or a combination of those.
- Collaboration is key. Moake Park also learned that working remotely can be collaborative. “I remember we had a huge project due. Our traditional methods of face-to-face collaboration were no longer possible. We found we could maintain our collaborative culture even when working remotely.
During virtual meetings, they identified their plan or direction, dispersed to work on various components of the plan, and reconvened later in the day to assess progress. “Every company had to deal with this. We weren’t the only ones. We found that we could work together remotely if need be,” said Stahl.
- Leverage hidden advantages. One advantage they quickly realized was time gained due to reduced staff travel. “One of the good things that came out of our pivot to remote work was unexpected time savings. We have clients all over the state of Indiana. Virtual meetings have saved our architects a lot of travel time,” she said. “For example, if we have a project in Valparaiso, much of our architects’ day would be consumed with driving there and back. Now, they can walk into a virtual conference room, have the meeting, and then get right back to work. We’re more productive.”
- Redeem the time. “In architecture, there is typically a very long sales cycle, and the pandemic didn’t help,” she said. “Our firm specializes in higher education, K-12, and healthcare. In 2020, the furthest thought from those clients’ minds was meeting with an architect.'”
Stahl said she feels like she lost 2020 from the perspective of client and prospect management. So, she used that time to focus on leadership development instead. “I used the extra time on my hands to deepen my understanding of the industry from a business-owner standpoint, to hone my professional skills and learn new ones.” She participated in many programs provided by The NIIC’s WBC EmPWR Program. EmPWR stands for Equity and Prosperity for Women Reimagining their businesses.
Examples of these programs include The Innovation Mosh Pit, Innovation Mindset®, and KARE for Your Customers Workshop Series.
“The Innovation Mosh Pit, facilitated by Greg Fraley, was a fascinating workshop because it challenged me to examine my readiness to be an innovator. Rather than beginning with a traditional SWOT analysis, we started by putting ‘I wish’ statements on a whiteboard. ‘I wish we could open up another office.’ ‘I wish we could hire ten more people.’ You just threw everything out there, even if it was a crazy idea. From there, we picked a couple of those statements and asked, ‘Okay, if you did this, what would be needed to make it successful?’ It was a fun, creative, and collaborative experience — a very different way of thinking about business planning to take your company forward.”
Another tool Stahl found valuable was the Innovation Mindset with Dennis Stauffer. It’s an assessment of innovation capacity,” said Stahl. Everybody has taken personality tests. Your personality is your personality. You really can’t change a lot about who you are. The Innovation Mindset is different. It measures four components of innovation — bravery, awareness, openness, and creativity. “Understanding where I fell on the spectrum helped me identify qualities I could strengthen and refine. I discovered I am more innovative than I thought I was.”
In addition, The KARE (Keep, Attain, Recapture, Expand) for Your Customer Workshop offered by WBC EmPWR helped her cultivate her sales cycle. “It made me think carefully about relationships with each one of our customers and provided a method for keeping track of each relationship. The workshop was segmented into two groups — companies over and under $100,000 per year in sales — to drill down into the sales process with our peers. We listed our clients in terms of who we wanted to keep, attain, recapture or expand,” said Stahl.
- Leverage opportunities. “I appreciate what The NIIC does here in our community. It’s a gem, a real asset. All of their programs have been amazing—whether it’s been an in-depth focus on social media or a half-day workshop on Atomic Habits. I’ve learned so much. The programs have been appropriate for businesses of all shapes and sizes, from sole proprietorships to larger businesses like mine,” said Stahl.
- Develop entrepreneurial skills. Stahl concluded, “As disruptive as COVID has been, the past year has given me new opportunities to leverage opportunities to develop and hone my entrepreneurial skills and talents.”
Ponder it. I’m sure you can identify your lessons learned through resiliency during economic downturns.