• Thomas Schwarzenfeld

Innovation in the times of Corona.



Mostly people ask me about big innovation leaps and what they will look like. But in times like these, for those small businesses affected most by the current crisis, it's the little innovations that make all the difference.


My local Pilates studio, Fort Pilates, had to close their Reformer Pilates classes due to Corona. Instead of giving up, they invited all their loyal customers to attend online classes via Zoom for the time being.

After paying $15 they send you the link to the class via email and you dial in when the class begins.


It's the first time for them to offer any kind of online class and of course, it's not perfect. It might also not look like a huge innovation at all, as there are multiple online Pilates courses out there. But for Fort Pilates, it's a huge innovation that might make the difference between do or die.


Fort Pilates lives off their loyal customer base that lives in the neighborhood, comes regularly and knows and loves their trainers.



Besides trying to compensate for the lost revenue, the most important goal for such a small business is to keep its customers engaged so that they don't need to start all over again when Corona is over.


As for the customers, it feels good in these devastating times to continue doing something they know and love.


In their first class, they had 26 attendees, which made them roughly the same revenue that a regular in-person class would give them. A regular class in the studio costs $40 and has 6-8 attendees.


Of course, going online and doing two classes per day instead of 6 tor 8 classes a day, as they conducted before they had to close the studio, is far from being a thriving business. But that is not the point. The point is that it took them only 24 hours to come up with an idea of how to tackle this challenge and start doing it. Who knows where this will lead them.


They will get more professional. They might implement a better communication and sign-up for their classes on their website in order to get new customers and not only rely on the ones they have today.

They will upgrade their equipment that makes it easier for the trainer to communicate with the participants and give individual feedback for the ones who turn their camera on.


What they started today in desperation to survive the shutdown might even turn into the start of a huge success story. But if not, it will definitely increase their chances of survival, pay at least some of their trainers and help their customers stay sane while being forced to stay at home in their tiny New York apartments.


Learnings:

  • Every challenge has its opportunities.

  • Act fast, don't wait. If things get better fast you learned, if not you didn't waste precious time.

  • Don't over-engineer things. In difficult times customers are extremely forgiving. It doesn't need to be perfect right from the start. Try to get things done with as little resources as possible.

  • Don't try to anticipate the far future. The action you take today doesn't need to work in two weeks. You don't know what will happen in two weeks. Try to find something that works today, supports your core business and doesn't block whatever the future might bring.

  • Make mistakes and improve. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. If something doesn't work try the next idea. If something seems to work, make it better and improve it as fast as possible.

  • This is not the end. The world is not coming to an end. Even if the economy plunges and unemployment rises to 20%. Everybody will need to keep their lives going. 80% will still have the job they had before. Offer something better or cheaper or both and you will find customers.

Let me know how I can help you. I started the "Together we will thrive!" free business advice initiative. If you are searching for advice or help, please contact me.


If you have capacities to help, please help wherever you can and send me a short note with what you can offer.


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