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Looking to pivot your business during the COVID-19 crisis? Manly Spirits Co. co-founder Vanessa Wilton shares some tips for making it work.
- When it comes to supply chain management, it’s good not to put all your eggs in one basket
- Optimise your processes as you go to keep on top of demand
- Be open to new opportunities as they present themselves
When the COVID-19 crisis saw the market for their award-winning whisky and gin ranges ease, Manly Spirits Co. founders Vanessa Wilton and David Whittaker knew they had to get creative. Within a week, they switched to making hand sanitiser, and their Northern Beaches distillery now churns out more than 30,000 litres of high-quality product a week. Here are their tips for pivoting your business successfully – and fast.
1. Sort out your supply chain
Switching to a new product or service can mean you need to source additional materials quickly in a competitive environment. So, securing your supply chain is essential if you want to prevent your new venture grinding to a halt.
While Manly Spirits Co. had plenty of premium glass bottles on hand, getting hold of plastic ones proved to be a challenge.
“A lot of plastics are imported and currently in short supply,” Wilton says. “We ended up working with a whole lot of different suppliers because no single one could fill our orders. But that also meant we were spreading the risk and not putting all our eggs in one basket, if one of them didn’t come through.”
2. Secure working capital and cash flow
As well as purchasing packaging, Manly Spirits Co. had to invest in glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals needed to manufacture commercial grade sanitiser.
“We’d just secured a business loan with Westpac, and having those funds available allowed us to pivot very quickly,” Wilton says. “We couldn’t have made the shift so easily otherwise. Since the COVID-19 crisis, the world has moved to COD (cash on delivery) and, if you need things, you have to be able to pay for them – then and there.”
3. Put systems in place to help operations run smoothly
Getting what’s essentially a brand-new business running smoothly won’t happen by chance. Ensuring you have systems in place to scale up and manage demand can prevent headaches down the track.
An efficient order processing system helped Manly Spirits Co. deal with the overwhelming demand that ensued when news broke about their pivot into the sanitiser game.
“Our phones went ballistic, from 7am to 8pm,” Wilton says. “We had to sort out ways to cope with that and the logistics of delivering quickly to a whole bunch of new customers. If you want to make a real go of things, you can’t wing it. If your systems aren’t working, you need to take a breath and get them working better, because otherwise it’s just going to keep piling on top.”
4. Find a flexible workforce
Having the manpower you need when you need it can mean the difference between struggle and success. Being able to call on a flexible workforce makes it possible to scale up quickly and cost-effectively as demand increases.
Manly Spirits Co.’s young crew of casuals were happy to make the switch from concocting cocktails to packing product – and to rope in their friends to fill additional shifts. “Because our distillery also ran as a venue, we had a lot of bartenders on the books and we’ve been able to keep them in work, filling and packing bottles,” Wilton says.
5. Maintain an optimistic attitude
Taking your business down a new path is hard work. An optimistic attitude is your biggest asset when it comes to overcoming the challenges an impromptu pivot entails. “Just because your business may have done one thing, doesn’t mean it can’t do another,” Wilton says.
“It’s about opening your eyes to opportunities and taking matters into your own hands; not expecting someone to fix it for you. David and I worked so hard to build our distillery – we weren’t going to let it crumble or die as a result of the crisis.”