Naomi Simson’s small business strategy checklist

Having seen more than 400 pitches as a Shark on Shark Tank Australia, Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson knows a thing or two about the make-up of a successful and scalable business. But like so many business leaders across the globe she had to rethink her business strategy when COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

Australia has always been a nation of innovators. The black box flight recorder, Google Maps, WiFi technology and the pacemaker are just a few ingenious Australian inventions that have changed the world.

And since COVID-19 changed the world, this innovative mind-set is more important than ever for the survival of small businesses.

One of the greatest challenges right now is that we have never been in this situation before – there is no playbook. But we can put together strategies to help navigate our businesses through this difficult time and protect the startup ecosystem.

Here is my defensive and offensive strategy checklist for small businesses, because at the end of the day we’re all in this together.

Your defensive strategy checklist

Setting up defensive strategies will help lay the foundations for your business’s long-term survival. Future-proof your business by understanding how you can defend it from potential economic impacts brought about by COVID-19.

1. Get on top of your checkbook

Start by going through every single line item in your balance sheet and decide whether it can be reviewed, pushed out or cut. With this level of attention to detail you might find costs you didn’t know you had – such as hosting fees of unused email accounts.

When Red Balloon’s CFO went through our balance sheet he assigned an owner to each line item, allowing them to be the decision-maker on whether something got cut or reviewed.

2. Be transparent with your employees

According to HR and recruitment firm Randstad, being transparent with your employees during a financial crisis will help build long-term trust in the future. Ensure you're being transparent with your employees and provide them with regular updates on the business, including state of finances and positive impacts of any cost-cuts.

3. Ask yourself what resources you need to scale

The truth is, not all business owners are entrepreneurs. If you’re great with running your business but are not sure how to grow it – especially during these uncertain times – invest in the talent and resources that will get you there. Any investment in the growth of your business is a worthwhile one.

4. Flip your business model if you need to attract customers

If a potential business partner entered the Tank and pitched an inner city pub that also moonlighted as a corner store, I would have said “I’m out”. But we have seen some incredible business pivot success stories come out of this situation. If you need to attract customers in this new world – flip your business model.   

The first thing we did at Red Balloon when COVID-19 hit was ask ourselves: “What can we reinvent or reimagine when it comes to experiences?” We came up with a whole range of at-home experiences - which opened us up to a global audience. A whisky tasting in Sydney Harbour can now be done virtually from anywhere in Australia. 

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Your offensive strategy checklist

Successful offensive strategies put the customer at the centre. The key is understanding the public conversation and industry changes, and then aligning your messaging. Emphasise the strengths of your business by following these steps

1. Track customer sentiment

Use social media to understand and shift the customer sentiment of your brand before starting any marketing campaign.  

What business owners need to understand as we evolve and adapt to a new world, is that our neuro-pathways have changed and what we now accept as a social norm might not be what it once was. There will be some things we will take on as social practices that will benefit the whole of society and need to be applied to the business experience.

2. Make your marketing empathetic

For Mother’s Day this year, Red Balloon decided to go out strong with our messaging and made sure people knew we were there for mothers on their number one day. To do this successfully, our marketing team monitored customer sentiment and kept messaging empathetic, helpful and positive.

3. Communicate your business values and do good

There is not one person that I’ve spoken to that hasn’t mentioned the benefits to the planet from us being in lockdown. We’re seeing green turtles hatch on our beaches in Far-North Queensland! As a business owner, it’s important right now to take your community on a journey of sustainability that aligns with your company’s values. Doing good is no longer a “nice to have” for small business, it’s a must and it’s what customers expect. 

If you would like to hear more from Naomi, sign up to her biweekly briefing Handpick. 

Learn more about growing your small business by downloading our Small Business Growth Toolkit.


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