8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis – 8. Leverage Virtual Groups

Over the last few months, business owners have been forced to re-invent their business in one way or another.  In my last few articles I’ve talked about some of the re-inventions I’ve seen.

I’m currently working with a business that has downsized its office, moved online for its office processing and become more efficient in the process. They could have done these things pre-Covid but the drive to change wasn’t big enough. Covid has changed their mindset.

How Will You Re-Invent Your Business?

This article is last one in a series that I have been writing over the last few weeks to suggest different ways of re-inventing your business if Covid-19 is forcing you to have a rethink. In each article I refer to businesses I personally know plus I refer to the ultimate outcome of a business re-invention: a successful sale of the business.

If you’ve been following all the articles, you will know that I have also done some re-inventing in my business. Switching my peer group from monthly half day meetings with breakfast butties to bi-weekly 2 hour virtual meetings supplemented by a tea, coffee and biscuit gift pack sent in the post! I have also set up a Free Virtual Peer group to support business owners for the period during lockdown. Check it out for a taster session.

The story of those business sales are told by John Warrillow, the founder of the Value Builder system, through his podcast series, Built to Sell Radio. John has consolidated 8 of his ‘re-inventing’ podcasts into an eBook, 8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis, available to download here.

So, what is the eighth way of re-inventing yourself?

Many of us are working online now. How many Zoom or Teams meetings are you handling each day? Equally are you on social media more often if you are stuck at home? Also, I see many more people collaborating via Whatsapp groups. All these virtual groups and social media channels allow very direct engagement with people who have a shared interest, and are a great way of getting fairly quick feedback.

This eighth way is very focused on exploiting social media channels and virtual groups or as Danielle, from FeedbackPanda, tells us below, these groups are like tribes.

So the eighth way to re-invent yourself is:

Leverage virtual groups – get feedback and share with virtual groups

The story of FeedbackPanda is about turning a non-value adding part of your business into a brand-new business. Then using online networks to help develop the product and also sell the product. Danielle Simpson was an independent English-language teacher working online with school children around the world. You will have seen many of these online language schools or networks where you can buy language tuition. I’m familiar with this world, my son uses a language network, learning Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian, having regular online lessons, with homework in between.

For Danielle, she had to do lesson feedback for the companies that used her to do the teaching. The feedback process was very manual, time-consuming and very repetitive. So, her partner Arvid Kahl, a software engineer, started writing programs to automate this administrative work, saving her 2 hours a day. He built the software tool so that it could be sold to other teachers, just like Danielle.

The two partners sold the feedback product, called FeedbackPanda, to those online teachers who worked as independent contractors for teaching companies. The product was sold on a monthly or a discounted annual subscription basis.

Business growth came from engaging with teachers in a range of social media groups mostly Facebook and latterly Instagram. There was no need for paid advertising. Organic content and relying on teachers’ natural desire to share was enough to build FeedbackPanda’s subscriber base. As Danielle describes it, ‘we were actually selling to a tribe’.

The tribe-like network actually started enhancing the product: users could add their own feedback templates to the product. Danielle and Arvid allowed customers to share their templates, so the product naturally developed and became more useful to customers.

Danielle and Arvid ran the business themselves, getting it to $50,000 recurring revenue per month. At that stage they started getting offers to buy the business and sold for a seven-figure sum.

Going Online

Personally, I have been exploring how I can convert my client workshops into online workshops – turning simple post-it and board exercises into something I can do on a call. A whole new world of online tools has revealed itself to me! Often I have used my online networks to find these tools. The latest is vWall.org, a straightforward post-it tool, that I found via Linkedin, via one of its creators, Dr Mark Whittaker.

When I talked to Mark, he told me the story of how Velresco, a business he runs with 2 other partners, started as a business consultancy. They regularly run workshops, often with large audiences, where they have to organise the audience to do some form of brainstorming. These events are tough to facilitate and at the end there are masses of post-its to process. I’ve been there!

So, Mark and his colleagues developed vWall®, an online tool that does the same as manual post-its and walls. They have recently enhanced the product, which is now going through its final testing with willing volunteers (I’m one), before its full release in July. Mark is considering how he will scale the product, which will include several online groups dedicated for consultants, facilitators and freelancers.  Perhaps the story of Danielle and Arvid will help him.

Arvid Kahl and Danielle Simpson were interviewed by John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell: Creating a business that can thrive without you. John is also the host of Built to Sell Radio, a regular podcast revealing the stories and advice of business owners who have sold their businesses. Listen to the full interview with John.

As this is the last article in the series, I will be combining all 8 articles into an eBook, available soon. In the meantime if you want to see what our peer group is all about register here.

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