Recently I was asked write an op-ed to put a real face to COVID-19 reality and the impact it has had our small business.
Earlier this year I was in Sacramento, California standing before a full auditorium of prune growers and industry executives at the California Prune Industry Summit, where I laid out my vision for the future of prunes and how we were bringing this amazing fruit out of the dark ages - giving it new life and a new identity as the "better for you" ingredient powering our first to market, slow-burn energy bars. Later that afternoon the first community case of the virus was recorded just half a mile down the road. That was February 26th. Coming off a record January and projecting a massive increase in growth, we were poised for a big year. COVID-19 hit and changed everything. Not just for us, for everyone! Markets changed, consumer buying habits changed, supply chains became disrupted, and retailers shut their doors. Everything we built vanished in an instant. The world has changed and like many other American business owners and families, we have to find a way to survive and carry on. The only way around is through. None of us know what to do or what’s coming next but we have to do something, so here’s three simple things that have helped me determine what to do next.
It’s hard to process everything that is coming at us at such a rapid rate. The constant news of the virus and its impact on our lives is overwhelming. It’s unhealthy and only feeds into fear of the unknown. Here’s some advice; Take some time and GET OUTSIDE. It’s actually proven that spending time outdoors helps boost your mental state and helps you regain your energy. I’ve always been drawn to open spaces and high places. I love the solitude of a trail, the challenge of a climb, and the elevated view from high on a mountain top. I have room to survey the landscape, clear my mind - think about things, and sort through the s#%t. I also find that challenging myself to accomplish something physical re-calibrates my mind and reminds me that I am capable of anything. It’s a simple thing of putting one foot in front of the other, and that’s what we need to do right now as we venture into the changing world. Set an intention and be deliberate with each step forward.
There’s always another way
I’ve always marveled at the power of water. My partner Jeff reminded me after my house flooded a year ago that water formed the Grand Canyon - it can mess up your house. I was trail running a few weeks ago when a storm rolled in and I was engulfed in a downpour. Doing my best impression of Tim Robbins at the end of Shawshank Redemption, I stood there for a moment literally soaking it in. I looked down to see water following the predictable path down a drainage, but some water took a new path. Water, like life, always finds a way. I couldn’t help but think about our business in that sense. It’s cliche to say but it’s true; when one door closes another one opens. The more I think about that statement the more it becomes apparent that this is the art of “failing forward.” Failing at one thing (closed door) allows you to spend new found time and energy on succeeding at a new thing (open door). When we lost our largest national retailer due to the pandemic, it allowed us to re-focus our efforts on our DTC business which may have been where we should have been spending more time all along. This is the time to think outside the box. Become an innovator! The key to growth in any industry is innovation, both in product development and how it’s delivered. Search for new ways to do business, new channels to sell to. Get back to the very beginning of why you got into business in the first place. Who does your product help? What problem does it solve? Has COVID-19 changed that? If you believe there’s still a demand, then find a new way to supply it.
The world needs leaders, so lead
At Fourpoints, we’ve always done things a certain way. We’re a company that believes in interaction before transaction, collaboration over competition, and the planet and people over profit. If it’s the right thing to say - we say it, if it’s the right thing to do - we do it, regardless of the outcome or consequences. In an industry where most are trying to stand out and gain the attention of consumers, we’re more interested in elevating the industry as a whole. We’re more interested in making an impact. We may have fallen on tough times as a business but we’re still here and we’re trying to lead by example. We still wrote checks this year to all of our non-profits partners (as promised) despite everything that has happened. It shows how much we value those partnerships we’re committed to. I hope that our work serves to inspire more businesses to stand up and use their platform for good. What the world needs now more than good businesses is businesses that do good.
We hear a lot of talk about the “New Normal.” None of us know what that is, nor will we for quite some time, and there’s a lot of "wait and see" going on as a result. That seems rather dangerous doesn’t it? Rather than wait for this new normal to ascend upon us and dictate our path forward, let’s instead collectively create a “Better Normal” on our terms. Have the guts to expect great things from yourself and demand that same from your team. Visualizing that better world rising out of the ashes of this crisis and the role you and your business plays in it may be the best first step in deciding what to do next.