3 Steps to Survive the Coronapocalypse

Photo Credit: @Krizde

Stay Calm; Don’t Panic 🙂

If you work at or run a retail brand right now, your work environment is probably like a scene from one of the apocalyptic movies.  Even it is orderly, there is probably a palpable sense of anxiety and dread.

Hopefully, your brand has already finalized a business continuity plan that addresses what and how to operate in a government-mandated work from home environment.  

I am writing this note from NYC which is one step away from lockdown, and the brands I work with have all instituted a remote work policy for headquarter employees.

Like the stock market, a month ago retailers were enjoying record levels, but in the past week, we’ve gone from peak to trough due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19).  The best brands have embraced these trying times and responded in turn.

I’ve had the benefit of living, working and managing through several economic shocks and after 20+ years, my consulting firm has adopted a crisis playbook for brands, manufacturers, consumer products companies and retailers. 

Consider this free consulting (feeding the karmic bank), so here are 3 broad and simple steps I would highly recommend you and your teams make in the next week (if you haven’t already):

1. ACT

Depending on your brand’s size, geographic reach, location, channel strategy and level of bravery, your initial response to this pandemic will likely fall along the following spectrum:

  1. Close Stores:  The brands we love, admire and stan were models for #flattenthecurve.  Global brands like Apple and Patagonia were among the first to announce they were closing the majority, if not all of their stores out of an abundance of caution.  And they are paying store employees throughout the temporary closure.  Yes, traffic was likely down dramatically in affected areas in the US, Europe, and ROW, but the financial impact of closing the entire chain of stores will hurt.  Of course, this was absolutely the right thing to do, and those brands seized the opportunity to make a statement that others will follow.  Not only for their customers, but also for the employees of those brands who are literally on the front line of the virus.  Bravo to the unflinching early movers!
  2. Limit Hours:  Another approach in this declining footfall environment, is to reduce hours so stores can record some revenue, while lowering employee exposure and store labor expense.  Canadian retailer Lululemon was one of the first to announce limited hours on Friday 3/13, but by Monday 3/15 they had reversed their position.  Many department, convenience and grocery stores continue to operate on regular or limited hours, undoubtedly to cover the overhead of their large footprint and massive employee bases.  However, Nordstrom announced just yesterday that they are changing their policy, and will join the heroic brands by closing for 2 weeks.  

Retailers Announcing Their Coronavirus Policies on 3/16

List of notable retail brands as of 3/16/20 that set the tone with their immediate announcements of COVID-19 policies for stores; These standards were quickly adopted by many other retailers.

Whether your brand decides to close stores or limit hours, if you are in hot spots such as NYC,  Seattle or San Francisco, the government may decide for you by ordering all non-essential retail to close.  Whatever your position, just be prepared for what inevitably will be coming your way.

2. Plan

Once you’ve addressed the 5 alarm ‘brick and mortar’ fire, and you grasp that the retail sky is falling, it’s time to focus on defense.  To ensure your company is an on-going concern, you must get a handle on your expenses, inventory, supply chain and cash on your balance sheet.  Cash flow is king in retail, and yesterday was the ideal time to prioritize revenue-generating expenditures while delaying or cutting non-essential spend.

Ideally, like the gallant, cash-rich brands who will pay employees while they are closed, you should want to do the same.  Building out weekly cash flow models and creating best and worst-case scenarios will help you assess your debt, lease and mortgage payments, cash flow, and funding availability.

Keep in mind, restaurants with their laser thin margins are typically NOT in a position to pay employees while closed.  So absent receiving government assistance, many of our beloved bars, clubs and restaurants will likely close their doors for good.  Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef and restauranteur, predicted 75% of those restaurants will never re-open!

In short, please make the hard decisions now, before you are faced to make the hardest decision – filing for bankruptcy.

Top of mind for me and my omnichannel clients is figuring out how the online channel can prosper in this new stay-at-home paradigm.  Diverting talent and resources away from closed brick and mortar stores and into the online, fulfillment and logistics areas seems a prudent and wise choice.

Amazon recently announced plans to hire 100,000 people in warehousing and delivery to capitalize on this trend.  In these unprecedented times, what are you doing to turn lemons into lemonade?

3. LEAD

I find it interesting that disasters tend to be catalysts for unearthing heroes.  I encourage you to not shrink in fear, but to step forward with your ideas.

In business school, my favorite case was from a Moral Leader class (yes, ethics and business school do mix).  The protagonist was CEO James Burke and we examined his actions during the Tylenol product recall saga.  So few industry titans we studied exhibited the empathetic and compassionate leadership of Burke, and I am encouraged to see many executives adopt a similar approach by putting store and corporate employees first.

Finally, my suggestion is that YOU as an individual do whatever you can to ensure you take care of yourself.  Self-care during these stressful and unprecedented times will allow you to show up and present  your best self for your teams and family. 

If the images, stories, and experiences from China, Italy, France, and the U.K. have any bearing on our situation in the U.S., things will get worse before they get better

I have tremendous faith in this democracy we have created.  We have faced pandemics before, and we will emerge stronger and better. 

So please heed the warnings, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.  Personally, I’ve found a great group on Twitter who balance being informed with being entertained, and that’s the perfect prescription to sustain me through these trying times.

Be safe out there good people.

-Lockie

Bio

Follow me (BlogTwitterLinkedin) to join the conversation.

Lockie Andrews is the CEO of Catalyst Consulting (www.catalystconsult.com), a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. Since January 2019, Lockie has also served as the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of UNTUCKit, a digitally native brand located in New York City.

With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, ANINE BING, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as digital transformation, technology, analytics, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, and operational/financial improvement.

Lockie is a speaker, angel investor and sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC, and the Co-VP of Programming for the HBS Club of New York.

Innovation Universal

Time to Stop Judging & Start Mentoring Millennials

Sustaining Innovation in the Millennial Age: Why Everyone is a Millennial

Originally posted on RiseSmart’s blog.  

In a four part series, innovation and “growth hacking” consultant, Lockie Andrews outlines the primary forces that drive millennial engagement – and the surprising connection between millennial-friendly cultures and innovation.

Last month I hosted a RiseSmart webinar (recording available here) in which I presented 5 Ways Innovative Companies Attract and Retain Millennials.

MILLENNIAL RESEARCH

A quick search on Amazon reveals over 5,000 books on Millennials. The research studies and academic papers on this generation are equally voluminous.

It seems everyone has chosen a side in this debate. Are Millennials different from prior generations? Why do they still live at home with their parents? Do they deserve the title of entitled and lazy?

What’s lacking in this debate, and what I plan to contribute, is a forward-looking and constructive analysis on the impact Millennials will have on future organizations.

After all, whether they are different or the same, and whether you like or dislike their behaviors, Millennials are who they are. They will change, like all generations, but change will come slowly- and the business world needs them now.

To build my prescription for Millennial engagement, I based my research on a recent study by Gallup. I prefer Gallup’s How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 2016 because it presents survey results with low bias and judgment.

What’s also compelling about the decades of research from Gallup, is the easy comparison between empirical data sets for Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. There is clear evidence that Millennials are the least engaged generation at work (at this age), and that there are other substantive differences from prior generations.

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I’ve been mentoring and working with this cohort for some time, so these differences have been clear to me.

I’ve spent the last few years figuring out ways to engage and motivate Millennials. Because, honestly, it doesn’t matter what others think about their generation. Our opinions and assessments of Millennials will not change these hard truths:

  • Today, Millennials = 30% of workforce
  • In four years, Millennials will = 50% of workforce

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Given their sheer size and their obvious digital advantages, the business world needs to do a better job recruiting and retaining young people. The fact that Millennials feel disengaged is a problem that belongs to all of us, plain and simple.

HOW TO APPEAL TO MILLENNIALS?

So how have some companies figured out how to build Millennial-friendly work places?

Based on research and experience, I’ve identified five core characteristics that give companies an edge with Millennials.

Principles Driving Millennial Engagement

The first two principles relate to the core DNA of a company. A firm’s values and purpose are factors that are traditionally set by the founders, Board of Directors and owners.

The next two principles are processes the management team creates to execute on its purpose and values. How a company communicates and collaborates is the spinal chord of every organization. Without a healthy and flexible system, the culture, speed and business performance will be hampered.

Interestingly, it turns out that communication and collaboration are also critical enabling factors in highly innovative cultures (more to come on this finding).

The final principle is a modern mindset that appreciates both the professional and personal needs of employees. Companies with enlightened management appreciate work/life balance and show a significant level of empathy towards their employees.

All five of these principles are controllable, and with commitment and focus, can be achieved by any corporation.

SOCIAL PROOF

During the webinar, I took the audience through illustrative case studies on the top five Millennial-friendly companies that ranked highly on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list (Airbnb, Bain & Company, Guidewire, Hubspot and Facebook). I will explore these examples in more detail in future articles.

In the interim, do you know any companies (startup or mature enterprises) that have done a great job of appealing to Millennials? We’d love to hear your thoughts. And follow me (Blog, Twitter, Linkedin) to subscribe to this series and be a part of this important conversation!

 

Lockie Andrews is the CEO of Catalyst Consulting (www.catalystconsult.com), a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and fundraising. Lockie is a speaker, author of an upcoming book on Innovation, and a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

Innovation
5 Ways Innovative Companies Attract and Retain Millennials

5 Ways Innovative Companies Attract and Retain Millennials

Despite a volatile employment landscape, smart companies are always looking for ways to attract the next generation of talent. Engaging with Millennials, however, requires a strategic approach. Are you prepared?

In this #SmartTalkHR webinar with Lockie Andrews- consultant, Angel/VC/PE Investor, and keynote speaker from Catalyst Consulting, you’ll learn why Millennials are a tremendous talent opportunity—and why they flock to certain companies while avoiding others.  Lockie will lead us through an intriguing discussion on the following topics:

  • The current trends in hiring and employment for startups, and how to leverage these trends to help your organization succeed
  • The five corporate principles that drive high Millennial engagement
  • Examples from leading large enterprises that have created Millennial-friendly cultures (and how they apply to you)

Discover the startup trends that will help your organization succeed, and learn about the principles that drive high Millennial engagement.

Watch a recording of the webinar here:

– See more at: http://www.risesmart.com/resources#sthash.ThlRZaDQ.dpuf

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 2.41.56 PM

Lockie Andrews is the CEO and Managing Director of Catalyst Consulting, a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, growth hacking, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and M&A/capital raising. Lockie is also a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.  Follow Lockie on Twitter and Linkedin

 

Innovation

Why Wal-Mart’s Acquisition of Jet.com Makes Perfect Sense

…and why other traditional enterprises must acquire innovation to stay relevant and competitive.

The retail sector is abuzz about the latest rumor Wal-Mart is acquiring or investing in Jet at a reported $3 billion valuation.

There are increasingly more examples of these “innovation acquisitions”. Incumbents view these money-losing innovators like they are fountains of youth.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 11.36.31 AM

For years, I have been advising traditional retailers/brands to “pair up” with startups. Conditions are ideal for these marriages given the slowdown in venture capital funding and the state of cash-strapped startups.

No company wants to be Blockbuster in a Netflix world.  And well-funded traditional enterprises are feeding internal innovation by pouncing on wounded unicorns.

The strategic benefits to large companies from innovation acquisitions are obvious:

  • Fend off disruption by digital upstarts
  • Address changes in consumer preferences and shopping behaviors
  • Find new growth channels, products and customers
  • Acquire proven technologies and platforms

Of course, long term the preferred route is to transform traditional enterprises into lean innovation machines. However, from time to time, it makes sense to look outside for innovation.

There are three compelling reasons why incumbents like Wal-Mart should buy innovators like Jet:

REASON #1: Innovation is HARD

Building an innovative and entrepreneurial culture in large traditional enterprises is incredibly difficult.  Most innovation initiatives die under the rigid controls that fuel hierarchical organizations.

Even companies that succeed in creating innovative environments run the risk of having their efforts erased during the first downturn or management change.

REASON #2: Innovation is EXPENSIVE

Wal-Mart is undisputedly the heavyweight brick and mortar champ.  Unfortunately despite years of investing billions of dollars online, they have not kept pace with Amazon:

  • 2015 Online Sales were only $14 billion (3% of Total Revenue of $482 billion) as compared to Amazon.com’s $80 billion in Product Sales.
  • Last year, Amazon overtook Wal-Mart in market capitalization, and this year Amazon is 40% larger.
  • Growth on Walmart.com has slowed for six straight quarters.

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An acquisition of Jet is a risky and expensive bet, but it’s a small price to pay for long term growth.

REASON #3: Innovation fuels GROWTH

A recent Street.com article hypothesized potential deal synergies between Wal-Mart and Jet.  Assuming Street.com’s analysis is correct, the complementary nature of their customers and products could be a catalyst for Wal-Mart’s stock price.

Of course, integrating an acquisition target while realizing merger synergies is just as hard as transforming traditional enterprises.  The path of “acquiring versus building” innovation is fraught with risk, and will be an uphill battle for Wal-Mart.

That said, Wal-Mart is one of the few companies with the size and scale to compete with Amazon.

A potential acquisition of Jet.com COULD turn out to be a brilliant win-win for both companies.

And that win-win could be Amazon’s Achilles heel.

Pass the popcorn.

 

Lockie Andrews is the CEO and Managing Director of Catalyst Consulting, a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and M&A/capital raising. Lockie is also a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

 

Disruption Universal

Fashion Tech Sector Lead – Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of New York

 

Interview regarding my new role as the Fashion Tech Sector Lead at the HBS Alumni Angels of Greater New York.

Sector Lead Profile: Lockie Andrews HBS Class of 2000
Why did you volunteer to be Fashion Sector Lead? What is your experience in this area? 

My professional experience has been a blend of fashion and consumer, startup management, e-commerce/digital technologies and venture capital fundraising. Volunteering to be a Sector Lead felt like a natural extension of my skill set and interests. As the head of my own boutique consulting practice, I reserve 20% of my time to work with entrepreneurial ventures, and working in this volunteer capacity allows me to stay abreast of the cutting edge innovations in fashion and tech.

What benefit do you believe HBSAANY has on the startups they work with? Does this go beyond just funding? 

The Harvard community at large offers a very deep and broad network that has proven quite valuable to our portfolio companies. We frequently tap into our network for strategic insights, research, expert opinions and talent to help management teams execute their vision and growth plans. We try to embody the definition of “smart money”. Many of our angels take seats on boards, serve as advisors or follow-up their personal investments with formal venture capital commitments at their funds.

What have you been working on so far within the fashion sector? What are you seeing that excites you? 

Our primary goal is to build awareness about our investor group within the fashion tech community.  In addition to growing our pipeline of high growth startups for pitch night, we want to formalize the fashion tech ecosystem in NYC.  In the coming months we will announce meet-ups for fashion tech startup founders and investors, as well as collaborations with existing fashion tech clubs and the HBS Club of NY Business of Fashion series.  I am personally excited about truly transformative concepts that address the major pain points of consumers and retailers.  Fashion is one of the few industries to completely reinvent its product pipeline each season, however counter-intuitively, the industry has been a laggard in embracing technologies that modernize supply chain, operations and omni-channel retailing.  HBSAANY looks forward to funding future innovations in fashion tech.

Apply to pitch to the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

Innovation