COVID-19 has forced businesses to move through a gauntlet of adjustments. From weathering the initial impact, to figuring out how to adapt, to innovating in order to make the most of a difficult time, companies have found themselves navigating through one unexpected activity after another.
Shiv Gaglani, co-founder and CEO of Osmosis, a provider of online healthcare learning solutions, didn’t end up pushing his company into something it wouldn’t normally do as much as he pushed it into something it wasn’t planning to do yet.
“The first days were really uncertain,” Gaglani said on a recent NetSuite virtual event. “We weren’t sure what would happen to learning and development budgets.”
Gaglani created a task force that met every morning for 30 minutes, with employees from all over the globe dialing in via Zoom. But a funny thing ended up happening as the company planned for unexpected contingencies: revenue began growing. With healthcare at the center of the crisis, there was suddenly widespread need to access training materials for diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients, observing new protocols and generally adjusting to a new healthcare reality.
Meanwhile, medical schools were shutting down, so Osmosis started a webinar series to walk schools through shifting students to remote learning. In the last month, some 30 medical schools have said they won’t be having students return to campus in the fall, giving Osmosis a potentially larger role in their education.
As if this wasn’t enough, Gaglani saw an opportunity to fast-track a couple of other initiatives. First, the company launched two courses that weren’t expected to start for months. Then, it started grabbing available talent that had been let go elsewhere so that it could start a planned podcast that would feature CEOs, heads of medical schools and other leaders talking about how to increase healthcare capacity.
To seed these efforts, the company also gave free access to its platform to 100,000 new users, allowing them to get at critical COVID-19-related content in over the next few months.
Down the line, Gaglani said the company now is considering the possibility of becoming a full-blown provider of healthcare certification and education rather than remaining a supplemental service, a move he said would be more acceleration than pivot.
The fact that so much has advanced for the business so suddenly reminded Gaglani of a famous Vladimir Lenin quote: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
Alton Lane: Adjusting on the Fly
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t presented Alton Lane with the same kinds of opportunities. No sudden unexpected demand, no opportunity to charge forward with planned business initiatives. Instead, it’s been constant adjusting on the fly for the custom clothing maker that typically generates 80% of its revenue from its bread-and-butter custom blazers, trousers and shirts.
“All the products you would consider not essential if working from home,” Colin Hunter, president of the New York-based retailer. And it’s not just that people were no longer getting dressed up go to the office. Dating ceased; weddings, proms and graduations were cancelled. Even funerals were suddenly no more.
Even the company’s advantage on the social distancing front, thanks to its practice of only seeing customers by appointment, was erased once it had to close its stores. Despite only generating 10% of its sales online at that point, the company had no choice but to shift to an ecommerce model.
But then, there was still that little matter of people not needing formal clothes. In all, there were far more questions than answers.
“How do we have product that’s relevant to consumers during this time?” asked Hunter. “How do we shift supply chain and come up with contingency plans? How do we get beyond physical stores and engage people virtually?”
What resulted was a quicker-then-expected embracing of a long-term strategic plan to reach further into customers’ wardrobes. The company was already having success selling five-pocket chino pants, and now it’s launching a line of a luxurious Italian T-shirts that can be worn in casual or semi-formal settings. More casual products will come in the coming months.
And as for the ecommerce shift? Hunter considers it an accelerated path to a truly omnichannel strategy. In other words, don’t expect the store-dominant make-up of the company to return.
“This isn’t going to go away for us,” he said. “We’re going to continue pushing on the digital interaction front.”
Watch the virtual event recording with Alton Lane, Bedford Industries and Osmosis and register for upcoming virtual events.