I was chatting to some friends this weekend and they were asking me how we got on through the lockdown. They thought I was going to tell them that sales of our MRP (Manufacturing Requirements Planning) software for small businesses had fallen through the floor; Flowlens was doomed; and I was packing my bags to hide down the nearest, well-sanitised, rabbit hole until at least 2021.
My answer in fact, could not be further from this. There has been worldwide upheaval caused by COVID-19, from both a human and an economic perspective. Thankfully however, at a very micro level, lockdown for me has been a good thing.
Lockdown has given me something I felt I didn’t have before, and that is time.
Time to think about what we are trying to do, which is solve customers problems, not sell them products. A good MRP system sells itself- if it solves a customer’s problems.
It has given me time to work on, not just in the business; to put myself back in the customer’s shoes, and think about our solutions.
I noticed a You Gov poll back in April which suggested only 9% of Britons want life to return to “normal” after the coronavirus outbreak is over.
This is where Flowlens opportunity lies- if customers don’t want to go back to how things were, how can we make things better for them? Being less manual, streamlining, adding efficiency and ‘lean’ to a business, these are all the things we know Flowlens can do.
I am not alone in this because, like a perfect storm, our customers have also had time to think, to identify their problems and they, at the same time have been looking for solutions.
Inbound enquiries were up 30% for us over the last couple of months, traffic to our website has been steady and we are getting even more engagement online. Potential customers are prepared to put a bit of work into trial software. They have realised with working from home that reliance on key people with information in their heads is not a sustainable growth model.
So, in light of this I was able to very confidently tell my well-meaning, concerned friends that I am not heading for the hills anytime soon and that lockdown has in-fact, been good for business.
It is up to us not to waste the opportunity lockdown has presented. Take the time to always think like your customers, walk in their shoes, identify their problems, and offer them solutions. Don’t try to sell them products.
Businesses are after all, just a collection of people living life, making decisions and commissioning machines. We are all one of these people simply trying to improve on who we were and what we did when life was ‘normal’
Rich Dale is CEO of Flowlens, software for small equipment manufacturers and dealers that controls your sales, stock, build & servicing, and links to your accounts package.