Recently, while searching for a voice that echos the one in our own mind surrounding the opportunity to pivot your business; we stumbled upon precisely the straight forward unfettered tone we were looking for. From our own lens as a small business, like so many of you, there is a stark reality we’re faced with. The model needs to shift to survive, let alone thrive. Business is not going on ‘as usual’ for the majority of us. 

What exactly is that going to mean though? So many of us have been forced to reassess and pivot our business to; 

  • survive 
  • maintain relevance
  • show continued value
  • drive revenue

Good news on that front comes in a few forms

First. As a rule – no one makes drastic changes because they want to (yes, there are exceptions) but change comes, due instead, to an unprecedented or critical stressor that causes them do so.

Second. Drastic changes occur when opportunity presents itself and (whether the timing is right or not) you carpe that diem and sail into the mystic. 

Anybody able to draw a parallel to those concepts and the reality you’re faced with today?
Anybody… .. Bueller?

There are countless stories of those who seized the opportunity as it presented itself, prepared or not. The carpe diem kicked in full swing, and the end result was massive change.

Anyway, back to the top, about the voice I was searching for to more aptly tell this story – in that straight forward unfettered tone I believe it should be shared, and more importantly, received in. I offer you the highly experienced tone of one Stuart Morley hailing from the Parry Sound Muskoka area. As an added value to his insight – you should keep his great South African accent in mind for increased effect.

There is no playbook for this crisis

It does call forth real leadership, and part of that is being able to be decisive, and very focused and disciplined as you move forward. When you face a crisis like we are currently experiencing, don’t waste it. Realize it is like switching from chess to tennis. Business owners who 10 days into this crisis realized that, as a business, they were longer playing chess – slow and deliberately – but rather they were now going to have to learn to play tennis – act fast and decisively – these are the business owners who are getting ahead.

Using these kinds of metaphors helps gets employees onside because the ball is coming at the business faster and faster and you can’t deliberate for 10 minutes to make a tennis move. You don’t have time to say “let me get my team together and come up with a strategy to get the ball back over the net”. You need fast decisions using “muscle memory” that a tennis player develops over years of playing tennis.

However when you play tennis you need to instinctively and intuitively make the right decisions at a rapid pace. The downside is you’re going to hit the ball in the net and into the stands a couple times. You need to have the strength to get over the bad shots and get back out there and keep going,

We have to acknowledge that this crisis has ignited all kinds of fear and anxiety and stress at a level we’ve never seen before amongst business leaders, employees, with clients and family members because this virus really spread so fast. However, we now need to get over the shock and get very focused. For some business owners there’s something about a crisis that gets them going and brings out the best in people. For some business leaders they will rise to the occasion and pivot the business to come out of this crisis as a stronger company.


This is not a time to rest and see what blows over. This is a very challenging time and our hearts really go out to a lot of people that are facing tremendous losses and difficulty but this is the time to stand up and fight.

13 steps you can use to pivot your business

1) Review your current strategy for your business and pick 30, 60- and 90-day targets to keep your business going. What can you do to get you through month one. What do we need to do so were are still in business in 90 days?

2) Realize the rules of the game have changed. Your business model for making money – if it involved travel and visiting clients – well for now – that model is dead. What is the digital model you can develop to replace the revenue from the old business model? How can you leverage all the talent in your business to figure out a different way of doing business?

3) Have a 10 times differential in your pricing. If you sold a $1,000 solution for customers – what can you offer for $100 and what can you offer for $10,000? It is repackaging what you offer within a wider range of price points will stretch your thinking and attract different types of customers especially when you are leveraging a digital platform.


4) If you have a restaurant and think it will be business as usual – it will not happen. Seating will be different to deal with social distancing which may be with us for several years until a vaccine is readily available. People have spent weeks at home in isolation with their families – you may find family meals may be more popular than ever coming out of this crisis.

5) If you built a sales funnel based on emails with customers – you can leverage this more than ever. Businesses without a digital sales funnel will need to create one quickly as face to face meetings are going to be a challenge for months and maybe for several years. Your digital sales funnel equals survival even for grocery stores as more customers go online to order.

6) Focus on designing some revenue generators that would help in the short term and this is best done if they are designed through the eyes of customers because then you focus on things that create immediate value because if they don’t resonate with customers they won’t buy.

7) Clarify your message to the marketplace and your employees and keep moving forward, rather than being paralyzed and frozen which often happens during a crisis.


8) There is a scene in the movie called “Far and Away” which was a 1992 American romantic adventure drama film staring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. In the scene folks line up on their horses, somebody fires a gun and you go out and put a stake in the ground to claim some land. As soon as this quarantine thing is over, businesses are going to line up, and they’re going to stake all the new territory that was lost or traded or shifted around. During this time, and if you’re not ready for that you’re going to be left behind. Now is the time to strategize how to come out of this crisis. For example all of education is going to dramatically shift. We just went through 10 years of evolution a few months and when we come out of this in a year or so all of education will be different. There’s going to be a frontier of everybody going on staking how are we going to educate people to be valuable in the marketplace. Another way of saying it – those colleges and universities that try to go back and replicate the old business model that existed, are going to be out of business, because the existing models are not going to work. And I think that’s true for just about every business. If you don’t use this opportunity to reinvent your business, you’re going to miss out.

9) When it comes to short-term cash flow – Do the two-bucket drill. Go through the first bucket, which are your fixed overhead and analyze that. And look for sensible reductions and put a bullet in anything that that is going to inhibit you from moving forward. Then the second bucket is decide on the critical staff positions. Employees are the biggest cost as well as the biggest opportunity for most businesses. A quick tip is to have your bank reissue (not replace) your debit cards and credit cards. What this does is triggers a different number so your subscriptions which are paid by your cards don’t automatically renew. You may need to track your cash flow daily until things are stabilized and then track weekly as well as project out several weeks what will be your cash in and cash out – so you don’t run out of cash. Successful businesses often have lines of credit available – not to use but to have in case of emergency as often it will require some additional investment to pivot the business.


10) What if you sell children’s playgrounds? You could email every church or other typical buyer of children’s playground equipment and remind them that someday your community will be back and you will be cutting the ribbon on a new playground – you give them an idea and pre- sell some playground equipment. You can solve a problem and create a beautiful climactic scene for the customer.


11) Have you changed the text on your website recently? If not you are probably not pivoting fast enough! During a crisis like this – the wording and the messaging for your business will probably need to change several times over the next year or so. For example, if you are a florist you may realize that people don’t want to send flowers at this time but they do want to touch somebody … and flowers are a way to touch people! A slight pivot in the message can make a big difference. If you are a gift store… the opportunity is to tell people that to receive a gift in the mail now means 10 times what it did a month ago. This is a way to pivot when selling gifts.

12) Communication especially with employees can require 30 to 60 minutes every day! It seems crazy but employees and customers cannot get enough reassurance that what ever is happening – the team will come through for them. The businesses that are suffering are frozen with anxiety. They haven’t actually invited their employees into the conversation and been honest and candid about the cash flow and what is needed for the business to survive Successful businesses tell everybody on the team how much money the business needs every day and how much money’s in cash reserves. They know the day in which the business has to move into cash reserves how long cash reserves will last. Give them the brutal facts and employees with rise to the occasion and move fast toward the light. Most business owners who do this will admit that some of the best ideas come from employees.


13) You’re in a fight for the life of your business – and like any fight for life – you better have a good read on your vital signs. For most businesses tracking revenue and profitability is obvious – but what do you have to do to meet those numbers? You may need to develop a whole new set of key measures, and then publish that performance review daily and talk about that with employees.


Don’t ever waste a crisis. Get to work and pivot your business! – Stuart

Those are the words and sentiment that we wanted you all to experience. Stuart does an excellent job of pulling no punches. He has properly framed the real conversations that will lead to a true pivot for your team and your business.  NOW IS THE TIME to shift your mindset for what’s next. In fairness we should point out that there is actually a 7 part series that Stuart has curated. This is where we found out his perspective and insight were so spot on – we had to share.

about the contributorS

Stuart Morley MBA | Morley & Associates Inc.

  • Author 2010 – Weather The Storm | Survival Guide for the Mid Market Organization
  • B.Sc. in Agricultural Economics
  • Co-founded the Canadian mid-market investment bank, Crosbie & Company
  • Interim President of Cutler Brands Inc., Handover Case Goods, Imperial Surgical Inc., and Alta Can Telcom Inc.
  • Past President of the American Marketing Association (Toronto Chapter).
  • Lecturer Advanced Corporate Finance _ CPA Canada
  • MBA from the University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Management Consultant with Deloitte in South Africa and Canada
  • Co-Manager of Quebec Equity Capital Fund

Jesse Kerr – Creative Commissioner | Sandbox Centre

Jesse is always multitasking.. . . and seems to thrive when juggling priorities and deadlines.  He’d tell you he’s adaptable because he builds in room for error, adjustment, improvement, alteration and mitigation of foreseeable road blocks into his vision. However, anything that falls outside of this range of acceptability is quickly dispatched because “ain’t nobody got time for that”! He’s not good at collaborating in large groups – but he sure is good at entertaining them!  We’re pleased to offer you his perspective that includes his margin for error; alongside an imagineered vision of greatness. Question is – are we going for good, better or best? Cheers!

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