A Stress Test for Sustainable Business

Companies that have strength, flexibility and innovation will discover their new competitive advantage

A Stress Test for Sustainable Business

Снимка: Pixabay

Автор: Tatyana Yavasheva

The most constant thing is change, and crises come to remind us of this in the most painful way. They take us out of the comfort zone in which we have managed to settle after previous upheavals or by the logic of progressive development.

The pandemic created a sudden test of business sustainability, shifted the layers, tore down the answers, invalidated the "formulas for success" and made people and organizations start looking for new opportunities in the suddenly triggered transformation.

It may be difficult to swim against the current, but there is something good in everything bad. COVID-19, which is an extremely dangerous enemy of human health, has shaken destinies, companies, national economies and the entire global market. But the good news is that all this slowdown and even the cessation of economic and human activity has a healing effect. The healthy, the strong, the flexible and the innovative will redraw their company strategy and will find the lifeline to help them move forward with even greater confidence.

We present to you a conversation with two managers, convinced that there is no way there is no way.

Eng. Rashid Uzunov:

Domestic production is favoured

After overcoming the "an eye to see, a hand to touch" attitude, we found effective sales channels

Eng. Rashid Uzunov is Deputy Director of Ralomex AD

Eng. Uzunov, how did the complicated situation due to the pandemic affect the business of Ralomex?

The pandemic is a big challenge for our business as well. Like everyone else, we are trying to find the right solution for the normal functioning of the company during a crisis. The state of emergency sharply restricted the movement of people and our direct clients reconsidered their investment decisions. This played a bad joke on us, as many customers postponed their purchasing intentions for next season. Deliveries were delayed mainly from Spain and Italy, which in turn delayed the execution of pre-accepted orders. For a number of reasons, we were unable to deliver to Romania within the agreed timeframe, which led to refused purchases.

Did you have to make tough and difficult decisions?

We had to take a number of measures for the survival of the company. The decisions were really difficult. We reduced the staff, in order to maintain the required distance, we set aside a budget for protective equipment and disinfectants. In fact, the worst was the fear of the unknown when the company ceased operations 14 days after March 13th. But this fear was overcome and work gradually returned to normal.

Did you spot new opportunities?

The crisis has brought us uncertainty, but new opportunities have emerged. The situation with COVID-19 forced us to develop new methods of communication. It turned out that sales over the phone and the Internet increased and became more efficient. The crisis has changed the way we search. The attitude "an eye to see, a hand to touch" was overcome. This unlocked the opportunity to attract new customers looking for local production, so that there is no risk of delays or lack of deliveries from abroad. As you know, in agriculture a day's labour is worth a year and the need for equipment or spare parts for the upcoming season cannot be delayed.

In fact, how has Ralomex become a well-known name in the tillage equipment business over the years?

With initiative and perseverance. The implemented projects under the "Technological modernization" scheme of OP "Innovation and Competitiveness" have also contributed to our success. They helped us to acquire robotic welding systems, as well as other modern equipment. Otherwise, there was no way we could have taken this big technological step.

You have the reputation of an innovative company. Is innovation the key to business development even in times of crisis?

Innovation is the key to any success. As long as it is being developed and implemented, and some risks are being taken.

Did you have to rethink your company policy?

Yes. We focused mainly on communication and working with clients through social networks and over the phone. We are currently focusing on internet advertising.

What tactics will you apply to maintain your position on the markets and gain new customers?

In our sector, to retain your position you need to be in direct contact with customers. Therefore, we hope to find a way out of the situation with COVID-19. Otherwise, there will be consequences for us and for our customers.

Lessons learned from this unexpected stress test?

Always be alert and follow the rules.

Good agricultural machinery ...

… should be produced in Bulgaria for a strong economy.

Emil Wagenstein:

More, Better and Faster - This is our New Formula

E-commerce will thrive, and physical stores should offer what you can't get online

Emil Wagenstein is the Marketing Director of Ozone and Pulsar Games

Mr. Wagenstein, how did the situation caused by the pandemic affect your business?

Our business is divided into two - online (Ozone.bg) and offline (Pulsar). The measures related to COVID-19 had a negative effect on Pulsar - our stores are located entirely in shopping malls, and all of them were closed and our income for two months was zero. Even after opening, the revenues are quite low.

In the online part, Ozone is well positioned - our focus has always been on entertainment and leisure time products. When people locked themselves in their homes, they asked us for solutions on how to spend their time more qualitatively. Our site is technically and infrastructurally very well secured and we managed to meet the increased volume with relatively low disturbances and short delivery times.

One business is going up, the other - down. How do you balance?

At least we have the opportunity for balance and options for action. The goods available in Pulsar allowed us to cope with the surprising rise in consumption. And with the help of colleagues who usually work in stores, we were able to increase the staff in the warehouse, where employees had to work in shifts. This flexibility was the best that could be done.

Did you spot new opportunities?

In every critical situation there are many opportunities. One of the most important things for us is that we were able to better connect with our customers and offer them interesting solutions to the problems imposed by the situation.

Which is the "tough nut to crack" for you now?

Even before the state of emergency, it was important for us to make shopping in our physical stores interesting, engaging and meaningful for our customers. This is especially important now that a walk to the mall requires much more will and time. In the long run, we want to make our physical stores a place where customers can go with pleasure and desire, unlike the widespread "warehouse in a shopping centre" model in Bulgaria.

Do you need to rethink your development strategy?

No, for us the state of emergency did not point out something we did not know and which we had not discussed before. Online commerce will evolve, and physical stores need to build upon their strengths and offer what you can't get online.

What tactics will you apply to achieve growth?

We will rely on our brand, which customers recognize and believe that we carefully develop our infrastructure and systems, so as to offer the best service. The construction of Ozone.bg took years and it is very important for us not to sit in one place, but to develop and offer more, better and faster. We are currently in the process of employing the same way of thinking in Pulsar.

Lessons learned from this unexpected stress test?

That it is not scary to work remotely and that it cannot hinder our productivity.

A good marketing director…

...pays much attention to the way the brand speaks to its customers. This was especially important during the state of emergency, when people's attitudes were changing rapidly.

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