Collingwood Advisory CEO, Piers Bearne, discusses the facts and ideas born out of the outbreak.
I know that every single person reading this has been experiencing shock, uncertainty, fear and concern for family and friends.
We all want this to be over soon, and we have a cognitive bias towards seeing outcomes that make it so. But we have to be rational and plan for contingencies. I’m a director and shareholder with three events businesses and, like you, we are working hard to protect our teams and deliver value to customers. What I’m saying comes from the heart as well as the head.
This is tech disruption, not just business interruption
We are all planning to deliver our postponed events on time; but will it be another three, six or nine months? We’re all risk managers now.
Whether we like it or not, digital is disrupting events. That doesn’t mean that face-to-face is over. We believe that digital is more than a way to stay in touch with customers: it has to be part of the value and delivery mechanism going forward. We need to accelerate digital transformation and give it plenty of attention.
In the past week, we virtualised everything and cancelled all face-to-face meetings. We launched a virtual workshop and virtual Meetup. We were expecting 64 people, but already have three times that number registered.
All our business partners and clients are well into their Digital Pivot. It’s particularly hard for tradeshows to replicate their value propositions online, but that doesn’t change the facts: a responsible risk plan requires hybrid solutions.
Calendar land grab, digital land grab
The exhibitions calendar has been turned on its head, with serious congestion in Q4 of this year. For those who have postponed their Q2 event to Q4 (and may have to postpone again), how are we going to persuade customers’ hard-hit budgets to go again in their original slot in 2021? Venues will be under pressure to sell slots to those who can’t commit, and new events could appear in vacated datelines.
Clients are sitting on unspent budget and are missing their branding, lead gen and comms targets. They are going to look for value online, and that means publishers.
We are all in this together. Most publishers are suffering from events postponements and cancellations too. Talk to your media partners about innovative and collaborative business models.
Balance sheet hacks for independent organisers
Disclaimer: we don’t work for corporates.
Entrepreneurs: don’t rush into deals or personal guarantees. Here’s the hierarchy of funding options that prioritises you and your family’s security, whilst helping to protect your business. You can always start another business, but you can’t easily walk away from bank debt.
Customer financing/the Digital Pivot
Proactive and fair supplier financing deals. Don’t wait for them to chase you. Partner and remember they are hurting too
Non-guaranteed loans (crowdfunding, friends and family)
Convertible loans (friendly investors)
Fundraising (wider investor pool. Options include crowdfunding, angel investors and corporates who will venture fund you without demanding the right to acquire later)
Asset sales (individual shows)
Divestment / distressed sale of entire business[Only if you are 100% sure: Bank loans with personal guarantee. Talk to your life partner / family first]
Whatever you do, don’t rush. No need to do a bad deal.
This isn’t just about minimising losses. Now’s the time to innovate, to tap into your creativity as teams, partners and friends. And let’s get through this together, as a community.
Be safe and well.