Diversification and flexibility are critical strengths to have in a world economic environment we find ourselves in now.  But more importantly, it’s a position of strength against a multitude of external factors, such as economic downturns, the ever-changing world of technology and its trickle-down effect, and the general unpredictability of a fickle consumer market, to name a few.  The strategies the separate the strong from the weak are relatively few.

SMART DIVERSIFICATION

It has become abundantly apparent that diversification, especially into the market of essential consumables is paying off for the companies that have done so.  Clorox not only manufactures disinfecting wipes but also cat litter, Brita water filters, KC Masterpiece sauce, and Hidden Valley salad dressings to name a few. Clorox’s fiscal third quarter sales increased 15% from the prior year while most companies saw significant losses. Their volume surged 18% and earnings soared 31%. But, luckily they aren’t being greedy. Recently, The Clorox Company Foundation announced a sweeping series of $5 million of grants to three organizations at the forefront of coronavirus relief.

Reckitt Benckiser are makers of Lysol disinfectant, Durex condoms, Enfa baby formula, and Mucinex cold and flu medication, all in high demand in these times. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much positive press about how they are protecting their employees.  At a factory in Somerset County, New Jersey, employees are issued gloves and safety glasses but aren’t provided safety masks, employees say. Some bring surgical masks from home. Workers space themselves out on the production lines. To compound matters, the company refused to disclose whether any employees had contracted the coronavirus.

OPTIMAL STATION’S PERSPECTIVE

Before these crazy times, Optimal Station had two divisions: Automated Retail (often called Automatic Retail) and Experiential Marketing (also referred to as Experience Marketing or Event Marketing).  

Up until recently, the focus had been on the Experiential Marketing division due to interest and demand.  However, when the live marketing world essentially collapsed under everyone’s feet, Optimal turned their attention back to Automated Retail.  

Optimal’s goal has always been to help.  They consider themselves fortunate to have multiple ways to do so.  “We have the ability to help other businesses create new income streams through automated retail,” states CEO, Michele Lee.

Additionally, they’ve put their thinking caps on to come up with new assets that are best suited for these times. They developed a hybrid Station that has automated retail (or inventory control) on one side and experiential marketing (full-screen videos, photo booths, etc.) on the other.  

They’ve also sourced new hardware of different sizes and price points to suit ever-changing needs, such as their face-mask (and other PPE) vendor, compact wall-mounted Station (for space-conscious operations that have never had to consider PPE/safety gear management before), and inventory control Stations including locker systems (to help larger facilities effectively and efficiently control all types of inventory). 

Perhaps most notably, they developed touchless interactions via integration of custom apps as well as the ability to remotely control their vending machines using the consumer’s own mobile device and  QR codes.

They pride themselves on being flexible, resilient, and responsive driven by their sense of purpose.

CASE STUDIES OF OPTIMAL STATION CLIENTS’ PIVOTS

Wellfound Foods – no sooner had Optimal’s newest client placed her brand new Optimal Stations in public places like universities and convention centers than the Coronavirus reared its ugly head.  Others would have curled into a ball and given up.  Not Sarah Frimpong, CEO and Founder of Wellfound Foods.  She reacted at the speed of light, finding new placement in a hospital setting.  It’s that kind of flexibility, ingenuity, and tenacity that will sort the winners from the losers in this harsh environment. In fact, as a result of her proactive approach, Sarah has actually expanded in the midst of COVID-19.

Optimal Station also has multiple other fresh meal vendors who have moved their Stations from corporate office buildings to the lobbies of residential high rises, medical facilities, manufacturing factories, distribution centers, and train stations. They’ve also done good deeds such as cutting meal costs by 25% in medical facilities for the benefit of front-line employees.

Allegheny Scrub Machine

Allegheny Health Network – Prior to COVID-19 the Allegheny Health Network needed a way to control the inventory of medical scrubs.  The Station they selected provided a low-maintenance, minimal effort solution while producing maximum results.  Their proactivity put them in an excellent position well in advance of the Coronavirus, allowing them to focus on bigger issues.

Clearly this worldwide pandemic has an impact none of us have experienced in our lifetime.  But we have choices.  We have ways to protect ourselves from contracting the virus and with a little (okay, in some cases maybe a lot) of careful thought and ingenuity,we can survive financially as well.  But when it’s all said and done, we will all be measured, both personally and professionally for how they responded. “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests,” Epictetus.