Monday, December 21, 2020

Looking at the Brighter Side of a World-Wide Pandemic!

We all know that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on overall health, jobs, businesses and the economy to name just a few. But being the ever-optimist, I personally have found a few positives during this truly unsettled and rollercoaster year.

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to ask a few of my ballooning friends from around the world if they could share one or two positive things that they have been able to bring to their business or business life as a result of the pandemic! 

I will be sharing their stories over a couple of blog posts... Let's start our journey in Italy. Italy was the first European country to become overwhelmed by the pandemic and the first European country to go into a national lockdown! 

Alberto Nava, CBA, of Crazy Balloons in Milan, Italy 

"Let’s be honest here, the pandemic here in Italy, like in the rest of the world, hit us like a rock. And I am talking a mountain sized rock. We are invoicing about 10% of what we invoiced last year. Supply chain of Qualatex balloons has also been compromised because of the pandemic. 

If there’s one thing that this pandemic taught me, it  is that if you can’t adapt your business to a sudden change, you will not survive.

We started doing deliveries, embracing a totally new market for us. Also, we sat down and we decided to offer deliveries using only the balloons we had in stock (luckily we had huge inventory). That’s where creativity came to the rescue to fulfill every request.

We also started “not so virtual parties”.  This is a virtual party with a balloon delivery to the home of the birthday child on the morning of the party to create the mood, a live director during the party and an edited video clip of the party delivered the following week to the birthday child to treasure the memories.

We requested and received special EU lost funding for completely redoing our website, to be ready when people will be vaccinated and will just want to party....

My new motto is to "never stop creating, even in dark times, light can be found in balloons."

Learn how to create this adorable frame by Alberto Nava - Visit Balloon Images Issue 1 2020

Let's now travel to the other side of the world and ask Chris Adamo, CBA, of The Balloon Crew, Balloons Online, and in Sydney, Australia, what positives has he experienced during these difficult times?

"I would say that that a huge positive from this dreadful situation was the time to reflect and re-organise my business and business systems. Looking at the bricks and mortar retail shop we cleared out a huge amount of old stock, knocked down shelving and a giant old light box to make room for new hang cell walls and inviting more light to enter the our retail space. For weeks I felt so happy to work in such a clean and modern (comparatively!) environment. Next came our online store and website, replacing old images and content in the great spring clean of COVID 2020. We had a hard look at what products just didn't seem as profitable as we once thought: we ceased the hiring helium DIY tanks, changed our printing price structure, sold an old van and even updated our methods for the delivery of internal information such as systems and training. None of this would have been possible without two things: time and impetus to change, COVID provided both. We will come out of this leaner and more efficient than we started, and for that I am grateful.

On a personal note... to be honest, one of the most positive things has happened to my personal life, with the newly found time in the absence of the traditional business crazy hamster wheel! LOL.

I would like to share a video that Chris recently recorded with Greg Brown at BMTV where Chris shares some helpful and essential tips and tricks to improve your business' workflow! It is definitely worth watching! 

Many of you will have 'met' Greg Brown as the presenter of BMTV, but Greg also wears another industry hat, as the Director of Total Party Ltd / Balloon Market / Signature Balloons based in Southampton, England. I asked Greg as a wholesaler to the balloon and party industry in the UK how the pandemic has affected his business and the positives he has seen:

"When COVID first hit we thought the worst, and expected sales to be 30% of what they are normally. We thought that weddings, celebrations, corporate events, summer fayres, etc being cancelled would destroy the industry. As we now know, our industry flourished as we were all able to adapt quickly. I think that is one of the great things of being an industry that is made up of mainly small businesses. We can pivot quickly. I think people learned to do new things from putting videos out there helping others to improving their own skills. We have all been forced to do things differently and, arguably, better.
From our point of view it has been a challenge and we have really not liked not being able to offer the service we are known for due to the combination of an increase in business and keeping everyone COVID safe. We truly appreciate everyone that has continued to buy from us. However we also have adapted with new shift patterns, new processes on the website, new processes in the warehouse, new ways of filming BMTV, and changes regarding who does what and when. We have also been able to look at new premises that we were looking at before COVID but bigger than we were initially considering. It is very exciting.
From the team point of view, I think it is the little things that have made a difference in a positive way:
We have taken on a lot more people including casual staff and it has been great to see people getting to know each other and forming new friendships. The ‘Teen Team’ as they are known have also brought a different energy to the warehouse.  
The jokes our customers have started to put on their orders.
Moving the office upstairs and having a better view of outside – the office is brighter!
The extra calories burned climbing the stairs 30 times a day!
The is an appreciation for working in a company that has, thankfully, been doing well during the pandemic. People have not had to worry about redundancies." 

One of Greg’s favourite sayings is “Think health, think safety”! 
Here are some of the team sporting their new hi viz jackets to keep them safe when crossing the courtyard. #besafebeseen

Saying thank you is always very important, how cool are these thank you cards that Balloon Market send out with their orders! 

It is amazing how resilient we have become over the past 10 months! Finding solutions, adapting, using new found time to update systems, websites and online offerings has been some of the most obvious and most important changes many companies have made to cope during these difficult months and probably most importantly remaining positive! I love Alberto's motto - "never stop creating, even in dark times light can be found in balloons."

A huge thank you to Alberto, Chris and Greg for giving us a little insight to a few of the positives that have come from such a turbulent year! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler


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