Timing is everything at Fish Level Corp. Samy Fischer’s small business is a 24- hour operation, with his processing team starting work at 1 am to ensure morning deliveries of more than 1,000 pounds of 16 varieties of fish, always fresh, to his clients at restaurants, supermarkets and homes. Then in the afternoon the whole fish begin arriving again for processing and sales.
“You have to plan your process very carefully — there is a lot to the timing,” said Fischer, who owned a similar business in his native Venezuela before moving to the Miami area four years ago.
But the timing of COVID-19 could not have been worse for Fischer. Before COVID, his 3-year-old Hialeah business was on a roll. In the first year of operations, Fish Level registered $1.7 million in sales. The second year, ending before COVID, generated $3.3 million. But most of Fischer’s business was selling to restaurants in South Florida – about 70 of them – restaurants that were closed for months by the pandemic and are still suffering. In the worst month of the pandemic, Fish Level’s sales dropped by half.
This situation could have been a soul crusher, but for Fischer and his team, there was no time for that.
TIME TO PIVOT
Fish Level already had a small home delivery business. So the small business finished revamping its website in record time in order to capitalize on its fledgling home delivery business because of what would be the new normal, at least for a while: cooking at home. Then the company ramped up marketing, connecting with customers and prospective customers via Whatsapp, texts and Instagram and pushed its home delivery. “That’s what we did, I’m proud of that,” said Fischer.
It worked. Prior to the pandemic’s assault on the economy, home deliveries were just 7 to 10 percent of his business. In the height of the COVID shutdowns, the home delivery was 80 percent of his business — as restaurants fell off the chart.
Now with restaurants opening again, Fish Level’s business is 55 percent restaurants and 45 percent home delivery. Home delivery didn’t drop but restaurants have come back. As part of his COVID reinvention, Fischer is focusing on growing the home delivery business even more, providing a strong revenue stream with steady cash flow.
“We are trying to grow delivery all over Miami-Dade and South Broward to increase sales. We are the only company in the state that has 16 fresh fish on the website. We have people who order every week, we have a good brand.”
Fischer also applied for and received a PPP loan so he has able to keep all 15 employees on payroll.
PAYING ATTENTION TO CLIENT NEEDS
He has been working with Adriana Madrinan, a consultant with Florida SBDC at FIU who focuses on growth strategy, business models and innovation. SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within FIU’s College of Business, provides no-cost business consulting services to small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Fischer said Madrinan has helped Fish Level define its strengths and what it had to do to reinvent its business, manage cash flow and revamp its website. He also received advice on communicating with customers and techniques for focusing.
“Fish Level Corp. was able to implement a non-disruptive innovation by paying attention to the new client needs that emerged during the pandemic and redirected the efforts to attend to those new needs,” Madrinan said.
The home delivery business now services Miami-Dade and South Broward, from Pinecrest, Key Biscayne and Doral to Miramar and Fort Lauderdale. Fischer just acquired a new van so now the business has a fleet of five vehicles. Fish Level went from 30-40 home delivery orders a day to more than 150. It’s testing out-of-area deliveries, if the pricing model can work.
What did Fischer learn in the business’ pandemic pivot to home delivery?
“We have to provide new items or added value,” he said. “For example, after a couple of weeks of cooking, the people want something that is ready to eat. We made tuna carpaccio, we made trays that were vacuum packed. We buy the whole fish, process them and vacuum pack so it can be frozen if needed. We provide them the portion they need and the people love it.”
This is a pivot that will continue to improve Fish Level’s bottom line in the best of times. too.
TIPS FOR REINVENTING YOUR BUSINESS FOR THE NEW NORMAL
Now is the moment to leverage your strengths and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Florida SBDC at FIU consultant Adriana Madrinan offers these tips for small businesses reinventing their businesses for the new normal.
- Ask your clients what their new needs are now and how you can help them.
- Identify the Invention Gap. By knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as what your customers need now, what can you offer that meets the new needs? If you have weaknesses in delivering, you will have to build capabilities that you are missing.
- Rethink and rewrite your value proposition to meet the new client needs.
- Fine tune your re-invention, rethinking all aspects of your business your profit model, to operating efficiencies to improving your customer’s experience, to your branding:
- Create an action plan. During COVID times, do an action plan for three months out, rather than a year. Identify the obstacles and come up with three actions to get over them. Review your plan at least weekly.
WEBINAR: Business Reinvention Kit