Lauren Morrey and friends are helping small businesses survive COVID-19
A Melbourne Business School alum's call for volunteers to give free advice during COVID-19 has snowballed and is giving hope to several businesses.
Lauren Morrey's callout on LinkedIn received an overwhelming response from the alumni community and beyond.
"Honestly, we had to work out what to do with all the alumni wanting to help," says the 2015 Part-time MBA alum who is now Lead Customer Success Strategist at Culture Amp.
"We set up logistics around managing all these enthusiastic, smart people and now have 27 team members made up of MBS MBA alumni and one from AGSM."
The broad variety of businesses that have reached out to Lauren and her group show just how widespread the impact of the COVID-19 has been on the community.
Twenty-two businesses have sought help so far, including a day spa, catering service and companies offering freight, cyber security, fitness, travel, hospitality, real estate and other services.
"We could see the impact of COVID-19 on our local café, the gyms, but the range of people who reached out put the level of disruption into perspective," Lauren says.
"My partner Tom said to me that, at MBS, you read these case studies about revenue dropping by 20 or 30 per cent, but there's no real playbook for when revenue disappears entirely – what does a business of any size do at that point? We focussed in on that as the core concern of the challenges we've faced."
Lauren says every option seems urgent and necessary to business owners reacting to the lockdown – but that's where MBA graduates can help.
"Having someone who can calmly and objectively look through the different options available to them has been of great value and that's been common feedback we've received."
One piece of advice that has become particularly relevant in the current environment is that business is not always about cash.
"This is the first time anyone has ever undergone a social experiment like this, which has seen so many people working from home or out of a job, so our core advice is about adapting your leadership and really looking after your people," Lauren says.
When Lauren or another member of her team of MBAs meet with business owners online, their goal is to determine what they need most to cut through the uncertainty surrounding their livelihood.
"We meet in whatever way works for them, such as over the phone or a Zoom session," she says.
"Depending on the sorts of challenges they have, we determine what's noise, what's of value and from there assign two of us to help, bringing in specialist knowledge, models and frameworks such as a lean business canvas."
The team also developed a simple Google contact form that asks businesses for basic information so Lauren can match their challenges with the right expert on her team.
"We have a diverse range of skills in our group, from people who work in large corporates to tech startups, like me, to specialists from all sorts of areas," she says.
"It allows us to have the right conversation about specific challenges with business owners.
"Personally, my favourite conversation I've had with a business owner was about how she should step up as a leader for herself and her staff during this time."
Lauren and the group have also started looking at what small businesses will need to do after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions lift.
"Demand for our services slightly dropped when the government began offering greater support," she says.
"However, we still see a need for our service beyond all this because the economic reverberations we're feeling will continue long after normality returns.
"There will be new challenges to navigate – who will be looking to scale up, start up their supply chains again, and so on – which we're keen as a group to help with."