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Friday 17th April

What we cover in this week's edition: Dealing with tensions in your team, how to lead a creative session remotely, and brand authenticity lessons from a bootlegger.

From wholesale to DTC overnight.

B-delicious, a Bangkok-based beer and spirit importer and wholesaler, has pivoted to direct-to-consumer. The home delivery service was set up on 18 March, the same day the Thai government ordered hospitality businesses to close. Having posted menus to its Facebook page of 17,000 followers, B-delicious’s team of six (scaled down from around 30) now field orders via Facebook Messenger. Deliveries are fulfilled the same day, either by B-delicious’s own staff or using local motorcycle courier services such as Line or Grab. B-delicious estimates sales are now 5% of pre-crisis volumes – that number will need to triple for it to survive. To do this, it’s increasing Facebook ad spend and re-marketing the service to recent customers. B-delicious already has the licences required to sell alcohol, but must now navigate laws around marketing booze to consumers. To ensure compliance, it’s targeting those aged 26 and up, and only promoting the delivery service rather than the booze itself (in Thailand, it’s illegal to display alcohol in adverts). ‘It’s trial and error to see how much budget we should put towards what’s ultimately an experiment,’ says Lisa Roolant, a marketing expert and sister of B-delicious owner Sammy Roolant. Last week, Bangkok authorities announced an 11-day ban on alcohol sales. After a rush of orders, B-delicious must now wait to resume deliveries.

How businesses around the world are adapting and evolving.

Texas: EVO Entertainment has converted its carpark into a movie theatre. Drive-in movie theatres are popping up elsewhere in the US, too, from California to Colorado. One company leading the way is AirGarage, which already monetises and manages parking lots for small businesses.

London: Fashion rental brand Rotaro has temporarily become a food delivery company promising fresh food and vegetable boxes delivered to your door in 48 hours.

NYC: Streetwear brand Chinatown Market has doubled down on useful social content, deploying Instagram TV to teach how to customise sneakers or tie-dye. Sure, lots of brands are going down this path, but they’re doing it particularly well.

Berlin: Michelberger Hotel has turned its restaurant into a grocery store, selling fresh produce, bread, juice, healthcare products and its signature coconut water drink, Monkey Michelberger.

Silicon Valley: Animal sanctuary Sweet Farm is raising funds by allowing people to pay for Zoom cameos from llamas, goats, turkeys, pigs and other animals – with prices ranging from $65 to $250.

San Francisco: Hims and Hers – best known for hair loss, erectile dysfunction and skincare medicine –  has expanded its telemedicine services into virtual Covid-19 self-assessments.


‘Tension between co-workers isn't something to avoid’

Amy Gallo
Rhode Island

There's no reason to let conflicts explode while WFH, says Amy Gallo, an expert in workplace dynamics and author of 'HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict'.

Are tensions more likely to arise when working remotely? 
Yes and no. On the one hand, we’re missing lots of cues when we don’t see or interact with our colleagues face-to-face and, as a result, miscommunications and misunderstandings are more likely. If I don’t see my colleague smile at me from across the office, I’m more likely to assume her curt response to my question on Slack is because she’s angry or annoyed. On the other hand, many people are connecting with their co-workers more often at the moment – asking how they’re holding up, seeing their home environment on Zoom calls, meeting their dog or children on those same calls. These personal ties may translate to co-workers giving the benefit of the doubt when potential disagreements arise.

What are the common mistakes businesses and managers make when dealing with rising tensions?
Reacting negatively when tensions rise. They try to shut down the conversation, smooth it over, or just look uncomfortable. Conflict is a normal and inevitable part of working with other people and managers shouldn’t treat it as something to avoid all the time. In fact, tensions on a team are often a sign that the team is being creative or innovative. The real problem is that managers send the message that disagreement is not OK so people end up towing the company line and not speaking up when you want them to.

So what should they be doing?
Managers should set norms for how the team should handle conversations where two people don’t see eye-to-eye. Perhaps they should ask people to always assume positive intent. Or to discourage passive-aggressive behaviour, a manager might ask team members to express disagreements but then commit to what the team decides is best. But when people do disagree, don’t get involved too early. It’s always best if the two people having the argument can resolve it themselves. If someone on the team is violating the norms you set or expressing their disagreement in unhealthy or rude ways, nip it in the bud early. The team needs to know that you won’t tolerate unproductive behaviour, otherwise they won’t feel safe raising disagreements.

How about tension between co-workers?
Above all, give your co-worker the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the person is annoyed or being rude. Instead, imagine that they are under pressure and didn’t have time for their usual niceties. Admit to yourself that you don’t know why they’re acting the way they are, and that it may have nothing to do with you. This means going into the conversation with more empathy.

To hear more from Amy, listen to this episode of Courier Daily.

Remote creative sessions: leading a team virtually when something inventive and original is required is a real challenge. Andy Young, chief design officer at Glasgow-based design agency Stance, provides some essential tips to lay the foundations for group creativity.

1. Succinct advice from Elizabeth Yin, co-founder and General Partner at Hustle Fund, on how to run your business during tough times

2. Easy-to-understand steps on how to furlough an employee from SeedLegals. While furloughing and layoffs are tough for employees, this is a good time to find top talent if you're lucky enough to be hiring. Check out Layoffs.fyi and Parachute to keep on top of who’s coming on to the market.

3. Sexual wellness company Maude launched a pop-up shop in Brooklyn last year called Staycation, with a tight curation of like-minded brands. Founder Éva Goicochea has now launched an online version with products to help you de-stress and do good at home. Elsewhere, Neighbourhood Goods, the department store for DTC brands, is offering free spaces at their IRL locations this summer for businesses affected by Covid-19.

4. First Round Capital has put together a virtual events crash course along with an in-depth founders field guide with insights from recession-era leaders.

5. A group of designers, developers, marketers, writers, directors, photographers and business leaders in LA are offering their services for free to small businesses in the city going through tough times. Meanwhile, co-working company Huckletree, with locations in London, Manchester, Dublin and Oslo, is waiving the £1,500 course fee for its one-week Renegade Academy, a bootcamp designed to prepare new founders for a seed round.

A lesson in ‘brand authenticity’ – from a bootlegger.

Jonny Banger takes the rough with the smooth. He’s shifted sportswear ever since he was a little boy and founded his cult clothing label Sports Banger seven years ago. Since then, he’s received five warnings from the UK government and had two online shops and three PayPal accounts shut down. On the flip side, he made £37,000 in half an hour last Friday. A tidy sum, even by Jonny’s standards. What’s more, he spent nothing on marketing.

All of the money was made through the re-release of a t-shirt that has blue NHS and Nike logos boldly juxtaposed against a white background. It first came out in 2015, when British healthcare funds were being drastically cut by the government. Jonny’s t-shirts proved to be a conversation starter for the high street masses, not just the hypebeast few, who rallied together to discuss how important the NHS is.

Throughout this crisis the same conversation is playing out again, while his brand-hacking antics will probably land him in yet more trouble. Not that he’s bothered. In fact, he wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘Use what you’ve got, and do what you can,’ he said once. ‘I started at the bottom,’ he said another time. ‘You bootleg because you have to, not because it’s cool.’

Generally, of course, he's right. Counterfeit designer goods are a fashion faux pas. Buying a fake piece of clothing is associated with empty pockets and long-lasting embarrassment for those who get found out. Yet Sports Banger is turning this ethos upside down. It’s hard enough for small, independent clothing brands to be successful in the best of times, let alone through a crisis. What makes him so successful?

It isn’t the notion of exclusivity and limited supply, which are key to today’s streetwear culture. With Sports Banger, everyone’s invited. ‘Lifestyles of the poor, rich and famous,’ runs the brand’s tagline.

Nor does he think streetwear is cool anymore. In the past he's ridiculed its – along with the fashion industry’s – fixation with ‘authenticity’. After all, what does it mean when the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers collaborates with Hypebeast on a ‘Streetwear Impact Report’? Or when Harvard Business School picks Supreme to outline the future of consumer capitalism?

Jonny’s studio and shop is located on Seven Sisters Road, a typical north London street with residential buildings and an ecosystem of small businesses underneath railway arches. He holds all his stock there, when there’s any left, from the t-shirts with upside down Reebok logos on to trainers he designed with real £5 notes stuck inside the soles. The brand is very much part of his local community: he collaborates with Tottenham Textiles next door and occasionally gives work to local teenagers.

Whenever Sports Banger launches a new piece of clothing, it sells out almost straight away. But that’s not because Jonny is trying to mimic a streetwear drop. Instead, it’s because Sports Banger is a small operation and the brand can’t keep up with demand. ‘It’s a one-man thing,’ he says on his website. ‘If your order has not arrived it’s because I’m waiting on more stock and it’s all got a bit out of hand.’

The NHS/Nike t-shirts go on sale again at 7pm this evening. Online, they’re sold alongside the following message: ‘I was born in the NHS. My mum worked for the NHS. The NHS tried to save my brother’s life. The NHS saved my life. The NHS saved my dad’s life. The NHS tried to save my mum’s life. The NHS saved my best friend’s life. The NHS saved my other best friend’s life. *A short true story by Jonny Banger.’

And for now, all proceeds are going straight towards delivering fresh juices and healthy food seven days a week to a handful of NHS hospitals. It’s easy to see why, then, his brand has so much resonance and holds what so many streetwear brands pretend they have but actually crave: authenticity.

At the time of writing, it proved too difficult to find a convenient time for an interview with Jonny. But in this instance, it feels like more of a blessing than a curse. He does things his own way. Long may that continue.

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Illustrators: Yosuke Yamauchi | Giulia Sagramola | R Fresson

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