Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

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In business, you often hear terms like pivoting or adapting. We often feel we have a firm grasp on these terms due to the sheer number of times we hear them. But what does it actually mean for an organization to be adaptable?

As co-founders of a lean startup, Ian and I at Helium Books, oftentimes have no other choice than to be anything but adaptable. Adjusting to new conditions and a changing landscape is a daily practice for us, not simply for the growth of the business, but to be able to survive. 😅

Despite not having seamless technological integration with the library system (how we source our books to be delivered), we attempt to make the user’s experience with Helium Books from start to finish as frictionless as possible...

⏱️⚡ From making cognizant efforts to send timely confirmation email notices, to offering lightning fast delivery, Helium Books aims to make reading easy.

These two points of emphasis came to be so that we can enhance the value we provide despite capital and technological constraints (again, we’re lean).

Another part of this frictionless experience is us offering holds to be placed on books unfortunately unavailable at our sourcing libraries when initially desired and developing a system to notify our users when said titles become available to rent. We were forced to problem solve and find solutions to not only please immediate customers, but to solve long-term issues such as books not being immediately available to rent. We had to adapt and overcome obstacles.

🖩 While the numbers I will share shortly may not seem impressive to the average person, to us at Helium Books HQ, they’re something to hang our hats on...

Our average response time (elapsed time from user's online order form completion to manual delivery of confirmation email): ⏰ 30 minutes.

Our average delivery time (elapsed time from user's online order form completion to order delivery): ⏰ 14.5 hours.

Given the fact that currently we have no automated responses and every email is manually sent after a series of checks, a response time of 30 minutes is quite solid! (not to mention this figure encompasses overnight orders while some of us may be sleeping). Now, that 14.5 hours is something else...beat that Amazon!

Adaptability comes in many shapes and sizes. Having to be adaptable because of your current technology stack and choosing to be adaptable because of your current competencies is something else entirely.

In 2021, knowing what we do phenomenally well: source and deliver books (remember that 14.5 hour delivery stat!), we decided to leverage these skills in two different ways: (1) delivering books for a local bookstore, and (2) delivering books at scale for a local private school.

🤔 We went through a process of identifying what we were doing well and how we could generate additional revenue outside our established model (direct-to-consumer book rental delivery). For small organizations like Helium Books, it seems easy to make this pivot and adapt to new conditions, but rarely is that the case, considering any type of deviation from your established model can be costly. However, putting in the work typically pays off. Staying nimble and constantly thinking about the bigger picture certainly helped us; by adapting and leveraging our competencies, these two new additions to our business offerings now account for over 90% of total revenue.

We know that we’re a lean organization. We know that each day is a continuous battle to grow and to make an impact.

Yet, we improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Being adaptable means scrapping current playbooks, building up others, or coming up with brand new ones. Business, no matter the scale or size of the organization, is about finding solutions and how you’re best able to leverage what you do best to solve problems. Being adaptable allows for solutions to be readily found, but the best solutions are not without hard work to make them work.

🔎 Don’t lose focus on how you got to where you are, and don’t lose focus on other ways to get to where you want to go.

Be adaptable.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome.

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