The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Sujan Lal Manandhar.
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet LaVerne Daley, the CEO of L Global, a consulting business in Miami, FL. While travelling in Europe in 2020, she often experienced sudden lockdowns. With the ‘down-time’, they redesigned L Global to a ‘social enterprise model’. A for-profit company, however, a percentage of their revenue goes toward some social global good. LaVerne says, “I was able to take the time to really think through the model and now it is exactly what we want. Because we weren’t always a non-profit but that kind of work was always important to me. But in this way, we get to align everything well”. What to do when you have no control over when things are open or closed due to the lockdown? LaVerne Daley said, “You just go with the flow”. Some challenges L Global faced since the onset of the pandemic were a decrease in clients, devoting enough time to pivot their own business strategy as they are working with their clients too, and helping clients in a very real way FAST.
What do you do as a business?
LaVerne: As you said, I am the CEO of L Global. The actual title of our company is ‘Your Life, No Borders’ and we do business as ‘L Global’. The tagline and the title will tell you something about our business. We believe borders are mental and geographical. We look to eliminate those borders and help businesses expand and grow revenue internationally. We are a team of international business strategists and we help small to medium-sized businesses specifically. We help them anywhere along the revenue chain such as sales, marketing, branding, operating infrastructure, strategic planning, leadership and development and public relations.
That’s amazing! Where is your company located?
LaVerne: We are headquartered in BEAUTIFUL Miami, Florida but I spend a significant amount of time each year on the road travelling, generally speaking, throughout Europe. I actually just returned after spending five and a half months in Europe which was quite the challenge of travelling during the pandemic.
Is most of your business in Europe or do you operate in Asia as well?
LaVerne: We have not gone to Asia yet but hopefully this video will help me get there.
Yeah! For sure. Do you have any employees?
LaVerne: The folks who work for me are primarily consultants and I have some support staff.
How did the lockdown and the pandemic affect your business?
LaVerne: How did it NOT affect my business? My business was affected in so many ways. Our clients are small to medium-sized businesses and as you know that segment was specifically affected by the pandemic. We are a service business and we also work with government and large institutions. However, the primary area of impact for me was balancing the business and our revenue in order to accommodate the wild swings with covid. I left the US last year in August and for the past three years, I have been leaving for about four to six months. I travel to different parts of Europe and my goal is to establish strategic partnerships in the countries where we will be doing business because it is very important for us as an organization to have key strategic partners who represent us within those countries. That’s a key part of our business model. I also travel to increase our client base and work towards leveraging some of the opportunities that we see when we are travelling that you would never find just by doing research online. We do extensive research but you never get it unless you immerse yourself. That is one of our core competencies for value addition in our company.
That’s really important to have some foot on the ground. Did you have a decrease or an increase in the number of clients due to the pandemic?
LaVerne: We definitely saw a decrease. There are some specific sectors that did really well during that time such as distribution logistics, healthcare and any supply chain supporting that, e-commerce and technology. Those were the growth sectors during the pandemic. The sectors that we assist are entertainment ( film, fashion and food), technology, government, professional services, education, tourism and hospitality and non-profits. Half the segments that we support were having some real challenges.
Small businesses in general are struggling. What are some key challenges that you faced as a business due to the pandemic?
LaVerne: We are business strategists so we are facing the same challenges that our customers are facing. But what’s particularly challenging for us is spending the time to pivot and manage our own business. We are moving very fast. As I mentioned, I spend a lot of time travelling overseas. While I am there I help the clients in a very real way to pivot their business in order to help them move in real-time. A lot of fast travel has to happen for readjusting their strategies due to covid. It is a challenge to spend a lot of time overseas helping clients and then look back on my own business to help us consistently feed our pipeline. I will share a quick bit of information that you might find interesting. I left the US in August and went to Portugal. From there I went to the UK where I was quarantined for 14 days. Then I went to Malta to meet one of my contacts. After that, I travelled to Sicily and then to Puglia for one of our film festivals (I am also on the Board for a film festival that asked me to speak last year). Then I went to Rome. I travelled to Nice, France after that. I was there during the terrorist attacks. I was at a 5 minutes walking distance from the church. Then I went back to Rome. That was my five months. The rules would change every few days from country to country. It was incredibly difficult to manage an itinerary or a calendar. That said, some key opportunities did emerge with my technology partner in Europe. We developed a phenomenal post-covid cultural heritage tourism platform that we are now proposing to several governments. We are in conversation with Senegal and Serbia where I have strategic partners. We are also in conversation with Ghana. We do a lot of research to find emerging markets and look to work with those who are innovative and scrappy.
There will be a lot of new businesses emerging from the pandemic. Capitalizing on that opportunity is very important. You mentioned how different countries have different rules. How did you solve the challenge of not knowing when things would be open or closed?
LaVerne: You just go with the flow. That is all you can do because I have absolutely no control over that. I picked the point where I was most comfortable. Whenever I travel I pick Italy as my home base because it is centrally located in Europe. And also who does not want to meet in Italy? I have a strong network there. I was really grateful that by the time I was there some of the areas were in the yellow zone. It meant that the restaurants were open until 6 pm and there was a curfew overnight. The red zone meant complete lockdown and I think the orange zone meant that you could get takeout service. At a certain point, I started to look at my long term business and some of the higher-level projects we were going to propose. I thought I could start the conversation then and eventually go back to do the presentations in person. I wanted to work on mining those relationships so that the timing would align later. That seems to have worked. I just had a really good phone call with the Minister of Culture of Senegal. We did a presentation this past week and they are waiting for me to come and do the presentation in person.
You have mentioned something I think a lot of businesses could benefit from which is not only looking for the short term but also looking at longer-term plans. In line with that, how have you tried to stimulate your business or attract more customers?
LaVerne: Sometimes you are running hard and fast. There were certain times when I was in a hotel room and I couldn’t do anything because we were suddenly in lockdown. One of the things I did was looking back at my own organization and searching for what was really important to me. I questioned how I could make my company the best it could be and how to reflect it in everything we wanted operationally. That is one of the things I recommend. I work on some non-profit boards because I believe your business should provide some global good. That is a personal value of mine. While I was away, we redesigned the business to a ‘social enterprise model’. It means we are a for-profit organization however a percentage of our revenue goes towards some social global good. We chose four areas; leadership and entrepreneurship in women, sustainability, education and food and security in children and families. Let me tell you how it works in actual practice. Say if I pitch something to the government of a country. 3% of the net profit of any deal we make goes right back to the country in any one of those four areas in need and obviously, we let their government decide the sector. We work with an NGO to donate that portion. I was able to take the time and think this model through. Now it is exactly what we want because we were not a non-profit firm but that kind of work was always really important to me.
I love that you redesigned your company so that it can also benefit wherever you are working. Do you know how your customers and your competitors are doing right now?
LaVerne: The big names are doing great. It’s a mixed bag for the folks who serve niche industries such as myself. Some of them have gone out of business, some of them aren’t doing well and some of them have decided to pivot their business to different segments. As we know, everyone has gone online. A good number of my competitors have pivoted to a training and facilitation model because there are some opportunities that have opened up in that sector. Some have decided to just wait it out. And some of them have decided to go find a job because they may not have the capital to wait it out. When this all started we thought it would only last for a couple of months. It’s been over a year.
It will be one year in the US in a few weeks. How is your business performing now? What are you planning for the coming months?
LaVerne: We are going to focus more on benchmarking and doing a deeper dive on balancing short/mid-term revenue because that has become critically important. Clearly travelling six months out of a year is not inexpensive and doing it during covid probably cost three times more than past years. We have to factor in all the quarantines and meetings changing in the final minutes because people could not fly. The revenue stream was also delayed. Now that I am back in the US, I am looking to balance our short term revenue and help who we can in a way that is not going to drain our resources. What that means is that I am a hired speaking gun. I do a lot of public speaking in areas we consult in. I am broadening that particular vertical to do a lot more speaking engagements such as in colleges and local universities. I have been asked to speak overseas at a business association for incubators that are looking to grow.
It’s a very uncertain time but you seem like you know exactly where you are going. I have high hopes for you. I have one more question. Name three things in your business that you need help with.
LaVerne: Sure! Number one is a strong advisory board. That is one of the key initiatives I wanted in my business when I launched. These are the things that I advise my clients. My advisory board should be composed of entrepreneurs who are scrappy and grew a multi-million dollar international business. They could be retired and simply like to keep their finger in the pulse of things. Everyone needs accountability partners and CEOs need that because we operate within a vacuum. The higher up you are in the food chain, the more isolating it is. I am putting it out there for anyone of said description and who feels connected to our mission to just give me a call or go to www.lbrand.global to schedule an appointment directly if you’d like. Number two is more clients. You can reach out to us if you are a small to medium-sized company with or without a strategic plan to come out of the pandemic with an innovative post-covid initiative. We have found some phenomenal solutions where we are using technology. The consultation is always free and if we are the right resource for you we will let you know and if not I will direct you to someone who can help. Number three is strategic partners. We are always looking for strategic partners across the globe who believe in the greater good. It is important that our partners align with our philosophy. The clients that we choose are those who are looking to do some global good. They do not need to be non-profits and actually I prefer it if they were not necessarily non-profits. But it is important that they have a corporate social responsibility platform. As we look for strategic partners globally, they have to be in line with that thinking. That’s the third thing, key partners who are looking to do some greater good and make some money along the way. And have fun because we like to have fun at L Global.
About the Guest
Innovative international business strategy consulting and executive coaching social enterprise headquartered in Miami, Florida with strategic partners, clients, consultants, and support associates, worldwide. Award-winning CEO leads specialists in SMB expansion to provide consulting, executive coaching, and keynote speaking services in strategic planning, sales, marketing, branding, leadership, operating infrastructure, process/workflows, change management, strategic planning, and implementation, across industries, with a concentration in technology, entertainment (food, fashion, film), government, professional services, hospitality & tourism & non-profit sectors. Our unique offerings include a culturally immersive (we travel to you, as requested) market analysis, nimble and agile strategic planning inclusive of our own synergistic multinational partnerships, to deliver unique post-covid recovery or expansion solutions, world-wide.