How a Regional Business Survived by Investing in People (And Software)


Brad and Lori Foster were driving to Austin from a company meeting in Houston when they heard about the shutdown. Combined, they have over 40 years of expertise in their business, but neither could have prepared for the challenges that […]

Brad and Lori Foster were driving to Austin from a company meeting in Houston when they heard about the shutdown. Combined, they have over 40 years of expertise in their business, but neither could have prepared for the challenges that the pandemic would present.

“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined that in 1 day, every restaurant, every bar would only close down at precisely the exact same time,” said Lori Foster, co-owner of Shotgun Seltzer, a spiked seltzer business.

Shotgun Seltzer is still a new company, which makes it especially vulnerable to the economic recession introduced by the pandemic. Brad and Lori knew they needed to make a decision quickly if they wanted it to endure.

When they return to their workplace, they sat down for eight hours to weigh their choices. They believed the company plans they made at the start of the year and decided to change everything.

“We [thought] rather than backing down, let us double down,” said Brad. “And we doubled down on individuals.”

They use their agility as a small, new company to invest in people and used software to help them grow while their opponents were scaling back.

In the face of crisis, re-focus on what matters most to your company

When Shotgun Seltzer started in July 2019, it was the first Texas craft spiked seltzer on draft and relied heavily on on-premise sales to restaurants and pubs. Brad and Lori started the practice of packing Shotgun Seltzer to sell to grocery and convenience stores in the end of October 2019, but were still getting distribution rights to perform this at scale once the shutdown began.

“When the pandemic hit, we had only been at some grocery stores for a few months,” Lori Foster said. “And even from that company changed again because everything went online.”

Brad and Lori had to determine how to scale supply of Shotgun Seltzer’s packed merchandise, completely turning their company plan.

“Seventy percent (70%) of our company would have been draft, 30% packed,” Brad Foster said. “Today, it is 99% packaged since there’s not lots of draft company out there. We have had to do a whole shift in strategy entirely.”

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Brad and Lori had to determine how to find grocery and convenience stores to sell their merchandise without meeting with supervisors and offering samples.

“For us to have the ability to get into these retailers, it was persistence and it was all digital,” Brad Foster said.

They used applications persistently to associate with people virtually and stored their company on the way. Discover how they navigated the new realities imposed by emergency, used applications to ease new processes, and ways to apply lessons in their agile approach at your own small business.


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3 ways applications can facilitate agile business planning

1. Hire talent from afar

In grocery stories, Shotgun Seltzer is competing against large, national spiked seltzer brands. They knew they could not compete with the advertising budgets of these brands. Consequently, they decided to double down by reallocating their advertising budgets to hire more people.

“We were competing against mega manufacturers such as Really and White Claw–they have a whole lot of space and the advertising budget for those brands are thousands of dollars. We do not have that, but we did have people.”

Brad Foster, co-owner of Shotgun Seltzer

At the moment, the service sector was taking a hit in the pandemic, furloughing and letting go of workers. Shotgun Seltzer, however, was expanding its team of sales reps, recruiting people almost.

To facilitate the digital hiring procedure, Brad and Lori relied on technology such as telephone calls and Zoom to get in touch with potential hires. Since they used video conferencing applications to mimic in-person interactions, they could recruit some amazing employees.

“We could find some really quality people–people who know the company, who understand alcohol, and who understand customers,” Brad Foster said.

What you can do: It can be tricky to hire new team members without having to meet them. Software can help facilitate your digital hiring procedure.

  • Job board software can help you market open positions internally and externally.
  • Pre-employment testing applications can offer your HR staff the ability to rapidly evaluate candidates and quantify their qualifications.
  • Applicant tracking software can help you manage the hiring process and applicant information.
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2. Proactively manage your business without face-to-face interaction

Brad and Lori had to alter the way that they used software to handle their growing team and relationships with vendors.

Before the pandemic began, Brad and Lori were analyzing LilYPad to help manage employee jobs. The crisis pushed them to invest entirely in the platform. Shotgun Seltzer’s salespeople use software to help them monitor weekly targets and hours. The app also allows sales agents to monitor their performance, and their counterparts’ performance.

“Instead of the old school way of having a clock and check in at a workplace, we know precisely when these people start their day. And then we know precisely when they end their day.”

Brad Foster, co-owner of Shotgun Seltzer

Brad and Lori also use VIP–stock tracking software–to make certain distributors have enough of the product. They utilized VIP pre-pandemic, but have been using it even more now that warehouses have limited access to only essential employees. With VIP, they know just how much product each distributor has, where it had been delivered, and when.

What you can do: Managing remote teams can be complicated, especially if they’re in different time zones. Software can assist with this by monitoring employee targets and progress. By way of instance, time tracking software can make it easier for you to see when employees clock in and out. Employee monitoring software can help you monitor how your employees spend their time and utilize corporate resources.
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3. Get creative with your advertising to get the maximum bang for your buck

After Shotgun Seltzer was positioned in grocery and convenience stores, it needed to convince consumers to purchase its merchandise and experimented with different advertising methods.

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At the very start of the pandemic, Shotgun Seltzer hosted pop-up events, where people would order online beforehand and pick up their drinks at work. The business used Square to handle online orders.

Brad and Lori reported these pop-up events only lasted a couple of weekends. Even though the events did not function the way they expected them to, Brad and Lori think that perhaps now customers feel more comfortable ordering food and beverages online.

“We did this [pop-ups] early on. Brad Foster said. “I believe people are more comfortable buying from a restaurant off their telephone now than they were two 1/2 — 3 months past.” -Brad Foster

Most recently, they began partnering with local radio stations in Austin to host virtual happy hours. The event is promoted on the radio station and the station’s social networking platforms two weeks prior to the event. The actual event is then live streamed from Instagram or Facebook.

“The speed of engagement we have had with radio was tremendously positive. The dollars we spend on that area appear to get a better yield than the dollars we would spend on regular advertising.”

Brad Foster, co-owner of Shotgun Seltzer

Software can make you more nimble

In the face of crisis, agile business planning can help you adapt to new changes. Software can help you manage new procedures and facilitate new ways to convey.

Whether you are looking to upgrade or replace current software or invest in an entirely new instrument, remember: you have this, and we have you.

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