How to weather the storm: Interview with Food-Entrepreneur Silvan Leibacher

The Growth Report - #6

Today's topics include

🌪️ Marketing and Growth in Turbulent Times
How to weather the storm: An interview with Food-Entrepreneur Silvan Leibacher

🧠 Personal Growth
On Keeping a Positive Outlook

⛑️From the trenches
A collection of links to cheer you up and get your mind off the virus for a while.


📈 Marketing and Growth in Turbulent Times

How to weather the storm:

Interview with Food-Entrepreneur Silvan Leibacher

(in Swiss German)

(unfortunately my video didn't record and the production quality is not ideal, but the content is worth it!)

Insights from the Interview:

1. How to communicate in times of crisis (Timestamp 20:15)

Silvan highlights four aspects that are crucial when communicating with employees, customers, partners and investors:

  1. Speed - you gotta act quickly. Don't wait and hope nobody notices. Proactive and decisive action is paramount.

  2. Transparency - put the fish on the table. Don't try to hide important and relevant details. It'll come out eventually, and they rather hear it from you than from somebody else.

  3. Clarity - clearly lay out the facts, its implications and what you are going to do about it.

  4. Linearity - make sure you communicate the same information to all affected parties. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it avoids misalignment and the spreading of rumors.

Insight: Silvan mentions a quality case they had a few years ago. By communicating fast, transparent, clear and linear, Silvan noticed, that he gained enormous trust with his customers and partners, by taking responsibility for the situation and being very clear on actions taken and the way forward. So despite the negative message he had to communicate to his customers and partners, the longterm net effect was positive.

2. Keep moving to hold your balance (Timestamp 28:04)

Silvan made one point clear: That now is not the time to sulk, succumb to paralysis or burying your head in the sand (okay he said it a bit nicer). Instead, he urges us all to keep moving in such fast-paced and uncertain times.

I urge people to keep moving! It's like riding a bicycle. Motion brings stability and keeps you in balance.

As a leader, this also sends the right signals to your employees and other important stakeholders. You are proactive, you are trying things out and you look forward. This evokes security to both your internal and external environment.

3. Empathy and Creativity will set you up for future success (Timestamp 29:00)

Because a major part of Leibacher Biber-Manufaktur's business relies on customer and employee presents and give-aways, a large chunk of date-specific orders got canceled because of the virus outbreak.

So it was time to get creative...

  • They are approaching companies that planned general assemblies for their shareholders, but can't hold them now because of the corona virus. When they are calling to cancel the order Silvan offers them free packaging and delivery handling, so they can send their shareholders a little something sweet and let them know they are appreciated.

  • Another company they are working with is sending each of their employees a Biber with the message "stay healthy". What a delightful gesture!

  • The company decided to cut all delivery costs for their e-commerce store. (Which grew their online business substantially).

  • And then you just need to see this for yourself 😍

Silvan makes an important point: Of course in the long-term its not financially viable to sell a product for 25.- and cover the customers' delivery fee of 9.-, but at the end of the day, if an employee can be put to work, the production line can be held afloat and they can put a smile on someone's face out there, it's the right thing to do in this environment. And if you add those factors up and multiply them, it can mean the difference between a business coming out stronger or a business withering away because of a crisis.

4. Smart reallocation of resources (Timestamp 33:40)

Like for many other companies out there right now, a significant part of operational activities are cut back and free capacity for employees to work on other parts of the business suddenly opens up. The question is how you allocate those resources in a way that sets you up for future success.

A few measures that Silvan took and describes in more detail in the interview:

  • Expand and prioritize product development and R&D of new products

  • Start producing content on new business and keywords that could be relevant in the future (e.g. wedding presents)

  • Send around requests for Google Reviews to help boost search engine results in the long term. (They got 40 five star reviews in one day)

.....and so much more!

Silvan Leibacher co-founded the specialty food business Leibacher Biber-Manufaktur with his brother in 2011. Their flagship product is an organic honey-almond-filled ginger bread (a Swiss specialty called "Biber", hence the name) and they now employ over 30 people.


🧠 Personal Growth

On Keeping a Positive Outlook

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The words of Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities ring very true today. I’ve seen some of the greatest acts of random kindness and solidarity. People singing from their balconies in Italy, holding doors for people so they don’t have to touch the door handle, and giving compliments and smiles to everyone.

Then also I have seen the worst of times. People hoarding more than they need at the cost of their neighbor’s health. People spreading the virus of Fear more insidiously than any airborne pathogen could spread. All with a sense of righteousness..

There is no doubt we are facing a big challenge. But how we see the challenge is up to us. Is it an invitation to respond with courageous acceptance of our own fears of mortality, or is this a looming death sentence to run from at all cost? Is this a way to come together by seeing everyone as our self, living a different life--or is this an excuse to reinforce the psychological delusion of separateness? ‘Safe distance’ is meant for our physical bodies during this time, not our hearts.

Whatever happens, how we see it and how we behave, is up to us. I’m not optimistic by nature, but I remain optimistic about this pandemic, because I have faith in people. Yes, there will be losses. My heart bleeds for those affected. But I believe we’ll figure this out, and be better for it.

During this time I encourage everyone to keep your spirits buoyant, just as you keep your hands clean. Not only will this allow you to think clearer and enjoy yourself more, it will also directly affect your immune system.

In a study done at Wisconsin and Princeton University, 52 men and women were asked to recount both the best and worst events in their lives on paper.

  • For their best experiences, the subjects were asked to write about an event where they experienced “intense happiness or joy”. And for their worst experience, they were asked to remember an event causing “the most intense sadness, fear, or anger”.

  • During this autobiographical task, the electrical activity of the brain was measured. The subjects were then given flu shots and their antibody levels were measured after two weeks, four weeks and six months.

  • The results unsurprisingly, were that those who relived the positive events, had a much healthier immune response than those who were ruminating on their fear and trauma. A positive attitude is literally good medicine.

And speaking of good medicine, this podcast with Max Lugavere could not be more timely. He is an expert on how to use food and other daily practices to optimize your health, and guard against common stressors like air pollution.

Stay safe out there, and keep up that positive energy even if the world seems grim right now. The people around you depend on it.


⛑️ From the trenches

Links to cheer you up

Enough with all the seriousness.


That's it for this week.

Stay safe out there my friend.

See you next week,

Sandro