Did I catch you scrolling and reading and panicking with the nonstop stream of information on COVID-19? It is so very easy to do. I’m guilty of it too.
But now is the time to PAUSE and CHOOSE. I’ll get to what I mean in a minute but first…
Most importantly, I want to acknowledge how rattling, terrifying, unsettling, and uncertain the current moment is for all of us. For those of you dealing with immediate effects of illness, navigating high-risk factors (self and loved ones), and unprecedented big decisions, I want to express my heartfelt caring to you. May love and grace accompany you during this tough time. While everyone across the globe is affected, not everyone is affected in the same way or in equal measures.
If you and your family are not in immediate danger, I want to offer you some strategies to consider as you and your business navigate the next few weeks (and beyond!). To the degree that it is possible, it is important to stay grounded, discerning, and well.
Hit the PAUSE Button
The last week has been unprecedented, nonstop changes with a super-sized side of anxiety fries. It can feel like you must immediately DO something. We are seeing the best and the worst of people in plain view. You only need to look at the local grocery shelves (absolutely no one can use THAT much toilet paper). Questionable leadership, inconsistent communications, and competing demands leave everyone on edge and rational decision takes a holiday (ok, maybe a staycation six feet away?). Rabid, primal fears – health, survival needs, financial needs – are on high. It’s normal to feel shaken in this situation! I surely am.
Here’s a truth to embrace:
You don’t have to figure it all out now. You don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it alone.
You must feel and process your feelings of loss and grief. Every single person has at least a few events/opportunities/plans/dreams that you were wholeheartedly looking forward to that have vanished into thin air. Just because it isn’t “as big as someone else’s loss” doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t make it matter less to you. Give yourself the space to feel what you’re feeling in your moments of pause (meditation, walking, time outside, whatever routine helps you stay grounded). Then…
Unless you are postponing/cancelling an event that falls within the CDC guidelines and timelines of the next eight weeks – nothing, I mean nothing must happen instantly. I see people trying to make leadership and strategic decisions for 3-6 months from now. Groups trying to solve issues they don’t yet have. Mega-coaches trying to get you to panic move into their high-priced programs (wrong on so many levels).
Who the hell knows what reality looks like that far away right now?
Deal with what is right in front of you first. Be thoughtful, be kind, take a deep breath. Yes, you may need to reconsider product launches, offerings, travel, and things we don’t even know of yet, but it doesn’t have to be done right this very second.
Your first job as a business owner (as a human for that matter) is to take good care of yourself. Keep yourself safe, healthy, and well (mental health matters). Then reach out to the immediate circle of loved ones to ensure they are doing the same. If resources (including mental bandwidth!) permit, reach a bit beyond to help someone less fortunate. You don’t have to save the world. You aren’t required to suddenly turn your business into pro-bono offering (because someone is trying to guilt you into it – “But you know virtual technologies! Can’t you teach the world for free?!”)
Strengthen and Adapt Foundational Systems
Ways of doing business and moving about in the world have changed radically and exponentially in just a weeks’ time. Creative solutions abound (but only if you do step 1 first and pause/ground yourself)! I am seeing this already in the local community with in-person craft beer/distiller producers turning their in-person businesses into a no-touch pick-up/delivery model in 24-48 hours complete with hand sanitizer made with spent grain. That’s only one of many examples.
Some items to consider:
Cash is king. Profit margins matter. The type of business you run will make this step dramatically different. What is true for all – having a system and a reserve makes the difference between weathering the storm and going under. Do what you can now to get through the short-term and build more capacity for the long term. Don’t make knee-jerk short-sided decisions. Do make changes that strengthen your situation.
Can some or all your services be provided virtually? Even if you love the in-person vibe, current events are going to fluctuate. Diversification and/or adaptability is key. What can you offer to meet short/long-term needs of your clients? What are new problems you see your clients having in the coming months? How can you help solve them?
Life can turn on a dime and the last few weeks have shown us that on a macro scale.
Processes and Procedures
Are yours up to snuff? Do you have them? To me these are like guardrails on the road. They can guide your path even in the worst of conditions.
If you’ve been resisting systematizing or automating, now is the time to break through that resistance. Even if “tech” isn’t your thing, the increasingly globally dependent economy coupled with remote work is here to stay. This pandemic may just be the thing that ignites that remote workforce we muttered about in the 2000’s. You want and need to adapt to changing conditions while creating avenues for business continuity when disruption strikes.
Be mindful and caring of your current customers. Let them know you are thinking of them. In your marketing you must be sensitive to the situation and to what people are going through. You are running a business and not a charity. You have permission to market and sell your services. Please do so kindly, mindfully, and compassionately.
Take the Long View and Stay Flexible
Self-employment is always a distance run. To the degree that you can (follow that step 1 again!), take the long view. It can be easy to get irreparably rattled. Every few hours the news changes, restrictions change, and the stock market shows us the real meaning of “get down”.
You can throw your 2020 marketing and strategic plans out the window at this point. This is part of why I truly plan only a quarter at a time. Flexibility and adaptability always matter and now they are the only thing that matters. Take small, steady actions in the short-term. Take the long view of creating sustainability in your business and being-ness.
This is partly why all those quick-fix, 7-step cookie-cutter, get rich in 3 months solutions don’t work. Throw one honking wrench into it and it collapses. Throw something as big as current pandemic at it? It disintegrates.
You don’t want your business to disintegrate. You want to work like my telephoto lens on my DSLR. Zoom way in (that’s today), Zoom way out (that’s the long, wide-angle view). Alternate between them to find the picture-perfect spot for you to focus at any given moment.
If you could use some help navigating all this, contact me here. I work with people in as short of 60-90-minute one-time sessions and we can explore what feels right to you at this time.