In case you’re reading this years from now and need some perspective, we are now almost 8 months into a very muddled nationwide shut down of many businesses due to a global pandemic. And as I sit here writing this, we’re waiting on the results from one of the closest and most participated in election in decades. Needless to say, it’s an extremely stressful time for everyone. And even business owners, who oftentimes thrive on stress, are feeling overwhelmed and even hopeless.
Thankfully, an entrepreneurial mindset is one of the best attitudes to have in the midst of this situation. I went into detail a few months back about setting your own schedule, and business owners have an affinity for this. Even if it’s a learned skill, it’s a step up from the average worker who is used to having someone else set their hours, breaks and routine. To succeed, entrepreneurs must master the discipline of making their own time – and being productive, even in a limited span.
But even business owners need a reminder from time to time, so we’ll start with the bedrock of all small business management…
Always Be Improving
The reason you’re reading this, or the latest book by Tim Ferris; watching Don Miller’s Storybrand Workshops; listening to Chris Do’s The Futur podcast or even the back catalog of our own Grow the Dream Show is obvious. When you stop growing, you die. Okay, maybe not the next day, but business owners and entrepreneurs know that self-development is crucial to success. And while you may not be able to attend “Commuter University,” you now have more time at home to devote to reading and listening, if you make it a priority.
Business owners are always learning and great leaders encourage their employees to do the same. The more you know, learn and understand, conceivably the more value you add to yourself and your business. In fact, this mindset was proven invaluable in the early days of COVID-19, as well as more recently, as more and more employees were furloughed or terminated from their positions.
Which leads us to our next tip…
Pivoting & Partnerships
Just as in the days of old, when ice harvesters were replaced by in-home refrigerators, many businesses faltered as the products or services they provided became obsolete, unsustainable or just shifted into other areas. The ones that survived were the ones who were able to do two things – pivot easily, and build partnerships.
In Columbia, a group of ragtag engineers downloaded ventilator plans from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then they worked with local automotive and appliance plants to retool and build badly needed hospital grade ventilators from scratch.
I mentioned self-improvement earlier – one of the biggest markets to come out of the pandemic is online learning. And I don’t just mean Zoom and Skype and Google growing market share – though they have. I’m talking about educators, colleges, training programs and places like Teachable and Udemy are exploding with new webinars, courses and teachers. From high end to basic knowledge, just about anything can be taught and learned online now. And while parents have now been saddled with being their children’s co-teachers, studies are showing that some students do better in online classrooms than physical ones.
If you don’t already have a website, now is definitely the time. Even if it’s just a WordPress.org or SquareSpace site, it’s better than nothing – although it’s probably better to get spend a little to get something full-featured and flexible. An online presence today is no longer optional.
Get More Sleep – REALLY
As much as I personal embrace the legend of the sleepless entrepreneur, we need to discard this inaccurate trope. We also need to stop calling those who get a full seven to eight hours sleep lazy and unproductive. And while we’re at it, some of us have different circadian rhythms than the rest of the world. I work better rising mid-morning and burning the midnight oil. And that’s okay.
While some business owners look at things like higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure as part of the cost of doing business, your family may disagree. And the CDC has plenty of data supporting the need for higher quality as well as quantity of sleep.
Although it may not surprise you that a study funded by mattress makers recommends more sleep, their science is sound. And it’s backed up by Forbes research. Incidentally, it also points out that you don’t have to bank all the hours during the night. Which is good, cause some folks can’t. In decades past, humans slept in two cycles. And there’s plenty of proof now that power naps during the day are advantageous to health and creativity.
So don’t neglect your sleep. But don’t wallow in it either.
Persistence is Useful
One of the most valuable resources for entrepreneurs is their bottomless well of persistence. Well, for successful ones, at least. Sure, some people fall into things – or at least it seems that way. But those of us on the front lines can attest that 90% of the time your success is directly correlated to how often you get back up after being knocked down.
In fact, persistence is one of the main things many schools cite as something they wish they could teach their students. Even outside of business ownership, people having a persistent, resilient mind and approach do better in school, at work and even in relationships.
Persistence is also crucial in reaching long-term goals.
Delay, Don’t Delete Your Vision
You’re probably aware of the “statistic” that more than half of new businesses fail in their first year. Now, imagine that 2020 is that year… But the truth is, that old adage is not entirely accurate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately one in five new businesses fail during the first two years of being open. Almost half peter out in the first five years, and only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more. And those numbers have barely changed in the past 30 years.
But, again, these are trying times. More so than usual. So no one is going to be surprised when hundreds of businesses that quietly shut down in March never re-open – if and when the states permit them to. The face of business and entrepreneurial spirit in America is changed – if not forever, then at least for a generation or two.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Habakkuk 2:3: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
If you haven’t started your business yet, this may not be the time. Especially if you still have some sort of survival job that keeping your mortgage paid and your family fed. If you’re in the midst of conducting a business, do what you can to keep it going – pivot and plan. If you were about to expand, perhaps wait – unless you have a product or service that is crucial right now.
My point is, don’t give up your vision – hold fast to it, knowing that this will not last forever. You are not running out of time – be patient and don’t lose hope.
Offer a Helping Hand
One of the more unexpected things to come out of the pandemic, especially given the divisive spirit that’s permeated almost every interaction – I’m looking at you, social media – is the overwhelming abundance of people giving back.
The earliest signs of generosity I recall were TV and movie sets donating the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) that they bought to look authentic to hospitals across the country. Many studies show that donations to charitable organizations have kept pace – but spread out. More people are giving smaller amounts, while some usual donors have had to scale back.
Dozens of museums and art galleries started offering virtual tours – increasing exposure to culture and education. Theater groups large and small began running taped performances on free outlets like YouTube and Vimeo. Even some of the streaming services offered free options or lower subscription tiers. Podcasting rose another wave as hundreds utilized their creative talents to give back.
Earlier I mentioned the growth in teaching and online courses. Even more remarkable than its astronomical growth and use is the fact that so many are being offered for free, tips or donations. I honestly don’t think any of us expected things to go on quite this long, but there are still plenty of places offering lots of opportunities for free.
You might have heard of our latest venture – #StrategyStream. That’s where we teach the marketing principles that have gotten us and many clients through recessions and economic downturns. We’re giving them away – without even asking for your email or link click – every Wednesday at 1pm on our YouTube channel.
There are always ways you can give back to your community or clientele – and it builds good will as well as good relations.
When The Music Fades
At some point, we will emerge from this pandemic, shelter-at-home status. We don’t know when, we don’t know how. And sadly, in the past couple of weeks, numbers of infections and deaths have risen. But honestly, the COVID-19 situation is just the McGuffin, if you will. Much more important are the necessary strategies for being a better entrepreneur and person in general.
So, please, don’t look at these as just tips to survive this stressful, emotional time. They’re also building blocks for renewing our society. Entrepreneurs have, for good or bad, always led the way for change in our country. Let’s make sure this time, it’s for the better.