When the year started, several memes floated around the interwebs. Some speculated on how quickly life was going to have to accelerate to bring us up to date with 80’s science fiction films. Others enjoyed comparing this year and decade to come with its past equivalent – the 1920’s.
Most of those were centered on clothing, style, hats and the like. Then things started getting darker. Even before we were aware of the Coronacrisis hitting our shores, there were comments made on the potential for a looming economic disaster…
…and then we started to feel the impact of COVID-19. The international travel industry stalled as the US established restrictions. Tech companies had to deal with a rapidly diminishing supply chain. Then the stock market, already more volatile than usual over the previous few months, had its largest drop in two years. The first unconnected case of coronavirus popped up in the United States. And the first recorded US death due to the virus occurred.
All in one week.
It took two more weeks before government officials realized how rapidly the virus was spreading and how significant an effect it was starting to (and would continue to) have on the United States population. Government offices, entertainment venues and many other establishments that were not considered essential businesses were closed across the country in an effort to “flatten the curve.”
Comparisons were made to the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak following the First World War. Although the popular idea out there that there’s a pandemic on the 20th year of each century is just not true.
But there are lessons we, as business owners, can learn from looking back at the Roaring 20’s.
Focus on the Future, But Work Now
One of the lessons we derived from the stock market crash of 1929 and the resultant Great Depression was to not panic. As Robert Kiyosaki is fond of pointing out – people who build financial security keep their attention on the future.
Success is only partly about reacting in the moment. You also have to keep your eyes on your long term goals and work towards them – even while sheltering alone at home.
It may seem that there is nothing that can be done to help promote or market your business at this time. You may even feel guilty about considering it – or worry that you’ll be seen as taking advantage of the crisis for your own profit.
Lord knows there are plenty of people and businesses like that out there. My own email has fairly exploded in the past few weeks – I’m getting contacted by companies I haven’t heard from in years. And even some that I have never done business with are willing to risk spam flags to try and reach out.
And those are just the ones letting everyone know that they’re still around and explaining how they’re “dealing with coronavirus.” Some companies have sent me one email every week. Some send me two or three in a week. With almost the same wording every time. Gmail doesn’t know how to filter these yet, and my relevant emails are getting buried in the onslaught.
The last thing you want to do is be seen as trying to benefit from the misery and fear of others. You certainly don’t want to be one of the 4000+ sellers on the wrong end of Amazon’s big stick.
The second to last thing you want to do is to just let your business dwindle and fade during these times. Especially since every day it looks like it’s going to take longer than previously anticipated to “return to normal” – if we EVER do.
Greed is (Sometimes) Good
Warren Buffet has been quoted as saying, “A good investor has the opposite temperament to that prevailing in the market… Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” Now, that doesn’t mean catering to or taking advantage of people’s fears. It just means that when everyone else is slowing down, that’s an opportunity to ramp up.
On Black Thursday, some investors quickly switched to bonds, and then began buying up ridiculously cheap stocks as people panicked and liquidated their assets. In fact the stock market didn’t crash in one day. It took 2 years to recover, during which time the smart folks kept their cool and came out of it ahead.
23-year old Irving Khan predicted the stock market crash, and was recognized as the world’s oldest professional investor when he died at 109 in 2015. Alfred Lee Loomis was an investor who pioneered holding companies and would later use the millions he made buying up bargains after the crash to fund his own physics lab. He hosted many prominent scientists of his day and worked on both the atomic bomb and radar before retiring. His great-grandson is Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix.
You’re Not Alone
In mid-March, Neil Patel posted that experts were predicting a loss to the global economy of $2.7 Trillion. Finance, food, health care and the Media are getting the majority of downward traffic.
It’s not just you sitting at home, staring at your computer, worrying.
So right now, people aren’t going to your website, unless you’re selling toilet paper or masks. If you’re offering media, healthcare or finance solutions – or training people to use Zoom and other remote connection tools – you’re probably overwhelmed with website hits.
Like most of us, you’re stuck in the middle with more time than any other resource. Which can be a good thing and a bad thing. You finally have the time to do everything (or at least a lot of the things) that you never had time to get to. And if you’re like us here at Grow the Dream, that’s a lot of things – a lot of very overwhelming things.
So how do you handle it?
We just agreed that there’s lots of time, right? So write down what you want to accomplish. Everything, from your business goals to getting the laundry done and your kid’s homework checked. Don’t think too hard; don’t judge yourself or your ability to finish it; don’t try to put everything in order.
Take the time to get as close to a 30-thousand foot view as you can manage. Oh, and don’t forget spending time with your family. Yes, even while you’re “trapped” with them 24-7. And sleep.
I recommend doing this on paper. Trust me, it’ll make sense in a moment.
Now, take the time to go over the list. Some things on there are going to be daily tasks. Some will take a few hours, some a couple of weeks. Separate them out into two lists – “required” and “optional,” but would be nice. Again, we’re writing this down on paper.
For the daily tasks, estimate the amount of time it will take to complete each one and write that next to it. Don’t worry about doing that for the larger “optional” list.
Take the daily list and rewrite it in order – what needs to be done first, what’s most important, etc. Set that list aside.
Now take the second list, classified “optional;” your larger, more ambitious projects. Again, on pieces of actual paper, write out the steps required to accomplish each goal. Break the tasks down to the smallest morsels you can imagine, that will be complete, and will add up to the final task or goal.
This list can be reordered, but depending on the tasks involved, you might need to move from easiest to most complicated, quickest to complete to longest, or some hybrid. Find a way that works, and if the pieces are broken down to enough component parts, you’ll be fine.
Now it’s time to combine the lists. What I’m going to detail is my process. It works for me, but it may not for you. Try my way, but feel free to arrange things however you think it will work best for you – because it’ll be important for the next step.
I try to alternate between things that are “required” and things that are “optional.” There’s only so much time in even these days, so my initial generic list just started with the first necessary task, then put a slot in for an optional piece.
So I get up, shower, shave, have coffee and breakfast. Followed by watching that 30 minute lecture I’ve been meaning to get to. Then research a blog, check and update clients’ social media and start my laundry. Work on the backend of my website redesign. Then walk for an hour, cause I can’t go to the gym. Etc.
By alternating between necessary and discretionary tasks, it allows me to not get overwhelmed by any one thing that needs to be done. And at the same time, I see progress. Even if I don’t cross everything off my list – I have gotten something done.
And that’s the most important part.
You may feel like your usual schedule is all blown apart. No one’s expecting you at the office. No one cares what time you get up or how late you go to bed. There’s no commute to navigate. No Starbucks, no bagel run, no avoiding eye contact as you walk down the sidewalk.
Would you believe the freedom of having all the time is what’s causing you to waste the time?
I already do most of my work from home. Only maybe 15% of my normal week is interrupted by working somewhere else, going to the post office, the gym, church or to go see a movie or hang out with friends. I’m an extroverted introvert. I like being around people for short bursts of time, but I’m used to being in one place – and I’m going stir crazy.
What we’re all missing are rituals. Habits that we engage in, whether we’re aware of it or not, that define our day. Even the most annoying things, like sitting in traffic, are rituals we’re used to. Without those rituals, we can become helpless. Or stare at a screen for hours, not accomplishing anything.
The beauty of the integrated, consistent list that we’ve just created together, is that it gives you back those rituals. Or rather, replaces them so your subconscious mind keeps you on track, accomplishing things.
And by the way, writing them on paper, even just at first, reinforces those ideas and goals in your head. You’ve written everything out, physically, three or four times. You can keep writing out a list – it could be one of your daily tasks, or transfer it to the computer.
But either way, cross off each item as you go. This is another ritual – one that’s proven, in the majority of people, to release dopamine into your brain. That means you chemically feel joy every time you finish something.
As I mentioned earlier – you may not finish everything on your list every day. In fact, most days you’ll fall short. And that’s okay. This list, this daily ritual, is to help you. In the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The point being: don’t be legalistic about this – it’s for your good, NOT to cause you more stress and agony. Forgive yourself. Give yourself a chance to fail and not get upset. Tomorrow is another day and most of us have a lot of tomorrows ahead of us.
Do what you can, and tomorrow start again.
What Can You Work On?
I don’t know what will be on your list of tasks that are optional during this time. But allow me to make some strong suggestions about things you might want to add.
- Revisit your strategy – odds are, like most small businesses, you did strategy work once – if at all – and then plowed ahead. There was never time to relax and see if your ideal customer had changed, or if they were seeking new products or services from you. Even if that hasn’t changed, are you still mindful of the strategy, applying it to your content blog, social media, emails, etc.? Time to get in alignment.
- Restock your content blog posts – don’t stop posting on your once a week or once every two week schedule. But now is the time to bank additional posts for when things get super busy again. While algorithms change, relevant blog content consistently raises your traffic and conversions.
- Resurrect older blog posts – go through older posts, and without changing the permalinks, update old or outdated content to be current or timeless.
- Rummage around in new social media platforms – maybe when you started your business, Facebook and Twitter were enough. But now there are plenty of new platforms – Pinterest and Instagram are more popular and relevant than ever before. Tik Tok was growing before this Coronacrisis and is exploding exponentially now that we’re safe at home.
- Redesign your website – are you on WordPress? Has it been forever since you changed anything? Are your reviews and recommendations stale or from clients you don’t serve any more? While you may not want to do a full redesign (and it can cost you if proper consideration isn’t given), updating modules and freshening things up, can make an old site look fresh and new and relevant. And if you can give your site visitors a better experience or cleaner functionality? That’s a good thing. Even if you just work out the redesign on paper now to be ready to implement it later, that’s a good use of your time.
- Reeducate and complement your tool set – we all need to keep current on trends and changing business models, tools and needs. Don’t wait until you’re forced to learn something because of regulations or changing laws. Do it now. Learn a new skill, keep your mind active. It doesn’t even have to be work-related. Grab your kids and watch a class on baking or folding origami, or creating art.
- Recharge your batteries with a virtual vacation – speaking of art, why not explore some of the finest galleries in the world? There is literally no better time for this, as many museums are organizing virtual tours of their facilities. Everything from the Louvre, to the Winchester Mystery House, to the Houston Space Center, to Castle Dracula in Transylvania and more. This is another activity that the whole family can enjoy, that isn’t Netflix.
With the right mindset, there is so much you can accomplish during this time of working and sheltering at home. You don’t need to lose the momentum of your business, and, maybe you’ll even build some.
If there’s anything we can do for you, please reach out. We’re still helping businesses with strategy, still creating content for our clients, and still trying to provide the best service we can to the small business community.
Even if you are not one of our clients, we invite you to join us for one of our virtual networking sessions that we’re holding about once a week. Just indicate your interest on this contact form and we’ll add you to the email list.