Thriving as an Entrepreneur During the COVID-19 Crisis
We are in the middle of some strange times.
We have never been in a situation like this before, so anyone who is telling you what is going to happen is just as unsure as you are.
The news is all over the place, with a range from doomsday to dismissive.
For most people, even those that think it’s all overkill and mass hysteria, it’s overwhelming.
While a lot of us typically turn to work in times of stress, even that is uncomfortable or, worse, impossible right now.
You might be wondering if you can make it through all of this.
I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can. You just have to figure out what adjustments are necessary.
But before you worry about your professional life, make sure your home/personal life is as stable as you can make it.
Now that we don’t really have much of a weekend to anchor the days, (no going out, no cool events, etc.), it will be easy for the days to blend together and to lose track.
When this happens, you begin to lose your sense of urgency. Complacency sets in.
It might not be easy, but you can’t allow that to happen.
The best way to keep complacency away is by practicing something that almost everybody struggles with at first. And I’m sure you’ve heard it before. One of my favorite podcasts talks about it in almost every episode.
The answer is discipline.
If you already feel like you’re pretty disciplined, now is the time to double down. If you tend to be a little looser with your schedule and daily activities, now is a good time to sit down and see if that can continue working for you, at least through this quarantine.
Make a list of the things you do everyday, even the most mundane, and make sure you do them. Brush teeth, shower, exercise, get dressed, etc. Do them at the same time every day, even though you might not be going anywhere right now.
Having a schedule and doing the self-care activities you would normally do before leaving the house helps keep a sense of normalcy, even in times of uncertainty.
In addition to those normal things, here are the other things I am nailing down:
- Home-based workouts – I have a bicycle on an indoor trainer in the garage. I will be putting some mileage on it. There is no Jiu-jitsu going on, so I have found some solo drills on-line to hold me over. I will be able to talk about theory and work on some things with my daughter so we can both keep improving.
- Strict wake-up and bedtime (routines to wind up and wind down are going to be important here.) I actually put “Begin Work” and “End Work” on my calendar.
- Communicate with my daughter and significant other about work time. I had to learn this the hard way when I started working from home, but it’s important to reaffirm it now with my kiddo out of school. If working from home is new for you, it will be quite an adjustment for everybody in your house. But setting expectations will make everything easier and allow you to be way more productive.
- Focus on family time when I am not working. At dinner, we have started doing a “no phone” policy, which is helpful. We have also upped our tabletop gaming frequency and are having regular movie nights at home.
- Have some occasional alone time in any way I can. Last night I folded two loads of laundry and told my family that I wanted to do it on my own. I put in some earbuds, listened to a new audiobook, and allowed myself to recharge a bit.
- Figure out the food thing. Grocery trips are gonna be crazy and will take more time than normal. We started doing a lot of cooking/meal prep at the beginning of the year, so we are continuing on with those efforts. And when we don’t feel like cooking, we’re careful to choose food from one of the small businesses around us that are still open. They need as much support as possible.
Now, let’s talk about business stuff.
I’ve been reading a lot about what you need to do to make sure your business can stick it out through all of this. Here is what I believe to be the more important things to think about and do to get you through this. These are the things that I’m focusing on and will continue to evaluate as all of this plays out.
But first, it’s important to ask yourself some questions about your business before you start looking for ways to keep it going or even growing it.
First, what does your business need to look like to be successful in these times? Some people are saying we could be staying home for 2 weeks and others are saying 3 months. It’s better to prepare for the worst. Can you deliver online, through email, or over video conference? How can you make the longest amount of downtime work?
Second, adjust your metrics and be realistic. This is a shock to everyone’s system and no one planned for it. How does this impact your goals? Expecting yourself or your business to be in the same spot or better than this time last year is completely unrealistic, and making it up later might put way too much pressure on you and your people. Reevaluate and adjust.
Third, what does your pipeline look like? A lot of people are scared, and you’re going to deal with some people who want to “wait and see.” It probably sounds terrifying, but do yourself a favor, call it over on those people, and move on. Their fears are valid and the wait and see approach is totally understandable, so don’t ruin the relationship. But for now you need to put all of your focus on the people who are still ready to go now.
After figuring out those questions, start looking at other things you can do for yourself and your business.
- Start something new – I don’t love this idea because everyone’s willingness to chase the new shiny thing can be detrimental to your main thing. This advice is more for people who want to start or grow their side hustles. If you can do that without hurting your main business in the future, now is a great time to figure out how you can make it work.
- Competition shop – With the hustle of our normal workdays, we forget to look around at how other people are finding success. But now you probably have time. Look at your competition and how they are positioned. Do you need to adjust to be complimentary or more contrary? Can you borrow anything from the successful people or businesses around you?
- Create content – This is one of the first things that falls off most people’s to-do lists, but since we are all saving time by not commuting, we can get more done. And right now, people will take the time to read valuable content more than ever! Write email drip campaigns, email newsletters, (sign up for my Sherpa newsletter by clicking here), blogs, or FAQ’s.
- Network – More difficult right now, but still definitely possible! Reach out to connections and referral partners and check on them. They might be freaking out, and you can build some good rapport by checking on them. You can also do networking virtually. Do a deep dive into your connections on LinkedIn for new people to talk to.
- Learn a new skill – Every entrepreneur I know would like to have some skills in another area. Might be copy, sales, design, finance. Whatever it is, get after it now. Many people are giving away content, seminars, and learning groups that were quite expensive for significantly cheaper or for free.
- Start a FB group – Or look for some good ones to hop into. These groups are great ways to build your tribe and are great for testing ideas and content. I’m in several and have one of my own that discusses ways of improving the culture of your business and your place in it. If you’d like to join, click here.
- Start a Podcast – Everyone is home, Zoom is free for 45 minute calls normally. They are running specials now. You can order everything else you need from Amazon, and the guy who produces my show, Sales Throwdown, can mix all your stuff virtually.
- Guest on Podcasts – If having your own podcast doesn’t interest you, guesting on them can still be super beneficial and fun! There are a handful of services that are popping up that connect Podcast Hosts with interested and relevant guests. Do some googling and find some to go on. Another great resource for guesting on podcasts, blogs, articles, and even books is by signing up for HARO. If you’ve never heard of it, look into it.
- Define and document your processes – This is a big part of my main business, Adapted Growth, but I really do believe that almost everybody would benefit from this. If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’ll probably want to be able to step back from the day-to-day grind of it eventually. But you can’t step away from your business and let other people run it if you are the only one who knows how to do it. So imagine handing over the reigns to somebody else forever. Then write down every single thing you would want them to know and exactly what processes you have for keeping everything running.
- Systems review – While you’re documenting the processes you have, ask yourself if they are all working. Most people accumulate tons of software as things go on. Look at the tools you have to see what you need and what you don’t and then remove the clutter. For what you keep, evaluate how well it works. Are there better tools out there that could improve your results?
- Automate parts of your business – There are a number of companies who serve as connectors between businesses. Zapier is probably the best known, but there are a handful of others out there. That menial task that you hate but requires two different pieces of software can probably be handled by a zap. The more you can take off your plate, the more productive and happy you’ll be. (Caution: playing with and troubleshooting zaps can take over your life.)
- Vet and Hire a VA – Same theory as above, just with a human. If you are an entrepreneur in the early stages you are probably trying to do everything yourself. You should stop that, figure out how to work with VA’s and offload that work to them. This works better when you create processes. As a well-known process guy, let me know if you need help.
- Roleplay – Sales conversations, (yes, sales roleplay!) can be tricky, and they will vary widely with the different people you meet. Roleplaying conversations with other salespeople, friends, or family will give you lots of practice and the ability to improve. I am putting together online groups for these. If you want in one, let me know.
- Future gaze – A big part of being successful as an entrepreneur is pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Those hard things get easier when you have clarity as to “why” you are doing them, why it’s important, and where you want to go with it. Furthermore, many of us were not as secure as we wanted to be when COVID-19 came along. What does success look like for you if it happens again? How can you disaster-proof your business for the future?
- Take a DISC assessment – I have taken a lot of assessments, but DISC is the one that I keep going back to again and again. I love it so much that I have a podcast talking about it. I learn something new about myself with each new assessment type I take, but nothing will be as foundational to my success as the things I learned in that first DISC assessment. Take one yourself. Get assessments for your team. Hell, get them for your family! Seriously, you’ll be amazed how much it can help communication with everybody you know.
This is a fairly long list, and it may be way too much for you to think about all at once. But bookmark this page and come back. While I’d like to think this will all be over much sooner than later, we could all use this time for reflection and improvement. If nothing else, I hope it helps you stay on track and remain focused and optimistic in these strange days.
Be kind and patient. We’re all going through something, and with kindness and patience in short supply, you don’t want to be part of the problem.
Above all, I hope you and your family are safe. Business has its place, but family and health come first.