Note: This post was originally published on April 6, 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.
How Are You Running Your Business During This Pandemic?
Woof, we are going THROUGH it right now! It feels like every day the news gets worse, and nobody can tell us how long this will last. I’m struggling to figure out where my business fits into everything and what I could or should be doing with this time we’re all quarantined at home. Help! I know that absolutely nobody has any answers right now, but I’m curious: How have you been handling these massive changes in your own business? What have you been doing (or not doing) during this wild time? I feel like I’m losing perspective and would love to hear how you’re dealing with everything.
Cornered by Coronavirus
Slowly, carefully, or not at all.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been handling this COVID-19 outbreak about as well as anyone, which is to say: not all that well. My mood goes up and down, as do my energy levels, my motivation, and my sense of loneliness.
In some ways, my lifestyle hasn’t changed *that* much: I’ve always been an introvert who worked mostly from home. But not being able to see my friends & family for almost a month now is pretty brutal. The isolation, the uncertainty, the fear and the confusion all take turns taking their toll.
And yet, Spring has sprung amidst all of this pandemic madness! And yet I have seen my inspiring clients start to work on inspiring projects. I am enjoying shorter work days and longer sunny evenings. I have loved talking to everyone I know on Zoom multiple times a week.
As for my business, it’s been happening slowly, carefully or not at all. Slowly, as in: I am working much less efficiently than usual. Carefully, as in: I am being hyper-conscious of not adding to the noise we’re seeing on social media, and I’m showing up to listen to what my clients need during this time. Not at all, as in: sometimes I am not doing much of anything in my business so that I can take care of myself.
Like you said: NOBODY HAS THE ANSWERS RIGHT NOW. I cannot emphasize that enough. Don’t buy anything from anyone who says that they know exactly how to handle business during a pandemic. We are all getting through this crisis on the exact same timeline, so there can be no Coronavirus Business Experts. That said, there are some ideas & strategies that I’ve been using, so I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they might help you too. Here’s what I’ve been doing:
1. Managing My Mind
Here’s what I absolutely know for sure: I can’t manage my business if I can’t manage myself. I am a human being, first and foremost, and I (along with the rest of humanity) am going through an unprecedented global health & economic crisis. That means that it’s not business as usual. That means that now, more than ever, I am not a robot. I am a human, and humans have basic biological needs. Mine include: fresh air, long walks, talking to loved ones, eating good food on a reliable schedule, and getting enough sleep. If I don’t do these things, I can’t do anything.
On top of these absolutely non-negotiable basics, I have also been spending a lot of time managing my mind. I have been super careful of what I’m reading and listening to, because I know that my thoughts & my attitude are some of my most important resources right now. This means being EXTREMELY selective about the news I consume, and exposing myself to thoughtful, grounded ideas from people I trust. If you need a place to start, here are three things I’ve found particularly helpful during this pandemic:
- Handling Chaos from The Life Coach School Podcast: This whole series is very good, but the first episode is what really helped pull me out of a moment of serious overwhelm. The episode “Feeling Awful” was also tremendously good for me during a low day.
- FFTs from Unlocking Us: Brené Brown’s new podcast came out at exactly the right moment! This episode on “f*cking first times” is so powerful. This concept can help us have more compassion for ourselves and make adjustments that feel aligned, in business and in life.
- The Uncertain Times from Wandering Aimfully: Jason & Caroline pivoted their podcast to be about how they’re handling business during this pandemic, and I’ve really admired the kinds of questions & decisions they’re making right now.
2. Showing Up for My Clients
After taking care of my brain & body, showing up for my existing clients is my absolute top priority. To be honest, it always is, but this situation has really turned up the volume on that value of mine. Right now, I am not doing any marketing of my services or products. I am not trying to get any new clients. I am not interested in planning out a new project.
What matters to me is making sure that the people who have trusted me enough to work with me feel seen and supported, and are getting value from our work together. I am in my business for the long haul, which means that I am never going to be interested in short-term gains at the expense of long-term relationships. My people come first, and everything else comes after. That means:
- Giving my all in my client sessions and office hours: Even when I don’t feel my best, it’s important to me that I show up fully for my clients with a positive attitude, helpful resources and a whole lot of compassion. Everyone is overwhelmed right now and feeling like they’re not doing enough, and it’s my job to help coach them through those hard feelings so that they can do what’s required to show up for themselves first and their own communities second.
- Being as generous and flexible as I can: Since the pandemic hit, I have stopped making assumptions. I’ve checked in with clients who agreed to work together before all this and gave them the option of not continuing if they needed to. I have offered payment plans or deferred payments for others. As usual, I am honouring existing rates and alumni client discounts. And I am not aggressively following up with a client who hasn’t been able to pay my invoice from last month (because their business had to close), because I am not an asshole. I wish all of this went without saying, but it doesn’t. Be a human. Be good to your fellow humans. The end.
3. Resisting the Urge to React
This is by far the hardest thing on this list. Being indoors all day has meant a lot more time spent on social media, which has meant a lot more time being exposed to what other business coaches are up to right now. Regardless of your industry, I’m sure you can relate to this increased sense of comparison that’s been creeping in for me. As I said before, intellectually I know that these pop-up offerings, guides, and ebooks can’t possibly have more answers than I do, since is everyone’s first pandemic. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying that I should be creating more content for people, or setting up elaborate funnels and ecourses. It doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’m “missing the boat” or “doing this quarantine wrong.”
But I’ve also made a commitment to myself that I will not react during this time of crisis. I will not bring any intense, squirrelly, scrambling energy to my community. I will not attempt to profit off of people’s fear during a global emergency (or ever, tbh). A lot of the “10 Ways to 10X Your Business” and “Get Your Ass Online” content I’m seeing right now feels steeped in urgency, reactiveness, and panic. Yes, even when it’s presented in a beautiful package with gorgeous graphic design!
Instead, I have decided that I will respond. I will respond when I feel well-resourced enough to actually provide value. I will listen to my intuition, and check in with my community to see what would be most beneficial for them. My commitment is to see through the lens of empathy and solidarity, not one of fear and financial scarcity. Above all else, I will stay calm and not pour from an empty cup. If that means I am quieter than usual, so be it. If it means I don’t do ANYTHING this week besides client commitments, so be it. I will speak up exactly when it feels right to, and not a moment before.
- Get government support: If you’re lucky enough to live in Canada like me, you can apply for the Emergency Response Benefit as of April 6th. While it will likely not replace all the losses your business has suffered, it will be something to keep you afloat. If you don’t live in Canada, do some research to figure out what kinds of supports you might qualify for from your government.
- Ruthlessly cut your expenses: I could say that I feel lucky right now to have a nimble, lightweight business with few expenses, but the truth is that I made that decision extremely consciously, years ago. This one simple article from Signal v. Noise influenced me quite a lot and I think about it often. Regardless of what kind of business you have, think about how you could cut your expenses right now. Take it down to the barest bones you can. Your job is to outlast this pandemic.
- Edit your work days: I’d been struggling to fill my work days until a friend gave me this suggestion. If it’s not business as usual, why am I trying to keep my butt in my seat as much as usual? So I’m experimenting with working less often. Maybe I’ll only work afternoons, or start taking Fridays off. The point is: my capacity is (naturally) diminished right now, so I can allow my schedule to be quieter too.
Do your best. At the end of the day, this is really all that any of us can do. We are in an unprecedented situation. There are no right answers and no clear paths. We all want an expert to tell us what to do, and none exists. (Except for the health experts guiding us around social distancing & hand-washing, definitely listen to THEM!) So we are forced now to turn inwards. To consider our unique businesses from the inside-out. To get quiet and figure out what the next right step might be, for us and only us. It’s going to look different for everyone, and it’s going to be harder than we think. But we can do this. We can get through this, together.
I’d love to know: What is helping you stay present & calm in your life right now? What changes have you made to your own business during this stressful time? Feel free to let me know in the comments below or over on Instagram, @stephpellett.
PS. The pandemic also taught me a lot about staying productive when things are hard. Here’s what I learned, in a free video! ⬇️