Americans love to work. We love to solve problems, change things, make our mark. Hard work satisfies a longing in us that comes from deep within our soul. It’s in our red, white, and blue blood.
So, what the heck?
A stay at home order? Ok, we will work from home. Problem solved. Except it’s not. We have clients and customers who are also working from home, and they have customers too, who are canceling orders and, yep-staying home. The economy is being wrecked in slow motion before our very eyes like the crash dummy in those highway safety videos. We can’t stop it, it’s excruciating, but we just have to watch.
It looks and feels like a desperate time, and in desperate times, America goes to work. Our grandparents and great grandparents did it after Pearl Harbor and shocked the world with the greatest level of mass production and manufacturing the world has ever seen. Our grandparents and parents did it in after a Cold War thaw and created a booming economy. We did it after 911, creating new levels of technology, information, and unified cooperation. And, until about three weeks ago, we were doing it again, with the Dow at an all-time high and unemployment at an all-time low.
We like to work and to fight our way out of trouble, through adversity, towards prosperity. It’s how we survive. It’s how we grow. It’s who we are.
But now this. We’re not told to rise up and make something. We aren’t being inspired to give more, but less. We aren’t being asked to do, but to not.
The enemy is at the gate, but the order is to stand down.
To put it mildly, this is counter-intuitive for us business leaders. To put it bluntly, it sucks.
I am not arguing the validity of the order, nor the science of the Virus. I’m talking about business, particularly small business-the 70 percent of America’s economy business-and what we’re going through. We’re changing everything about the way we work, (assuming we still have work), shop, play, and socialize. We have entered what is perhaps the most uncertain time in the small business history of our nation.
As a business owner or leader, how do you keep it going? You have the technology, the team, the will to work, and maybe a couple of weeks of savings- a few months if you're lucky.
Here’s what I’m doing, and it seems to be working ok for me so far, so try this:
- Get the work out the door. Finish the projects you’ve got on the books, do them well, focus on the finish. Stop worrying about getting paid (yea, right!), do your work, and do it well.
- Communicate with clients, customers, and prospects regularly. Everyone is slamming my email inbox with “here’s what I’m doing to be virus free for you” messages. Let’s get beyond that. What do they need to know? What do they want to hear? What is true? What will help them? Send them that.
- Get personal. Text, call, FaceTime. Tell the truth about what you are experiencing. Transparency in business is rare, but refreshing and disarming. I don’t know what’s going to happen with your business, but I know you won’t be worse off for being real.
- Talk to each other. You know other business owners. Call them. Brainstorm. Get in the new game. Listen to new ideas.
- Pivot. It’s the new buzzword for small business. Food trucks are showing up in suburban neighborhoods. Lawn care services are disinfecting exteriors. Restaurants are prepping raw dinners to go with cooking instructions.
In all this, there is some good. Actually, lots of it, but I’ll just share some of it here and save the best stuff for another post. I’ve spoken to several prospects and clients in the last few weeks who are determined to keep it going, and they need my help in pivoting, revising, and capitalizing on the “new” economy. We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to refocus, and to become better at what we do. We have time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. We should have been doing that anyway.
Lead. Create. Grow.
The weapons we use to fight this battle are unfamiliar, but fight we will. If it’s in your blood, like it is mine, we do what we need to do. Sucks or not- we keep working. We find a way. It looks and feels different, but it’s still work. Don’t stop.
DO NOT let this crisis leave you unchanged. Now is the time to get better and become a better company.
David Day is a marketing and business growth consultant with an emphasis in customer service, marketing, and culture.