A cartoon by Charles Shultz (creator of Charlie Brown & Snoopy), portrayed a girl standing at a window, looking out at a bright, sunny day.
Next to her is a boy who is standing in front of the blackboard, saying: ‘It is ever dark today!’. This picture raised questions: How to explain to someone that he is looking at the blackboard and not out of the window if he thinks that the blackboard is the window? Translated into the turbulent situation which most of entrepreneur are facing nowadays that would read: what kind of approach do we need to take to see this crisis not as a deadlock but instead as an opportunity? Where and how to position ourselves in order to see the complete picture? Here’s what I found useful in these three months which changed the way we are doing business – forever.
Adapting to adversity
We live in a culture which worships at the altar of productivity. When the lockdown happened many people stayed away from their jobs or changed the way they operated their businesses. The first reaction is the sense of uselessness, fear, anxiety. The experience is terrifying on both a personal and professional level.
We were forced to crack through the problems that have remained unsolved, to reorganise the way we live and work on an everyday basis, to create back-up plans with a sense of urgency. The situation is even more challenging if you are the head of the business, when you need to play as being the one who always knows the answers, and safely steer the ship in the time of utmost uncertainty.
Asking myself: “What is the worst that can happen?” actually brought the determination to resist the force of adversity which tends to push us off track, and to adapt and reorganise instead. I realised that is a long term game which has to be played with in small steps – day by day. Like Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”.
When we force ourselves to do this, motivation kicks in. Going through the worst case scenario may actually surprise you and perhaps bring back your confidence and bring forth out-of-the-box thinking. The sense of purpose that remains gives you the strength to start to build again or to rework your assets.
In the times of crisis your biggest asset is yourself
“One is not poor unless they lack knowledge”, says the Talmud. And, indeed, just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t make progress with maximising your potential. In fact, as long as you have a computer with an internet connection, you may well be able to end the lockdown in a better position than you started it. This is a valuable time you can use for planning your business, learning new professional skills or focusing on your portfolio or website. Now, when all the world is in hibernation, it is a good time to revalue and rebrand your product, your business or yourself. It is also a good time to explore new ways to monetise your knowledge and experience. If you’re not currently doing well with your own product for reasons out of your control – why not try offering your consultancy to growing businesses (yes, they still exist). You now have time to carefully analyse and make strategic choices and plans to implement once the lockdown ends. Or even today.
We all know that if there is a demand there is a business. Established businesses tend to avoid further investment in innovation during turbulent times. Large corporations can’t adapt so fast to changes in the market or customer behavior. If you’re a small business owner, this can be to your comparative advantage because you can react fast, be nimble and creative, and target niche market segments for the same category, service or product.
If you find ways to lower your costs whilst preserving quality, why not approach your clients and customers and offer them a helping hand by passing some of that onto them rather than just selling as usual? You will build stronger commercial relationships and progress further when the crisis is over. Creatives are problem solvers: think what you can offer that can potentially solve the customer’s problem.
‘Fake it till you make it’
Many companies’ instinctive reaction to freeze or minimise expenditure at a time of crisis is something I’ve always felt was mistaken.
Sometimes the “penny wise” approach is not the best one: you are hiring the least expensive workers, but not necessarily the most productive ones. You end up sacrificing the quality instead of targeting other expenses which can be safely trimmed. Use the current economic situation as leverage when negotiating fees, rents, or buying supplies from businesses who need to reduce their inventory. Maybe even learn to do the tax return yourself. The essence of this is that we should keep the image, the brand and product or service quality as close to normal as is possible. As long as your customers or clients have the impression you control the situation and can provide the same quality, they will be back for more. ‘Fake it till you make it’ proves not to be hypocritical in these circumstances.
Finding the diamonds
To be honest though, you don’t actually have to fake it. What I’ve discovered is that during this crisis there are many people out there more than willing to help. They may be without their usual work at the moment, but with a stable circumstances, and possibly willing to offer you’re their support free of charge. Consider joining a professional association— either a business networking group, or chamber of commerce to learn about the new ideas and make new acquaintances.
I also discovered that the power of community is extremely important and valuable in these times. Not only that they can refer customers to you and help build or sustain your business, but what is even more important, their kindness gives you strength and hope. Something we all need in abundance right now.
If there is a common thread running through all this uncertainty, it’s the fact that distance can bring us closer. That giving and receiving is much more than just a commonly used lesson in self-help literature. It is a precious transformative experience and I hope that the idea is here to stay. So, be kind, help others, nurture your relationships and most importantly, make sure you are the one looking through the clear window.
About the author:
Natasha Davidov and her company Davidov London Jewellery launched their unique pregnancy jewellery – The Aska Maternity Movement Bracelet on 15th of April 2020 in hope to help many expectant mothers to gain reassurance during the time of crisis with an easy yet stylish way to monitor baby’s movements and potentially prevent stillbirths. The percentage of the net sales in the UK and internationally is given back to the NHS organization to further support Government’s initiative to prevent stillbirths in England.
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