4 Ways to Turn Uncertainty into Strength for Your Business
It’s a tough time for all of us. Beyond making my kitchen table my new “office,” I found out last week that my kids will continue homeschooling until at least May 15. We’re navigating uncharted waters both personally and professionally. But as someone who started her first business in 2008 — sitting at the aforementioned kitchen table with the same kids at home — I’d be remiss not to share the silver lining. Yes, it’s challenging, particularly as the global economy plunges, but surviving and growing as a business can be done. I’m here to prove that again.
Some of you may not know that business ownership among female entrepreneurs grew dramatically during the Great Recession and afterwards. During this period (2007 to 2012), minority women-owned businesses saw the most dramatic growth. Hispanic women owned 26.5 percent more businesses in 2012 than they did in 2007, and African American women increased the number of businesses they owned by 20.2 percent during that same period. Looking at today’s economy, we’re situated in a much better place than we were in 2008. So can aspiring female business owners top these figures coming out of this crisis? I certainly think so.
Those who own businesses are tightening their belts and restructuring, but I still think there are a few silver linings to be had out of all of this. Just as I clung to these silver linings when I launched my business in 2008, I'll do the same now.
See this as a time to be aggressively imperfect.
For the first time in a long time, I've noticed people turning to social media to spread positivity and kindness. We're connecting with each other on a human-to-human level, and many of the procedural and business etiquette rules we normally follow have gone out the window. Use this to your advantage.
You know the saying “Done is better than perfect”? There's no better time than now to take that to heart. Ask yourself: What need do I fulfill? Then, find ways to meet that need. Right now, that might be something that's different than what you normally do. Engage with your social media communities to ask what kind of support they're looking for.
A woman business owner I mentor recently tweeted in response to an entrepreneur who was asking how he could get publicity for his business during this crisis period. They exchanged a few messages and are now in contract negotiations for her to handle his PR. Don’t be afraid to go after the people who need you most right now. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly designed business proposal. Generous, proactive support trumps perfection right now.
Use the constraints to bring you clarity.
I like to say that until your boat is sinking, it’s hard to know what to throw overboard. Right now, you have more clarity than ever about how you want to spend your time and money. Pay attention to what you realize you can toss aside in your business and use those constraints to your advantage.
Dr. Seuss famously wrote his best-selling children’s book Green Eggs and Ham using only 50 words after his publisher bet him he couldn’t do so. Constraints can direct us to make the best use out of what we already have. They hone our focus and make us concentrate on our business' bottom lines. Despite the chaos going on in the world, I feel incredibly clear on my business and what needs to be achieved this month. My team knows exactly what we need to do to have a strong April.
This is an ideal time to follow the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Under this principle, 80 percent of your outcomes can be attributed to 20 percent of your input. For example, say that 20 percent of your clients bring in 80 percent of your sales. Using this theory, it’s better to spend time on those few vital tasks (the 20 percent) rather than the many trivial ones in order to maximize our output. Ask yourself: What are the vital components of my business? Which client can I not stand to lose? Which product or service brings in the most revenue? From there, your path should be clear.
Meet your customers where they are.
This is a time when you need to shift and adjust your offers. It's not the time to dig in your heels on your current offer and refuse to budge. While the world is in the throes of this pandemic, now is the time to think of your legacy as a company and brand, not your short-term goals. Show up for people when they are struggling.
Many companies are generating positive word-of-mouth PR just by adjusting their offerings to support individuals and small businesses right now. A great example is Zencastr, a tool for remote podcasters. The company announced that now through July 1, it will be waiving the limits for those on its Hobbyist tier, which includes dropping limits on the number of recording hours and the number of participants each podcaster gets. Side note: If you’ve always wanted to start a podcast, it looks like the time is now.
Do you offer an essential or much-needed service? Can you temporarily cut the costs or offer it for free? Can you take your offering and adjust it to help even more people? For example, my company offers productivity tools and trainings. In difficult times like now, when there's so much to think about, I know how challenging it can be to maintain productivity. That’s why in addition to our comprehensive program launch in April, we came out with our Daily Momentum offering. For a low price, customers receive audio text messages from me each morning consisting of positive and motivational productivity tips for the day ahead. During a time of turmoil, you want your customers to remember you being there as a continual source of support. The worst thing you can do is turn the lights off completely and then come knocking when things have returned to normal.
Embrace the novelty as exercise for your brain.
For most of us, our days have an entirely new look and feel to them. Instead of being resistant to this novelty, try to lean into it. Research shows that changing up your routine encourages your brain to make new connections and neural pathways, a concept known as neuroplasticity. It sounds silly, but something as little as switching up the route you drive to work (or these days, the grocery store) can increase brain efficiency in problem-solving or discovering creative solutions.
Instead of stressing out over the change, embrace it and recognize it as something that’s good for you. Your brain needs to stay active, too. Like everything in life, it’s all about shifting your mindset to focus on the positive. Even though there’s a lot of negativity in the world right now, I hope you can implement these shifts to focus on the silver linings and strengthen your business. We will get past this.