It’s a scary and overwhelming time for many of us. For our health, for our businesses, for our finances, for our families and for our community. We’re in crisis and it feels like nothing we’ve lived through.
Anyone who claims to know how things will turn out is full of shit. Things are changing too quickly.
But while it’s definitely a time of crisis, it’s also a time for leadership and a time for support.
Although it can feel like the floor has disappeared under us, many of us have a choice, many of us have the chance to make a real difference. The least we can do for people who don’t is to take our chances.
In these times, we look for leaders. Your clients, your co-workers, your family and your friends are all looking for leadership. They need you right now. Not banging on your chest, but helping them with their problems right now.
So leaders and supporters. It’s time to stand up when we can. It’s time to carry the load. It’s time to support from in front, from behind, from the middle, from wherever you find yourself.
Use all the weapons at your disposal
Some people make money in crisis. Most don’t. This one will wipe thousands of businesses out for good and that is heart-breaking for anyone that knows what goes into building something. I’m crushed to hear about friends businesses who took years to build all of a sudden shuttered.
For lots of business, we will have to dig deep and go into the red. That might mean not paying yourself but paying staff (which we have all done many times in business). Our government has already shown that they will do whatever they can to help. There is no problem in losing some money. A lot of people don’t know what losing money is like.
I’ve been wiped out during the GFC, then before going out on my own with BB in early 2019. Believe me when I say that lean times are good times for decision making (if you can survive it). They make us sharper. All my best decisions were made when I couldn’t afford to make a bad one. I know for a lot of businesses that simply won’t be viable during or potentially even after this, that is heartbreaking and this message is not for them. But this is not the case for most of my clients in legal, accounting, recruitment or professional services.
Talk to your accountant, find out what you need to do for your business. Whatever you do, if you had a profitable services business before this, get advice so that it survives, even if in the next 6 months a lot of us have to live lean.
There will certainly be others who can do incredibly well in the service of others, and it is important that if this is your business that you make the most of it, because we will have to pay for this somehow!
Be an ally to your clients and work together for the common good.
We all need to ally with our clients as best we can, especially if they are struggling.
We have turned around nearly a month's work in 4 days last week to help clients get messaging out that they are open for business and that they are right on top of what is happening. My team and I worked around the clock to turn video projects, blogs and other things around. We will continue to do so and stress that if you can ally with your clients, you will not only have better long term relationships, but you can play an important role in making sure this economy thrives when we can turn it around.
Think about your clients problems, not about your old solutions. Think about how you are placed to help them navigate their legal, accounting, human resourcing or financial situation depending on your skill set. Don’t get stuck thinking you only have a limited skill set. Your clients need you now more than ever.
Make sure you have a clear, and flexible war plan for your business
There’s no point being a leader that burns all the bridges.
Ensure that your business has a game plan as fast as possible. Whether that is dealing with staff, suppliers, financials or how you are going to keep and attract clients. There is a lot of war planning to do, but it is imperative that you have a plan and can act on it.
Conferences will be cancelled, face to face meetings no longer doable, client lunches a complete no no. You need to have the assets in place to make sure your business survives in a digital-only environment. Your website, your social media, your content, your ways of engaging and interacting with clients and referrals. There’s no more expensive suits or shoes to impress. Now it is your brand, your messaging, your reach.
Now it is leveraging the attention of the entire world that is stuck at home, looking at social media, wanting to be engaged with.
Be bold and brave on the front line.
We need to be bold.
We need to look for the opportunity or pivot for our business. If we need someone's help, we need to ask and invest in that. This is not a time for the timid leader. A lot of firms and businesses will default to apparent safety. This is a huge mistake if there is actually no long term issue with your business, simply short term cash flow. There are a lot of studies that show how much better business does that leans into problems. If you have a business, if you have a plan to survive, lean in.
Also, don’t be a dick. People are hurting. Don’t go for the hard sales pitch in this market. Be clear about how you can help but save the hard sell for when everyone is in a better position. Give, give, give, ask.
Take responsibility for, and support those that depend on you (your team).
Many times I have paid my team before me.
Most of last year actually. It is just something you do if you want to grow a business. Business owners get painted in a certain way a lot, but I know so many who do everything they can to keep their employees in work. Put food on the table, make sure you are viable, but pulling everything out now is a sign you probably aren’t cut out for being a leader. Obviously, caveats apply to people who simply won’t have a business when this is done.
For a lot of us, we put value on what we earn. We judge ourselves on what we earn. I did this for a long time. I ran a successful recruitment business, and then had nearly 2 years where I paid myself less than what I earned as a grad. That was hard at the start for my ego, but believe me you get over it. I challenge you instead to put value on who you employ, who you serve and what you do to lead. Make ends meet, and try to keep your team in jobs. Serve your clients. Be proud of the quality of work you do. Be proud of the fact you are leading. Whatever it is, this is not the time to be caught up in the scoreboard that many of us get caught up in. If you have a business or practice after this you’re winning.
Work hard on the home front to ensure the soldiers get through this
A lot of us are going to be spending plenty of time at home for the next 6 months. For many of us that is going to be hugely challenging. We have a 9 and 7-year-old. Trying to work around that is difficult, but not impossible. We’ve already discussed instituting a rolling 6 day work week where we take different time out to educate and entertain the kids (and ourselves).
Whatever you do, look after your family, be mindful of your relationships. Be mindful that it is going to require a lot of adjusting for everyone. There is no point winning a war and having no one to celebrate it with.
There is a lot of help out there and we are going to need it. Don’t be afraid to chat to your doctor, don’t wait to read about how you can better manage your stress. Give yourself a break, this is going to get hard.
To lead you are going to have to stay well.
That means giving yourself down time, even if it feels like you can’t. It means exercising, even if like me the thing you do is off-limits for some time. It means being mindful of your food. It means being conscious and responsible for your mental health.
Just know, the home front is there to support you. There are psychologists, there are counsellors, there are trainers, there are friends, there is family. You are not in this alone as a leader. Good leaders lean on others.
Do your bit for your community and country.
This is our chance to make a difference to the history of this country and our community.
For leaders, hard situations are opportunities to step up. If that means keeping people employed, supporting local seniors, being your own families teachers, being the emotional support for a friend in need. Everything that each of us do will contribute to the long term prosperity of our country.
I went and put together a “virtual pub” for mates. We had a two hour video chat last night. It was bloody great. There are important things we can all do to stay connected and support our friends and community.
Stay inside. Stay safe. Stay well and you can have a role to play that you can be proud of in your life.
Don’t hoard the resources others will need.
Toilet paper jokes aside, don’t pull your money out and leave it on the sidelines.
Don’t distance yourself from the problems of others. Share your unique skills. Be the help your community needs. Spend where we can on growing our businesses when there is opportunity to do so. There will be many amazing people who are underemployed. Find them and work out ways to get them on board if you are doing well.
Where you can, avoid any thoughts about “entitlement”. The government are trying to help the entire economy survive. It’s not about what we each get, it’s about making sure that happens. Whoever wins now, pays all the tax later. Envy gets us no where.
Get help if your position is overwhelmed
There are a lot of businesses that will fail, no matter what the government does.
If your market disappears, there is not really much you can do about it. My former business EA International would have been in this category. Overseas work will cease for the foreseeable future. There is little chance for anyone who is reliant on the movement of people to survive this short term.
However, this is not the case for the overwhelming amount of services businesses out there. People will need divorce lawyers. People will need litigators. Government and some businesses will need recruiters. Just about everyone will need an accountant! Whatever you do though, don’t be afraid to look for help. That might be getting some legal advice, getting advice around loans you can tap into, getting help from a mentor or coach on the direction of your business, getting help on your brand and marketing to pivot into digital-only.
Whatever it is, there are people who can service you and help.