My COVIDiary: Installment 1
What is your new normal?
This moment in business and life is unlike anything we’ve ever had to face.
Yes…I’ve lived and worked through a recession and personal and professional disruptions. But during those times I was able to conduct meetings, attend business-building events, and speak at large conferences and gatherings. The pandemic has changed the game and thrown us all into a world where we can’t travel and meet live.
The businesses that will survive and prosper (including mine) need to quickly get out of panic mode, innovate, and rapidly map out an action plan. Leaders must set an example for their teams and colleagues. Many people are working at home or remotely for the first time in their lives and those of us who have been doing it for years (16+ in my case) can help the newbies create structure and accountability, devise new communication and collaboration habits, and remain productive despite downturns, barking dogs, homeschooling, and periodic bouts of depression and anxiety.
- A little navel-gazing is a good thing. Now is a great time to think about your own purpose and brand. What skills do you have that might be beneficial to businesses and other business leaders? How are they different from what other companies and people have to offer right now? Now is a great time to update your LinkedIn profile and CV/resume. Clean-up or ramp-up your social media and blog profiles.
- Think social collaboration — not social distancing. We now live in an era when technology can enable us to stay connected in the virtual world. Over the past week, I’ve connected with many people I may not have had time to “meet” in real life. Join Facebook groups and participate in relevant webinars. I’m reaching out to those mentors and colleagues who have helped me through other tough times. I’m sharing colleagues’ websites and posts to help them expand their audiences. I’m setting up at least one virtual coffee chat each week and calling (as in old-school telephone) at least three people each day.
- Embrace the machine. Those of you who have never used ZOOM and Slack or marketing technologies like HubSpot and Canva need to upskill — rapidly. Use this time as an opportunity to enhance your digital communication skills. AI and voice technologies will shape our future. Add new apps to your online “curriculum.” Shameless plug: My book is also great easy reading during a quarantine.
- Focus your spending on long-term marketing investments. Belt-tightening is a reality right now. But just as many are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, smart business people are “stocking up” on those items and services that will help them grow. High-quality web content, a robust e-mail list, professional PR services, and value-added marketing technologies are vital to any business — large or small. Although you should maintain a healthy rainy-day fund, you should not stop marketing; spend on those services that can lead to new business opportunities.
- Don’t stop speaking. Professional speakers have had all of their live gigs canceled. But that doesn’t stop us from looking for virtual workshops and webinar opportunities. If you are creating your own events, craft topics that differentiate you from others.
- Consult an analyst. I’m not talking about therapy (although many people find that helpful too). Now is a great time to delve into data to better understand your customer, product mix, and marketing results.
- Keep one eye on the present and one eye on the future. Here are my predictions on what the Post-Pandemic world might look like.
- Surround yourself with non-toxic people. Of course, you should follow the news to get a grasp on what’s going on in your industry and community but avoid non-stop complainers and naysayers. You can’t remain positive if the sound of whining is drowning out your creative business-building thoughts.
- Support local businesses. The hospitality industry (especially restaurants) has been hit especially hard. Take advantage of The Great American TakeOut to help keep small business owners afloat and look for special drive-up and online deals. Many food banks and non-profits need your support now too.
- Be customer-focused, compassionate and kind. As tough as it is sometimes, ask and listen more than you talk. “What can I do to help you?” should become a staple of your vocabulary. If you lead a sales team, use conversational intelligence tools like Gong.io to pinpoint the words and phrases that generate positive results. Yes…technology can humanize us and ensure that we’re truly engaging rather than selling.
I’ve also been keeping a daily journal (more personal than this one) so I can remember these strange days and ensure that I’m spending my time wisely and focusing on the good and the growth that emerges from trying times.
If you need help, please reach out. I’m (unfortunately) not going anywhere for a while. But as long as I have my (sanitized) phone and laptop, I’m here for you.