The first few days of the COVID-19 pandemic were dizzying. Conditions in Europe were worsening, the virus was spreading throughout the United States, and the first few cases had arrived in Canada. That’s when the economy started to shut down. First massage and other physical therapy professionals were mandated to halt operations, followed by bars and restaurants, hair salons, and more. Places where people normally gathered became quiet as the #stayhome movement started, lay offs were announced, and anyone who could possibly work from home was told to do so.
Meanwhile, the news media was total chaos. Every day was and is a worsening disaster. People were hoarding toilet paper, health care workers were on the front lines without protective gear, health care systems were under siege, death tolls rising, politicians fighting, and the global economy collapsing. It was all panic, no control. And it still is.
Just before the State of Emergency was implemented in Nova Scotia I went to bed with my husband, lay there for a few minutes, then whispered to him, “I’m scared”.
I was in a constant state of anxiety. I was struggling to understand everything that was going on because nothing in my life had looked, sounded, or felt like this before. Just days previous, the world seemed ripe with opportunities for entrepreneurs, but at this point it was the opposite. My husband and I are both business owners (no government salaries to rely on here), so I was afraid for our livelihood. Was my marketing consultancy going to survive this? What would I do if it didn’t? Was my family going to be okay?
I knew there had to be a different way of interpreting what was going on. There had to be a filter that was different from the news media’s constant and worsening doom and gloom. In my state of anxiety, I just couldn’t see it. That’s when I went looking for information from thought leaders in my life. That’s when things started to make sense.
With help from these thought leaders, I could apply a wisdom that I already knew to this new reality. That wisdom is this: we cannot choose the conditions that we are born into, but we can choose how we respond to our conditions. To state it differently: we cannot control the COVID-19 pandemic or the global economy, but we can control how we respond to them.
For example, we can choose our behaviours and mindset; how we interact with people, who we interact with, the information we consume, habits we develop, and our general outlook. Ultimately, we have a choice between pessimism, which breeds doom and gloom, and optimism, which breeds opportunity and contentment. It is this choice – our overarching response to the conditions – that determines both where we end up and the quality of our journey.
It’s not easy. The COVID-19 pandemic is a difficult situation that many businesses and even some people won’t survive. But we can choose to live and participate in the lighter and brighter world of optimism. There are still opportunities for entrepreneurs.
It may take some time for this wisdom sink in, especially if you’ve been existing in a state of panic the way I was when these turbulent times started. Do yourself a favour and stop listening to the news. I’m not saying you have to shut out the news entirely, but limit your consumption and try reading it instead. You’ll notice a considerable decline in anxiety by doing so. Exercise, meditation, and journaling are other ways to calm your nervous system. Not only will this make you feel better, but your decision-making abilities will improve. You cannot make sound decisions for your family, business, and life when you’re always on the verge of hyperventilating.
Once the fog clears, you’ll realize that this isn’t as bad as you originally thought. The status quo has shifted and the conditions are more challenging, but there are still opportunities for entrepreneurs during turbulent times.
One of these opportunities is the leadership vacuum. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many people exercising genuine leadership. Sure, there are people in positions of authority and power – business associations, professional associations, governments, etc. – and they are no doubt very busy right now. But most of them have either gone silent, are giving news updates, or sharing the same “here’s our policy and we’ll get through this together” message. There’s very little projection of confidence, vision, or offer to help people move forward in a more productive way.
The leadership vacuum is an opportunity for entrepreneurs who are willing to step up as genuine leaders in their respective communities. Ask yourself, “how can I be of service?” What is your purpose on this planet, and how can you help the world in a way that aligns with that purpose?
These questions are at the root of servant leadership. The servant-leader is a servant first. It begins with the natural feeling of wanting to serve, followed by an aspiration and conscious choice to lead. The servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of his communities and helps people develop and perform. This contrasts sharply with traditional, top-down leadership, which is largely driven by personal ambition.
A few things shift when you become a servant-leader. The people whose lives you impact remember you, become loyal to you, and value you more. It aligns perfectly with the marketing principle that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The products and services you offer, whatever they are, become more valuable because they are yours. You have developed equity that follows you wherever you go and whatever you do.
There are other opportunities for entrepreneurs. I’m not talking about the opportunity to take your products, services, or operations virtual – that’s a given. Remember: the status quo has shifted and we are living in a new reality. There are and will be different and great needs in this new reality, with keen people moving in to fill them.
More home-based work and greater digitization of the workplace is coming, followed by a need for relevant support services. There will be a flood of top talent entering the job market. Anyone offering value related to contract issues, employment disputes, insolvencies, and bankruptcies will be well-positioned. There will be greater demand for mediation and alternative dispute resolution with people wanting to avoid lengthy and expensive court battles. People will need grief and mental health support more than ever, not to mention stress reduction through physical therapies. In fact, current mental health concerns will lead to an ongoing demand for mental health knowledge and services.
The intention is not to be opportunistic. Rather, it is to better position yourself to serve the needs of your communities and make a meaningful difference. Consider your unique talents and skills, and how to leverage them for this new reality. What can you do now to prepare for these inevitable developments?
I mentioned before that this new reality has more challenging conditions. However, we have faced difficulties before and survived to tell the tale. Nothing about the entrepreneur’s journey is easy, and I would go so far as to say that it is the ingenuity of our entrepreneurial communities that will lift us out of this global economic crisis. Let’s be part of the solution.
Founder & CEO
Proven Marketing for Professionals Inc.