We are still in the midst of challenging and fast-evolving times. Over the past months, we’ve all learned how to survive and thrive amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty.
As a woman business owner and former corporate executive, I’ve lived through several volatile eras and a massive influx in technology-based changes. Although the pandemic is radically different from other world-changing incidents, I’ve learned some of the survival skills throughout the past 40 years have proven useful.
Whether you’re a solopreneur or scaling-up an enterprise, these “rules” apply.
- Be creative and agile. Replace phrases like, “We’ve never done that before” or “That doesn’t work in our industry” with a lexicon that encourages new ideas, breakthrough thinking and positivity. The world is moving faster than ever, and those who are late to the game or stuck in legacy processes are destined to fall behind. When you are hit with downturns or rejection, heal rapidly and spend your time and energy looking for the next opportunity. Although these difficult times can sometimes catapult even the most resourceful business owner into a dark funk, resilience is more important now than ever before. Staying hopeful, being honest about your issues, and engaging others in problem-solving are all steps toward success.
- Invest in growth areas. Although that might seem counter-intuitive when you’re belt-tightening, new ideas and relationships can lead to opportunities. Marketing, memberships in professional organizations, and subscriptions to time- and money-saving technologies are all good uses of your precious dollars. Study your P&L to channel unnecessary or redundant cost line items to those activities that contribute to growth.
- Look to experts and collaborate. Outsourcing to professionals and independent contractors can be a very cost-effective way to expand your team while controlling overhead costs. Engage people who have expertise in specific areas you need or can bring a new set of eyes (and brain cells) to a tough challenge. Cross-generational collaboration is crucial these days. Younger and older professionals can bring a whole new perspective to your business challenges.
- Master technology. The right types of automation can streamline your business operations, save you time and money in the long run, and give you insights that manual processes simply can’t. Human-centric technologies can:
- Expand marketing reach,
- Unearth solutions to business problems,
- Streamline routine tasks,
- Save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on paper and printing,
- Deliver better customer service,
- Speed up decision making,
- Connect you to potential customers and alliances globally,
- Enable you to meet a wide range of new professionals,
- Provide feedback on sales effectiveness, and
- Give you insights into customer behaviors (See #5).
- Use data to your best advantage. Whether you’re analyzing your social media traffic and engagement, conducting research to find out what your prospects want, or gaining an understanding of new growth segments, turning big data into small meaningful steps is critical right now.
- Learn from the disruptors and survivors. Get inspiration from companies that have transformed their industries (like Uber and Lyft did for the transportation world). You can also analyze those companies in your category that have survived and thrived for 30 years or more and look at the steps they took to transform and grow.
- Become — and remain — curious. Make time every week to attend virtual workshops, read articles that apply to your challenges, and listen to experts. Turn your hour at the gym or drive time into podcast-listening minutes. Mastering new skills can also be critically important these days. Share your new learning with your team and colleagues.
Self-care and self-development are essential to survival and growth. You can’t serve your customers and lead a team effectively if you’re in a constant state of anxiety and despair. Although we haven’t been able to gather live at conferences and trade shows, technology gives us 24/7 access to a wide range of people, resources and inspiration.
Joining professional groups and building your own team of “virtual sherpas” can help you navigate volatile times and provide ideas for growth and prosperity. We’ll all emerge stronger, more resilient and with a whole new circle of business advisors and people who can help us succeed.
Nancy A. Shenker is a marketing innovator, brand builder, writer, speaker and self-proclaimed rule breaker. Over the course of her 40-year business and marketing career, she has been a C-level executive at major consumer and business brands (Citibank, MasterCard, Reed Exhibitions — ComicCon producers), an entrepreneur (theONswitch marketing) and a mentor to hundreds of small businesses at all stages. She has written four books that are available on Amazon.com, publishes online women’s entrepreneur community sheBOOM, AI/machine learning/robotics site EmbracetheMachine and travel and lifestyle site BleisureLiving.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, she completed graduate work at New York University (Book Publishing) and Kellogg (Executive Communications). She recently won a Killer Content Award for a lead-generating series she wrote for a fast-scaling tech company.