Finding the opportunity in tough times
Updated: Mar 26, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic brought industries everywhere to a standstill. Many firms had to completely change their business models to survive; and even those in a seemingly fortunate position – such as Netflix or even Zoom – had to quickly adapt to cope with the huge surges in demand. Jo Wassell, founder of Invoke, talks about what it meant for her…
2020. What is left to say? The pandemic, while albeit a very rare one, is a monumental example of the kind of challenge that can affect business at a moment’s notice. Much smaller issues can happen just as unexpectedly, and far more regularly. It could be a surge in competition, a knock to your brand reputation, sudden staff turnover… the list goes on. And of course, the effects of the pandemic look set to linger for some time yet too.
But being pushed to our limits, having to rip up plans and pivot at a moment’s notice, can be just what our personal and business growth needs.
I’m going to use my own experiences as an example here, just as I have done in conversations with my clients and candidates who have been trying to navigate these tricky times.
When the first lockdown of March 2020 happened you could practically hear the stunned silence. No one quite knew how to respond, or what to do with the sudden change in pace and priority – from furlough to the challenges of home schooling and work commitments – for so many it was a complete change in course. And I certainly don’t think any of us anticipated just how long it would go on for, or the wider ramifications. After a period of adjustment, for many it was a chance to take stock. For me, reality soon hit home that I needed to take a fresh look at my business if I were to stay relevant through these times. I needed to pivot – fast – to adapt to the new type of demand I was getting from the people and businesses I work with.
Suddenly, business goals and aspirations that had been somewhere on the horizon for me had to be fast-tracked. Setting up a career coaching business within Invoke has been a long-term goal of mine, but people needed it now. I used the lockdown to develop this new business division and get myself qualified with the additional skills I would need to make it work.
A slow and steady approach
I had the opportunity to get under the bonnet of my business, looking at ways to streamline processes and make my services more relevant for the new way of working. I went back to my marketing roots to help guide my business through the trickier times, making use of all the assets I had in my arsenal to pull through with a stronger business model than ever.
During those initial, most daunting times, one thing I realised was not to make any knee-jerk reactions. At one point I contemplated shutting shop as job order after job order was cancelled in those first couple of days: I just couldn’t see how I was going to make my way through. But instead I pressed pause: I realised I needed to sit tight and see how things were going to play out. I kept in touch with clients regularly – not with the anticipation of getting business, but just to see how they were doing and if I could help their situation. I found that for them it was just as tough a time as for me, and our relationships deepened as we brainstormed ideas for business pivots or just listened to each other.
The work-life balance
Ironically, and I know this was the case for so many of you, the work-life balance suddenly got so much harder.
With the kids off school, I had to really dig deep to juggle home-schooling with work. It made us step back and take stock of how family and health is so important. I had to switch business down a gear to manage the diverse schooling needs of my two children, and care for my at-risk father. We’re so resilient as human beings, and when things feel most tough it’s important to remember this, and that tomorrow is a new day. Baby steps work wonders!
To get through it all without hurting my own health, I created a simple routine: home-schooling was done through the morning, and then I’d focus on business in the afternoons. Although each day we had to gauge how we felt too, it was such a huge upheaval for the whole family. Some days we would just take ourselves off for a long walk in the woods, whereas other days we all felt more focused and would crack on with schooling / work. It made me realise the importance of being flexible, in business and in life. As someone who can be a notorious control freak, I realised quickly that the situation created by the pandemic was something I could not control. So, I focused on the bits I could keep some control of! It was a strangely liberating; I worried less about the broader implications, which in turn meant I was much more focused and proactive on those areas where I could make an impact.
While this is a personal example of the experience of lockdown for me and my family, I think it’s important these are stories we share and, hopefully, take something from. We look set for a tough time ahead, but it’s never too late to pause, take stock, refresh your approach to business and – most importantly – life, and find success in ways you never knew.
If you have anything you want to discuss or share then as always drop me a line, my details are below. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation and a fresh perspective to help right your course.