Well, well…. Welcome to July 2020.
I just logged into Quickbooks to send out some invoices and to take in, once again, the reality of 2020. I’m not going to lie; I logged in grudgingly, feeling anxious about seeing THE NUMBERS. Not because of the lower revenue or the resulting decrease in income, but because of the feelings of vulnerability it causes. The reminder that things can change in an instant. The reality check that one event, one economic condition, one blip on the timeline of the universe can make everything… different.
Prior to COVID, I was having the best 12 months of my professional life. Business was booming. My current clients were growing, new prospects were engaging me, I was leveraging my network of talented designers and marketers to help me get it all done.
Then. March. 2020.
Some of my clients had to close their doors, as mandated by the shelter in place, while others saw their industries practically collapse. Some called me, scared/upset/energized, looking for guidance on what to do, while others were ok, and largely unaffected by our new reality, or even thriving within it. It was a sobering time of dichotomy.
I felt myself wanting to feel strongly a certain way. I wanted to be able to say ‘I feel stressed out’, ‘I feel empowered to get through this’, ‘I feel terrified’, ‘I feel able’, ‘I feel scared’, ‘I feel sad.’ But I couldn’t. Because I felt all of it.
I’m your quintessential type A personality, so I started to plan, and I got busy with the work. I looked for ways to prospect, to serve my clients in the most effective and cost-efficient way, to find new streams of revenue, to think about new strategies, to decide on which new skills I’d learn and the programs I’d buy to learn them, oh… and support my kids’ e-learning for the rest of the school year too. And then I finally got what I’d been wanting. I felt strongly a certain way. I was overwhelmed.
I’m a big fan of Nicole Walters www.nicolewalters.com. In one of her podcasts, she addressed the fact that at certain times, in both our professional and personal lives, we’re faced with a choice: to pivot or to pause.
To pivot or to pause.
When really examining my feelings, this choice was the source of my unease. This choice was likely the source of my clients’ unease as well. What are we supposed to do in this situation? Should we find other ways of doing business? Should we change our targets? Our position? Should we ride out this period of time and stay the course? What. In. The. Hell. Should. We. Do?
After listening to the ‘pivot or pause’ episode, and after some quiet contemplation, I decided that for me, I would pause.
This doesn’t mean I closed up shop, or that I stopped reaching out to prospects and clients, or that I holed up in my living room and watched Netflix all day. Pausing is a strategy- as is pivoting- and means I’m riding out this time without making sweeping changes. For me, this means do the work I have, use the extra time I have to keep in touch with my network, and connect with people who are also navigating their way through 2020; but calmly, and without knee-jerk reactions or monumental shifts in my business targets, structure or offerings. For me personally, it also means when my kids ask if I want to join them in the pool at 2:00 in the afternoon, I say yes. It means when my aunt asks if I’d like to come to her lake house, I go, and gleefully (sort of, I have an irrational fear of fish…) hop off the boat into the water.
Businesses always face adversity, whether driven by economics, competition, internal/sourcing/product/you-name-it issues, but smart ones make it to the other side to fight again. Iconic brands like Apple, Microsoft, and even MailChimp (for my fellow marketers) have worked their way through hard times; sometimes with big pivots, and other times by remaining who they are, with their eye on the ball… in other words, pausing. A nice INC Magazine article can be found here for those who love these types of stories: https://www.inc.com/anne-gherini/6-iconic-companies-that-succeeded-during-a-recession.html
Everyone and every business is going to have different circumstances that drive the decision between pivoting or pausing. My choice will not be the right one for some, but I think there’s value in asking it of yourself.
Funny enough, once I made the conscious decision to pause, things started to pick up. Two days ago, I was approached by a former client in the medical software industry to help them pivot. And I can’t wait.