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Leading your business in the time of coronavirus

Starting last Tuesday, the topic of COVID-19 and the coronavirus became a part of each of my coaching calls, and as the week went on, it started to consume more and more time. Conversations about whether or not we should prepare quickly turned to, “We’ve already lost a job,” and “We’re going to shut our doors until further notice.” The business owners I work with are each being forced to respond differently depending on their industry and where they are, but without a doubt, each of them is on notice, each of them is being asked to make new decisions—each of them is being asked to lead.

As more emails flow in asking for help navigating this moment, I realize how much I want to address this topic head on: with current clients, past clients, business owners in my community and fellow coaches.

First things first, I think we can all agree that these times are unusual. While each of us may react differently and have differing opinions, the fact of the matter is that we're all being asked to make decisions we never anticipated having to make. I’ve said this so many times to so many clients: “We can't predict success, we can’t predict failure—the only thing we can ever predict in business (and life) is the unexpected.” And what we’re facing now is unexpected.

I don’t have 100% certainty what the right answer is for each of you. I do know that I’ll continue to search for resources and answers, and that we’re all better together than apart. I also believe times like this are best combated by going back to the basics and not feeling the need to completely change what we know. We’re human beings facing a problem together, and to me, that’s what we need to remember most.

Now’s the time to lead

You’re an Entrepreneur. You were built for this.

Right now, it’s becoming apparent how much we need leaders. We’re watching leaders step up in both public and private sectors, doing their part to serve their personal domains while also serving and impacting even bigger communities around them. As business owners and managers, each of you has the opportunity, or perhaps more appropriately the responsibility, to serve and lead your people. This is by no means an attempt to capitalize on hard times; rather, it’s an opportunity to fulfill the role each of us signed up for.

Every day, we ask our employees to care for our businesses as much as we do. We wish they understood how much was at risk and how much was truly on the line. We read books, blogs and even hire coaches to figure out how we get our people to care as much as we do. The answer is—and always has been—to care for your people as much as you want them to care for you. As uncertainty grows, it’s more important than ever to be the leader your employees are looking for. What does it mean to be the leader my employees need? It means that we start with them.

Simply ask the question: “Is there anything we can do to support you?”

Everybody’s going to be impacted differently by changes that are already occurring. There are individuals in our community who are worried about meals or childcare because schools have been canceled. There are members of our teams who have elderly parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends who may be at high risk. While we may not have the answers ourselves, we without a doubt have the resources as a community to serve our “family members.” I recommend setting up a shared spreadsheet or list (using something like Google Sheets or Docs) where people can post anonymously, naming the support they need or offering the support they can give to others. Most of us truly don’t expect or need anything; we just want peace in knowing that we’re not in this alone.

Problems are an opportunity: Get creative

I’m a firm believer that there aren’t ever problems in a business, only opportunities to improve the way we do things. Without a doubt, this is an opportunity to show your worth. I work with a training facility that, based on their location, felt it was best to shut their doors. Knowing that their entire brand is built on health and community, they’re offering their members live classes in the comfort of their own homes through social media. They’re asking as many people as possible to attend at the same time in an effort to fulfill our need for togetherness. I have other companies that are moving on-site meetings to the digital realm, respecting the importance of avoiding contact while still taking every opportunity to come together. Whether the creativity is found in the delivery of your products or the support of your customers, something is out there for each of you.

Be a resource—don’t hoard resources

You only get what you give. Now is not a time to hold onto what others need or to capitalize on your competitors’ shortcomings. If you have something of value, share it! Nothing has made me happier than to see business owners giving others permission to copy and paste their emails, steal their strategies or reach out for help. Please share any and all personal and professional resources both inside your industry and outside of it.

Conserve

While I don’t believe it serves us to panic, I do believe that we need to be smart. We really don’t know how long this will go on or how much we’ll each be impacted. It’s more important than ever to be conservative. This doesn’t mean shut down all expenses, but it does mean all expenses should be questioned. While some things may be ideal, they may not be necessary. We always suggest to our owners that they keep a substantial amount of cash in the business expressly for moments like this. While certain realities need to be addressed financially, having extra cash in the business will give you peace of mind.

From one business owner to another, please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. I’m here to help, brainstorm, and if necessary, just listen. If you have any resources of your own that you feel would be helpful to other business owners or managers, please share them in the comments. We can all benefit from the shared knowledge.

Though it may not seem like it, what we’re up against is just another business challenge. It’s by no means the first for any of you and will by no means be the last. Remember: You’re an Entrepreneur! You were built for these moments.

Matt Wilhelmsen

Written by Matt Wilhelmsen

Matt Wilhelmsen is an EMyth Coach and owner of freak. Business Coaching. Matt challenges his clients to bring all of themselves to their business. He's inspired daily by his clients and their tenacity to create something most people only dream of. It's because of his clients that he jumps out of bed each morning. In his free time, Matt loves to spend his time outdoors with his wife Stacy and twin boys. Learn more about Matt here.

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