Business + Publicity

How to Shift Your Business During a Crisis

March 24, 2020

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Like many millennial entrepreneurs, I’ve had the luxury of running a business in a very strong economy.

I launched HAPPY PR, a boutique public relations and marketing agency, in 2012 after transitioning from my first career as a TV news reporter. I lucked out back then and landed that job as a new college graduate in 2006, right at the start of the subprime mortgage recession.

My TV internship turned into a job. It didn’t pay much and the morning news hours were terrible, but I was young and had an actual J-O-B.

And a pretty cool one at that. I didn’t really feel the strain of those times.

The early years as a reporter at FOX 17

Fast forward, and there I was chugging along running a business, managing an office, full-time team, and a roster of clients in the restaurant, retail, and tourism industries (lucky for us, also a good handful of tech and e-commerce brands too).

I knew the road of entrepreneurship would eventually take some turns and hit some speed bumps- I had already experienced the typical ups and downs.

In hindsight, I was optimistically oblivious to real business hardships.

Our team and office at HAPPY PR in Grand Rapids, MI

I started following the progression of COVID-19 in February, before many of my colleagues, family, or even a lot of the media were taking it seriously (thanks to the foresight of those tech entrepreneurs & scholars on Twitter).

I’m glad I had a little bit of a head start to prepare my business in the event our team would have to shift to work remotely (which of course it did).

While I got ahead on some things, like telling my team to make a trip to Costco and planning to work from home, there were many things I missed.

I didn’t fully realize the real implications to my business and our clients until the COVID storm started bearing down on our country, bringing the economy grinding to a halt, and shutting down businesses nationwide- including many that we were serving at HAPPY.

I can hear the words of my business coach, Alex Charfen, ringing in my head. His manifesto, also the intro to his podcast MOMENTUM, states:

“… entrepreneurs are the only consistent, positive source of human evolution, and we always will be.”

I think entrepreneurs are so resilient because of their natural ability to adapt quickly and a willingness, maybe even a preference, to take risks.

They lean in and see the potential solutions where everyone else sees problems. 

They find ways to move forward despite roadblocks. 

                They are willing to fail.

I tell myself that at the very least, I have these evolutionary hunter survival instincts going for me. 

And of course, it’s a nice reminder that some of the most iconic companies of our time grew out of a major recession, like Disney, Apple, Microsoft, Burger King, even Tollhouse Cookies (…aaaand now I’m hungry).

One of our favorite quarantine activities that allows me to get pockets of work done.

In the midst of crisis, there are always opportunities.

But how do we find them?

It takes the right mindset, creativity, and willingness to adapt to be one of the businesses that will persevere. 

These are the strategies that have always helped me through hard times and the tactics I’m leaning on now, more than ever. 

Watch the Innovators

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen countless businesses and entrepreneurs shift, getting creative, scrappy, and innovative in their approach.

Brick and mortar gyms and shops transitioned to online services.

Distilleries started producing hand sanitizer, and auto parts suppliers began building ventilator parts and face masks to meet the demand.

A local pizza shop created “DIY Pizza Kits” with frozen dough, sauce, and cheese.

The owner of Cindy’s Suds, a small-batch personal care brand, launched a surface cleaner she’s had on the back burner for years.

Ramit Sethi, CEO and author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich launched a “fireside chat” series to share value with his community.

Like Ramit shared, some of these shifts weren’t perfect or particularly ‘pretty.’

They had DIY printed labels, iphone videos, and ugly sales pages.

But the point is, they didn’t wait. 

Look for the businesses adapting and shifting.

The ones that are taking action and leaning into serving people and finding solutions during a challenging time.

Let it inspire you for ways you can do the same.

Don’t Stop Selling and Marketing

It might feel like the least appropriate time to market your business or to write that sales email, but the truth is, it’s more important now than ever to continue promoting your business.

When your business suffers, it creates a ripple effect- your clients suffer, your team suffers, and the economy suffers.

Ask yourself, where can I provide value right now?

Maybe there is a talent, skill set, or product you are capable of right now that others need. 

At HAPPY, we aren’t able to serve a big percentage of our clients right now that are effectively shut down – or at least we aren’t able to bill for that work.

So while we continue to serve them pro-bono, we have to adjust and find new opportunities so that we can stay in business and continue to be there for our clients when this passes.

 

So, here’s what I’m doing currently.

I’m looking for industries and companies that are growing that my business can serve- like grocery delivery companies, health/wellness brands, and educational products.

Our team laid out a plan to produce a virtual media tour and found a fast, scrappy, and impactful way to serve these companies who need to reach a bigger audience.

I built a quick funnel (so grateful for the time I spent learning the vital work of creating offers and marketing them– thank you Russell Brunson!).

Bottom line- Find the people who need what you have to offer right now and create the opportunities to serve them.

Get In The Right Mindset

I put this last but it’s really the key to making the first two possible.

If you don’t have the right mindset, you won’t have the mental and physical capacity to make the changes that will be required of you. 

In the matter of just a couple weeks our monthly recurring revenue was cut nearly in half, we transitioned operations from an in-office team to working at home, all while juggling young kids, no childcare, and the stress of a looming virus.

Admittedly, I did not handle it very well the first week it all came crashing down.

Like many people, I was in crisis mode, just trying to make it another day.

But, after struggling with the initial wave of challenges, I realized I wasn’t being disciplined enough with my thoughts and my mind to ever get ahead. 

Whenever I catch myself in a habit of negativity or operating on survival mode, I turn to my mentors and business coaches who can help me see 10 steps ahead from where I am today. 

I listen to podcasts of motivating entrepreneurs like Russell Brunson, Brendan Burchard, Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, and Tom Bilyeu.

I read the inspiring and calming words of authors like Shauna Niequist, Courtney Carver, Cheryl Strayed – or the “kick you into gear” advice from Gary John Bishop.

I get out for frequent runs, do a few downward dogs, listen to a guided meditation or journal out some gratitude -sometimes over screaming kids while making grilled cheese sandwiches. Whatever it takes.

Maybe those aren’t your people or your vibes- do what works for you.

The point is, find people you can turn to in real life and online (in books, podcasts, wherever) to help get you in the right mindset.

As they say on the plane, in an emergency, you’ll need to put your own oxygen mask on first.

The same goes for your business. Do everything necessary to weather the storm so when it passes (and it will- or so I’m told), you’re one of the ones left standing. 

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