Make no mistake: these are dark days, and they’re likely to get much worse before they get better. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are particularly hard-hit as orders get canceled and supply chains dry up.
It’s a good thing we are a resilient bunch. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that entrepreneurs know a thing or two about figuring things out.
True, we may not have been through this exact situation before, but anyone who’s been in business for a while has, at one time or another, faced seemingly insurmountable challenges.
And we’ve adapted. When zigging wasn’t working out so well for us we’ve learned to zag. We’ve built strong strategic partnerships with some people and have let other, less productive relationships go by the wayside.
We’ve survived before and we’ll do it again. But there is no way we’ll be able to do it alone. At times like these a supportive community is more important than ever before.
For me, one of the silver linings of this situation has been a stark reminder that we are all in this together. Our society has been disjointed and polarized for far too long, but humans don’t work like that.
As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, our lives and spirits are interwoven. And although social distancing has become a thing, along with the current situation also comes, I hope, a reminder that we are all made from the same cloth.
Everyone is here, hanging out on Earth, figuring it out as we go. We try to make the best decisions for ourselves, our careers, and our families, but at the end of the day we’re all just walking each other home.
That interconnectedness goes for economics and business too. It’s super-tough right now, and many businesses are going to have to adapt, contract, and change. Some may close for good. Others may find ways to reinvent themselves.
It’s a time of massive upheaval and change, and I don’t mean to diminish the short-term pain that is surely going to be felt by so many. That’s a very real thing, and we’re going to have to find ways to ease that suffering.
But within this crisis there is opportunity too. With the shutdown of life as we know it comes a reminder to return to our humanness. To slow down, reconnect and support one another, and to remember that old adage about the important things in life not being things at all.
If I had to write a survival guide for small business it would go something like this:
1. Find your tribe and lean on them.
You’re going to need the support as you face tough choices, and your fellow community members will need help too. We can and will get through this together.
2. Whenever you can, buy from other small businesses.
Often without a cash cushion or access to emergency funds, small business is already being hit hard. Your support means the world to anyone who owns or depends on a paycheck from a small business.
3. Remember that this isn’t going to last forever, and every crisis also brings with it incredible opportunities.
Be on the lookout for ways that your business can pivot, form a strategic partnerships, or add new services.
It’s hard to ignore the constant stream of catastrophic news, but do yourself a favor and put down your phone or turn off the TV and practice being grounded in the present.
Instead of paying attention to worst-case scenarios, focus on the outcomes that you do want. See yourself and your loved ones as healthy and thriving. Any time you catch yourself worrying, train your brain to go back to this better picture.
4. Be smart, be safe, and follow the rules.
Do your best not to contribute to the spread of the virus by following recommendations for best practices, but at the same time make a point to reach out to relatives and friends who may be feeling isolated. Taking the time to call or FaceTime someone special can make an incredible difference to them, especially if they’re feeling scared and alone.
5. And finally, be kind to strangers.
The last time I visited the grocery store I was struck by how extra-civilized and polite people were being.
I was reminded of several years back when our area experienced catastrophic flooding. People went out of their way to help one another, to check on their neighbors. Yes, the flood was tragic and devastating, but there was a real silver lining of kindness there too.
Pillars of civility have been crumbling in our society for a long time, but we can get them back through our humanity. Let this crisis be an opportunity to come together and heal.
Perhaps the world we choose to rebuild will be a little bit kinder, more compassionate, and more sustainable than the one we were living in just a few weeks ago.
This is no dress rehearsal. It’s time to decide what kind of person you want to be now, during this very real crisis and what kind of business —and world—you want to rebuild.
I hope the choices that we collectively make will lead to a better, more tolerant and kinder society, becoming the silver lining that gets looked back upon through the lens of history.