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Pandemic Business Lessons

I watched the news this morning and one of the segments featured our neighbours to the East, the province of Alberta. I live in British Columbia, but take the occasional interest in what's going on in Alberta {mostly because I follow several indie yarn dyers from there}. Their provincial health officer said something like this: "We all know that Covid is not going to disappear, so we are switching more to living with it and getting vaccinated, rather than restrictions." Right, it's not going to disappear. And whether we agree with what our governments have done to deal with it so far or whether we choose to get vaccinated or not - we will all have to find a way to live with this virus in the long term. Of course, that also affects how we do business, and it got me thinking about what I've learned about that since March 2020 and how it affects my business going forward.

 

The world got simultaneously bigger and smaller

It was fascinating to watch changes I thought would take years unfold in real time. Online stores, online meetings, online everything. All of a sudden, it was possible; even in organizations that had claimed before they didn't have staff/resources/knowledge to do what they were all of a sudden doing. It was refreshing to see companies improvise and make the best of a crappy situation. You know, like real people in real life.

 

This opened up new markets for many companies; the world was in it together, it became bigger and more accessible for freelancers and small companies. People who had the online know-how were able to help companies on the other side of the planet to venture into new territory. Not that they could not have helped someone on the other side of the planet before, but the opportunities were not as readily available. I remember thinking at the time that the old saying "the world is your oyster" has never been truer.

 

While barriers came down in online settings, the world also became smaller with an urge and surge to support what's closer to home, what we consider local. For many of the physical products we rely on day to day the supply chains were broken and store shelves were empty. Local artisans and suppliers stepped up and carried us through that time, and calls to support local businesses were part of almost every conversation and social media post.

 

The world becoming bigger and smaller at the same time is just one example of how contradictions can exist and both be true, and it feels to me like it's even truer now than before the pandemic. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” ~ Charles Dickens.

 

How do we move forward with those contradictions? How do we continue to support local markets and what they have to offer while taking advantage of a more diverse offering globally? There can only be one answer - values. We need to let our core and business values lead the way. Both as consumers and business owners we need to get clear on our values - who we want to buy from, who we want to support, what's important to us in the long run - and make them a non-negotiable part of our lives and businesses.

 

Working from home is hard

Do you remember how everyone and their brother started working from home in March 2020? And how it was the best thing since sliced bread because people were taking their time back and were so efficient and productive? Fast forward to July 2021 and everyone and their brother are more or less voluntarily returning to the office. Efficient and productive is not quite how that all played out with working from home. Even with Covid here to stay, so is working in an office. There might be some industries where working remotely is ok and sustainable, but for the majority of people it's just not. Because it's pretty damn hard. To successfully work from home you have to be very disciplined and driven, and not just during a Zoom call. 

 

A lot of people are starting their own home-based business now and going freelance, and my prediction is that it's not going to end well for many of them. Because working from home is hard and doing laundry, watching Netflix, or spending hours on TikTok just doesn't pay the bills. I've been working from home full-time for almost eight years and this has been an opportunity to look at my own habits and boundaries to separate work and life and give each my full attention in due time. 

 

{If you are thinking about taking the leap to become self-employed and work from home, let's talk! I offer startup coaching packages for under $500.}

 

It's all a crapshoot

Goal setting and planning has to be part of every business strategy, but we need to get more flexible with it. Because in the end? It's all one big crapshoot. You can spend years planning and preparing and then something like Covid happens and it's all down the drain. It's become unpredictable when a good time is to make a big business decision; raise or lower your prices? Who knows. Make a big investment? Your guess is as good as mine. The rules are out the window and if you're lucky things will work out and if you're not, well, sh*t will hit the fan. 

 

So what's the best strategy to move through that? With curiosity and small steps. And the realization that not everything has to be decided right away, it's always good to sleep on it for a night {or at the very least take a nap}.

 

Oh, one more thing. It doesn't have to be a pandemic to put a kink in your plans. It can be anything unexpected {aren't most things?} so in addition to having adjustable goals, the one thing that should be written in stone, I mean in Google Drive, is your business emergency plan.

Don't have one? You can create one as part of the Business MasterFile, available in my Gumroad shop.

 

What business lessons have you learned during the pandemic?