Navigating the Chaos of Now
With very few exceptions, we have been blindsided by this virus and its impact on our lives and work. Every signal we’re receiving now says: retract, cut expenses, hunker down and wait. As points of reference we have the chaos of what’s happening now and how stuff used to be—y’know, back in January.
In this context, how can we successfully produce new stability and structure in our lives and our businesses—and begin to chart a sustainable path forward?
I’ve pointed to a need for a pivot—not just as a patch on the way to recovering what we had, but a true pivot that is responsive to the unanticipated shifts and long-term upheavals COVID-19 is visiting upon us—that anticipates the need to envision a whole new way of moving and working in the world.
As business owners and entrepreneurs, we have been saddled with the myth that we are the job creators, the little engines that grow the economy. I would like to suggest that it is incumbent upon us – the small business owners, the entrepreneurs – to take that mantle on and begin to work on creating the path forward—even if we are, like so many others, standing on broken business models.
So, what can be done? First, run the numbers and assess your current situation. Be brutal: if the number one source of revenue is at zero then it just isn’t a source of revenue now—and it might not come back. Don’t waste precious resources trying to keep a dead product or offering alive.
Next, instead of trying to fix a broken business model, take inventory:
- Make a thorough inventory of your assets today (and don’t leave anything out!). You’re going to find you have more possibilities than you might expect!
- Brainstorm ways to leverage each asset for short-term stability and long-term sustainability. Look for the gem that your old model overshadowed. Remember, the customers you’ve been servicing probably have a new set of problems they need to have solved—heck, they might not even be your customers anymore.
- Begin experimenting, testing, running the numbers. It’s what we do, right!?
You may discover in the process the pathway to a new sustaining model for your business. To say this in “Lean Startup” terms: Explore your existing assets to find new opportunities. Begin the loop of test-and-validate as quickly and as soon as possible. And iterate, iterate, iterate.
SBA loans and sewing up masks are necessary and helpful but neither will lead to a long-term strategy for recovery and sustainability. We need to begin thinking strategically about where we are and where we’re going. We have to begin to have the larger conversation.
This may seem daunting, especially when things are tight, especially when the field of possibility seems limited to the view out your living room window. So reach out, have conversations, find collaborators, within your company and your larger network. Communicate, collaborate and co-create the sustainable path now and for the future.
John Walden, April, 2020
Interested in a conversation? Schedule a call with me now!
Postscript: In my work and my life I am focused on the need to be moving, connecting, and relating. But I also want to bear witness that, as I was writing this piece, the world wide reported deaths from COVID-19 passed 100,000 with, sadly, unavoidably now, more, so much more to come. We have much to grieve.