Adjusting My Business to the Reality of a Pandemic

Michelle Hunter by Michelle Hunter

Thoughts on navigating business in difficult times.

Puzzling Business in difficult times

Isolation. Social distancing. School closings, canceled events, postponed vacations, and disruptions to the rhythms of life. This is our new reality… and it’s requiring more than a little adjustment. 

Today I moved my work from a beautifully decorated office that inspired creativity and focus to a bedroom in my basement. I changed my morning routine from listening to motivational music or a podcast during my commute to a walk down some carpeted stairs with a mug of tea in my hand. The anchors that helped me mentally shift into my role as a leader evaporated overnight. 

Of course, that’s minor compared to the heaviness of concern on my heart these days. I think of my father who is adjusting to time in a nursing home on lockdown where phone calls replace visits from the family he loves. I think of members of my immediate family with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems who struggle to stay positive while facing the insecurity of the current situation.  

As I open my planner and look at the goals I set for my business in Q1, my mind is filled with concerns and doubts. Will we meet our revenue goals? What will Q2 look like for my company? How will this crisis impact my business and the families who rely on income from my company to help them make ends meet? 

I’m not exactly an optimist. My family and friends tell me I’m more of a positive pragmatist. I believe every problem has a solution, every crisis has a resolution, and a resilient spirit is my most valuable asset. I believe in God’s promises and find peace and wisdom in my faith. 

These are difficult times and the threats we face are real… but there are things we can do to navigate successfully through the next few months.  Let’s talk about those, okay?

Here’s what I’m focused on this week. 

Leading myself. 

You don’t need me to tell you that COVID-19 is a killer. You can find those messages everywhere right now, and I’m glad the information is out there to help us protect ourselves. Reminders to wash our hands, stay home, and consider the welfare of others are all really important. In fact, if you haven’t washed your hands recently, go do that now. I’ll wait. 

But, now that I’m isolated at home and my hands are clean… I’m turning to my own mental and emotional health, and considering my role as a leader – -> because people are looking to me for guidance and direction. I don’t want to let them down. 

I’m living and modeling the behaviors I want to see in those around me. This means staying home, even when I want to go out. It means missing worship services, social activities, and visits with friends and family. But, I’m not hanging my head in despair. Instead, I’m taking daily walks in the evening with my husband and my dog. We’re building a puzzle in our living room and catching up on our favorite programs. We’re living our lives in gratitude as best we can. 

I’ve adjusted my routines and I’m following them. The changes around me necessitated a change in my work routines. Rather than fight it… or try to make my previous habits fit this new situation… I took time to think about my routines and shift them. I have a new workday start up and workday shut down routine to guide me. I’ve made these routines visible by posting them on the wall of my new office, and I’m sticking to them. This intentional step gives me a type of anchor to keep me productive in this new setting. 

I’m managing my emotions. My new daily work routines include journaling to help me process each day’s events – both professionally and emotionally. I’m giving myself permission to grieve the loss of social interaction, acknowledge fear and uncertainty, and express anger in a healthy way, so I can stay focused and productive. I’m actively noticing little things and expressing gratitude, and I’m praying intentionally for the situation and those around me. I’m also limiting my exposure to news media (staying informed by checking things daily, but not binging) and social media. This keeps me grounded in what I know and stops the spiral into fear and overwhelm. 

Leading my team.

My business includes support from a small team of three. Each of these wonderful people look to me to set the tone of our work together, and they count on their work to (a) challenge them intellectually and (b) provide for them financially. I also realize they are dealing with children home from school, social distancing, and their own fears and concerns.  I don’t want to let them down… and I want to lead them with grace and humility. 

I’m responding to the crisis with flexibility. Normally, I’m a stickler for deadlines. I expect my team to keep commitments and meet obligations. But, these are not normal times… and as a result, my expectations have shifted a bit. My focus is on clear communication, sharing the burden of work, and coming together to support one another. Where necessary, I’m stepping into the gap and doing things I would normally delegate… and it’s okay. 

I’m providing clear direction and responding to questions openly. We all have questions and concerns. We all have insecurities. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I am determined to share openly with my team as we move through this time together. 

I’m asking about their families and fears, and I’m giving them emotional support where I can. Sometimes we all just need a safe space to talk about how much this sucks. That’s okay… and during my 1:1 time this week with my team members, I asked about how COVID-19 was impacting them personally. I expressed genuine concern for their families and their lives, and I encouraged them. We are in this together… and I want my team to know it. 

Embracing compassion & generosity.

During the next few weeks or months, things might get ugly. My clients might need to reschedule our work together or delay payments. They might need more from me in terms of understanding than I’m used to providing. That’s okay… I’m determined to be generous and respond to those needs with compassion and love. 

The people around me will likely need a warm smile and a word of encouragement. They might need me to share some resources, give a little advice, or just listen while they work through a few concerns or fears. That’s okay. I have enough compassion for them. 

Most importantly, the business owners in my peer group and my strategic partners might need help finding a path forward through the next few weeks. They might benefit from some marketing strategy, some encouragement, or a little creative problem-solving. I’m good at that stuff… and it costs me nothing to share it. 

We have agency over our response to these circumstances. 

We can’t really control this virus, and that’s scary. I get it. But, that doesn’t mean we are powerless in this situation. We CAN control our actions, our words, and our emotions. We can control our response… and we can help those around us with a spirit of positivity and courage. Do what you can… it really does make a difference. 

Wondering how to guide your business (or yourself) through this crisis? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m ready to help you if I can… feel free to email. (michelle@michellehuntercreative.com)

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