The sole traders and self-employed amongst us didn’t see this coming. Nor did they ask for it. I am one of them. Only a month ago, I launched a range of new offerings to lead the Health, Aged Care and NDIS industry in care, compliance and capability. Then corona came and it looks like creating havoc for months.
We, consultants and coaches, are used to feast or famine and accepted that as our lot in life. Yet, this pandemic is unrelenting and unforgiving. I am motivated by my elderly 80-year-old mother in a nursing home, supporting our elderly population most at risk and all my fellow humans out there doing it tough.
Before you read on, the focus of my article is about accepting our brutal reality and looking at options to move forward. If you are angry at the world, feeling helpless or completely overwhelmed, please find a mental health professional who can provide the support you need.
I emphasise that now is the time to get to work with guidance and direction. Take a deep breath. Slowly exhale and read on.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.
As consultants and coaches, we believe our work is essential and that it changes lives. Right now though, many of us are being told we are non-essential, and that’s ok.
Firstly, we need to wrestle control (of our lives) back from the chaos. We might feel like things are not in our power and there’s nothing we can do. Many of us are well outside of our comfort zones. I understand those thoughts because we didn't ask for this, yet we've got it. I believe the way forward is by turning our ideas and energy into actions to take us closer to where we want to be. Our comfort zone was so warm and cuddly.
Getting the mindset right
I suggest you stop regularly scanning news sites or scrolling social media to see what’s going on around the world. Just take a peek once a day to be updated on the latest Corona news.
Next focus on your locus of control. If there’s anything out of your control let it go and be at peace with it. The government will act and do its thing, the people around you will do their thing, your clients will act how they act and the sun will again rise tomorrow. Now is the time to put aside the government and client what-ifs and focus on the here and now.
We cannot appreciate a sunrise until we’ve waited in the darkness. Sandi Givens
So, here are three questions to self-reflect on:
1. What is the worst thing that can happen to my business as a result of COVID-19?
2. What is needed for me to accept that outcome?
3. What is in my control that I can do now to reduce the possibility of that outcome?
Getting down to do the work
Our malaise is not about running a consulting or coaching practice or being a business owner. It’s about life. Businesses are part of the broader social fabric that joins us together. To move forward, you need to not only think about your debtors and cashflow et al; you need to think deeply and holistically about yourself and the situation of those around you.
Below I set out a framework for you to explore every facet of your COVID-19 impacted life (including your business). I may ask questions that you may not be willing to ask yourself.
Where is the MONEY (my next dollar) going to come from?
Both government and industry have offered several support packages for sole traders and business owners. New Centrelink options have opened up, along with ways to access your superannuation now. Also, banks and energy companies are willing to talk.
Questions as actions: How can you get on the front foot and find out what your options are with Federal and State government, your super fund, your tax accountant, your bank and your energy company? What are the other sources of money available to help you out? What can you do to immediately save money by reducing expenditure?
How is your physical and mental HEALTH holding up?
It’s easy to wallow, stay stuck and wait for others to fix things. Though it’s not helpful. If you are isolated at home, you probably won’t be exercising as much as you used to, and you are constantly reminded of the struggle you are facing by the constraints imposed to slow this virus thing down.
Daily exercise, eating healthy, meditation, and yoga can all be accomplished today. Here are some useful recommendations from the National Heart Foundation on staying healthy. If the struggle is getting to you, there are plenty of mental health support services available.
Questions as actions: What can you do to set aside at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day? What can you do to clear your mind to focus on what is important?
How well are your FRIENDS and FAMILY coping?
Look around you. What are the people you know thinking and feeling? How are they being impacted? What can you offer others? Research has shown that helping others can help you regulate your own emotions. Being a helping hand reinforces our sense of relatedness to others, thus fulfilling our most basic psychological needs. Sometimes a phone call might be enough to tell someone you are thinking about them and their situation.
Give without remembering. Receive without forgetting. Robyn Henderson
A word of caution. Some people may not be ready to be helped just yet, so ask permission first. The most useful question is: “I can see … what can I do to help ?”. If they say no, that’s fine, and leave it alone. They are not ready to accept your help just yet.
Questions as actions: What simple things can you do to identify and reach out to friends and family in need?
How’s the HOME ENVIRONMENT working for you?
Pretty much everyone, except for medical professionals and essential services, is now at home socially isolating. Many sole practitioners and business owners are already setup to work from home. At the same time, we are moving to online service delivery models. This is the new world order, and much of it will persist beyond COVID-19.
Check out this blog for some inspiring home offices!
Questions as actions: What can you do to set up a functioning office space at home that will persist for the long term?
How can you keep LEARNING?
In my home office, I have a list of interesting topics I’ve been meaning to research for years. Now I actually have the time! The beauty of the internet is that you can google just about any topic and learn something new without having to pay much at all. I usually start with Wikipedia for research. The good news is thousands of courses that were previously face-to-face are being converted to online delivery.
I want to learn more about new models of organisational design such as generative learning. Here’s my Linked In article on how it radically transforms organisations from bottom-up.
Questions as actions: Dream a little. What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn about that might help you get closer to your ideal post-Corona world?
How can YOU support your SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
We are usually not in business alone. Our businesses (which are manifestations of our dreams and aspirations) impact those close to us. We often call on our “significant other” to help us fulfil our business goals and support us through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and business life. The “other” might be your husband, wife, life partner, business partner and so on.
Questions as actions: What can you do to acknowledge their contribution to your past success? How might they be feeling right now? What do they need from you at this moment?
How can your BUSINESS survive this crisis?
We don’t know exactly how this crisis will affect your business. This situation is changing by the day. Often, I wonder if a past project had gone on for longer or I’d won that tender, then I’d be in a different financial place right now. Thinking about all the mistakes and faux pas you’ve made in the past isn’t helpful.
Look at your feet. Be where your feet are. Sandi Givens
Questions as actions: John asks: What do you need to do to assess the impact of COVID-19 to your business? How can you settle your team? What are your employment responsibilities? What are the opportunities?
Where has all the FUN gone?
Lastly, how often have you been putting off something fun in favour of working? Instinctively, we prioritise recreation last, almost as if it’s a luxury we can only afford once we’ve “made it”. There’s always something more important to do with our work.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris Bueller
Yet, there are numerous studies showing the positive impact humour can have in the office and at home on reducing stress levels and boosting well-being.
Think of fun as a form of distraction. Babies laugh, on average, 400 times a day yet people over 35, only have 15 laughs according to Harvard Research. Finding daily moments of joy are there if you look hard enough. We often take ourselves too seriously. When was the last time you complimented someone, checked-in on someone or appreciated someone?
Questions as actions: What is stopping you from goofing off now and then to forget about life for a while? Try this experiment: What difference does it make to your performance if you first immerse yourself in something fun before you engage in your serious work? What happiness-boosting traditions can you create with your team?
Where to from here?
I hope this article has been of some assistance to your situation.
If you are interested in exploring all of the above, I’ve created the COVID-CLUB an online group of sole practitioners and business owners who are dedicated to working together to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
We are in a difficult and challenging world. It's not easy. We didn't ask for it.
Our medical teams are doing a magnificent job to save lives.
Social cohesion is prevailing and thriving in our communities.
I am committed to helping our elderly and our brothers and sisters doing it tough.
Because life’s (going to be) great! :-)
PS Thanks for reading to here.
Reminder: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for personal mental health treatment by a qualified practitioner.