We are all in the woods. But we are going to find a way through and lead others out with us.
Like many, PopUp Business School was facing the toughest day of its existence on Monday. Many of its free business training events were suddenly postponed, leading to a six-figure hole in cash flow and an uncertain future.
But CEO Simon Paine realised that, if his company was struggling, the businesses he'd helped to launch would be struggling, too. So he posted a heartfelt message to the company’s thousands of Facebook followers, promising to help them find a way to survive - as he would have to for PopUp.
“Monday was tough,” recalls Paine, “But I wanted to reassure our thousands of small business followers - which we’d personally helped to launch - that we were there for them and wanted to help - that we would find a way through this together.”
Simon implored his followers to post their coronavirus troubles into the comments so his team could respond with some fresh advice. But Paine says their hundreds of responses restored his own faith that small businesses would find a way through lockdown.
“We were immediately inundated with all of the innovative ways these businesses were already adapting. It’s what we’d always trained them to do, but we had no idea how deeply they’d taken the idea to heart. Companies were adapting in so many ways – a forest school, a choir, a reiki class and even a pub were going virtual, while a maker of rosettes for horse and dog shows decided to quickly refashion their vast stock of ribbons for Mother’s Day rosettes. It was fantastic to discover the ingenuity and braveness of all these small business owners.”
For small businesses struggling to adapt, Simon offers these ten coronavirus commandments:
1. Be a beacon of hope - and SELL
At PopUp Business School, we are going out of our way to support as many people as we can in the coming days, weeks and months. Like most business owners, Monday was perhaps the most challenging day for us in this country, as we saw the postponement of many of our free training events, leading up to the summer. But we are very clear on this: this unprecedented disruption, whilst is super-challenging for so many of us, is presenting, and will continue to present, new opportunities. From our perspective, this is the time to start a business. This is the time to learn a new skill. The book you’ve always wanted to write, the website you’ve always wanted to launch… Now is the time to make these things happen. Learn new skills, experiment and take control of your future and the wellbeing of your family.
2. Innovate to survive
Business history is littered with stories of businesses that haven't innovated and have been crushed by changing times. If you don't innovate, you will die - coronavirus or no coronavirus. You may need to adapt what you do and deliver your products or services in different ways, you may need to learn new skills, you may need to diversify you may need to go in a new direction. We are taking the obvious step of accelerating out online plans but there are other new products that we are developing to. Sales is key in this time.
3. Ask the right questions
Ask yourself great questions to focus on the things that will propel you into creation mode, like: How can I adapt my business? What problems are my customers facing and how could I help solve them? What could I create now that will add value?"
4. Invest for the long term
At a time when everyone else is focusing on the challenges, the fear and cutting back, we at PopUp Business School are looking to double down. We are looking to invest and were looking to prepare ourselves for the bounce that we believe will happen in the autumn. There is no better time to innovate, care about our customers and make things happen.
5. Protect your business
Invoice as much as you can, dial back on costs, communicate regularly and clearly with your customers, clients, employees and stakeholders. Ask for help to figure it out. The fact that we are a saving business is something we are also grateful for now as this gives us a runway and an opportunity to invest.
6. Join a community support system
Engage with other self-employed people and support each other by helping to figure out solutions to the challenges you’re facing.
7. Focus on moving forward
This is all about focus. What do self-employed people and entrepreneurs need to focus on in order to be successful during this period of turbulence? We will need to focus on what we can create and what we can make happen, rather than focusing on the disruption, challenges and uncertainty that we are facing.
8. Serve to help others
Take care of your customers. What help do you customers need? What is the number one thing you could deliver right now to help people get through this period of uncertainty? Go out of your way to help your customers solve their problems.
Care for your customers and suppliers, care for your staff and care for each other. The people around you need leadership and it’s the entrepreneurs that will make the difference in people’s lives in the coming months.
10. Look after your own wellbeing
Most of all, business owners need to take care of themselves. Eat healthily, sleep well, hydrate, meditate and make sure that your wellbeing is as strong as it can be. Avoid spending too long consuming TV and social media posts about the virus. It will only serve one purpose and that is to make you worry even more.