Updated: Apr 8
*** I am updating this blog as more resources are published and more research becomes available.
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We are living history. This time will be one for the ages. In my last newsletter I shared a list of global pandemics, and our reactions, according to a Wikipedia article. I did this because, in retrospect, communities, dare I say society (as this implies a certain level of civil behavior) acted like a bunch of crazed sociopaths. Let’s just say, I don’t think we’ll be burning women en masse, or putting people on isolated islands to die.
I wanted to share some perspective. Why? Because we bought all the damn toilet paper y’all! Because we’re buying more bullets than broccoli. We’re edging towards group-think that in one year we may tsk tsk.
Yes, this is unprecedented. It is scary. Thousands and thousands of people have no work to go to and no way to know how to pay bills or support themselves let alone their families. And a tonne of our friends and family, perhaps even you, are high risk and that is overwhelming. The human brain is almost forced to sociopathic ends when it's uncertain.
Rather than refer to the studies backing up my outlandish statements, I will just link to them. We’ve got time to peruse, amiright.
The antidote to fear is action, and this has been quoted so many times I don’t know who to credit. But what I’d like to do with this blog is give you some action items.
I am not an unbridled optimist. In fact, I think I am a fun-loving realist, it just shows up like optimism. And I am looking around, at my empty room, afraid someone may hear me say this, but … I do think this is an amazing opportunity. We’ve ALL been given a forced holiday. We HAVE to look at our lives and our homes AND slow down enough to actually wallow in it.
This might not FEEL like an OPPORTUNITY because the house of cards may have toppled, or your dominos may be falling, but the other antidote to fear is faith.
I am not advocating spirituality here, what I am saying is this too shall pass. Choose to take advantage of this time and take empowered action. Those of us who choose to make this an opportunity will win. Have faith, you will figure this out.
When we look back on our own lives, let alone history, we always make it work. We have a choice. Fear or action. Conjecture or right now. I urge you to take a deep breath, and take my hand. We are going to get through this, together.
Here’s what I am actually doing, and working with my people, to create some stability and certainty in their day to day.
My intention is to lead you through a series of actions in order from panic and spiralling-out, to inspired and success oriented business tactics, in this crazy time. Feel free to skip ahead, or even back track as this document will serve you in any crisis.
Think in terms of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, The 8 Limbs of Yoga, even Positive Psychology. You can shift your perspective, right now and for free, and that will change your world. As Elie Wesil said, “If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank You,’ then that will be enough.” We choose to grow our strengths, and we can choose to accept, we can not fix what is broken.
Phase 1: Financial stress and / or total panic around what might happen:
I am going to attempt to tackle the two biggest threats to your security, your finances and your family. By instilling some certainty into your day to day, you can create a stable foundation, and when, ready, you will build.
Finances: Many clients, friends, even family are totally freaked out by the fear that all work commitments have disappeared. This may be existing contract work, appointments, offices, etc. If you have NO idea when your next dollar is coming in, and you do not have savings or a back-up plan, here are some options to explore.
I assure that once you get an idea of what your options are, you will sleep better at night. I am not suggesting these are ideal options, or even desirable, but most people I have spoken with who are in this phase, have no facts about their financial situation and their minds are spinning out into what if’s and catastrophes (scenarios that quite simply don’t exist).
Mortgage: Talk to your lenders. Most mortgages have insurance policies and parameters in place for worst-case scenarios. By letting your lenders know you are willing to do what it takes to work with them to ensure you are committed to staying, you are managing expectations.
Credit Cards: Talk to your lenders. Oftentimes, you can waive a month or 3 of your minimal payments. You can also explore closing down one card and getting a no-interest, balance transfer card, and usually you can explore these with soft credit checks (so they don’t ding your credit score).
Personal Loans, Car Payments, Rent: Talk to your lenders (see a pattern here). Letting your debts know you are aware of your commitments and asking for advice on how to stay committed and on top of payments is the best step forward. You can ask for help in solving this problem together.
Now, what if you need access to more money? If you are a business owner, you may be able to explore what an overdraft account or line of credit looks like for your accounts. Call your local bank manager and make an appointment to discuss credit options.
The sooner you get to know the people managing your money, the better. If you bank with a larger, national bank, reach out to your local banks and/or credit unions. I typically suggest speaking with up to 5 different service providers in order to find one you like speaking with and who is helpful and able to offer you viable solutions.
If you own your own home, now is pretty much the best time to refinance or access a HELOC (home equity line of credit) EVER. If you are self-employed, talk to an insurance broker about Business Interruption Insurance and/or Business Insurance
Lastly, if this is overwhelming, I encourage you to find a broker who can help you answer all these questions. As per always, find someone who you like, who doesn’t push policies or feels slimy and salesy, but when you have someone who can push claims over the line for you and make receiving benefits easy, it's priceless.
(Note: I am not recommending nor endorsing these providers).
Newly created funding, grant, and assistance programs:
US Small Business Administration Loan Assistance Program *** Not simple, BUT making credit available when no other lender will, in 36 hours! Call your local SCORE chapter to talk to a human and get help, now
Banks cutting their account holders a break *** I called Chase, they waived minimum payments and interest payments on my credit card and mortgage and reminded me, we will get through this!
Really creative, out of the box support for small business & individuals
Phase 2: Family
Honestly, my people are freaking out about the kids being home for an indefinite amount of time, more than anything else. The good news is, this is unprecedented. All previous rules no longer apply. This is an opportunity to sit down together and work out a game plan.
Literally, what’s your playbook, when are you training, practicing, game time, and post-game celebrations?
I suggest routine (and I HATE routine, but there is freedom in structure). Try everyone waking up and getting 20ish minutes to get ready. You can stagger wake-up times so everyone gets some time to themselves. Then discuss the day over coffee and breakfast. I would structure the day with blocked-out timing. Chores, housework, yard work (depending on your location), even spring cleaning would be great shared activities. Clean out the garage, attic, or basement. Tackle those projects you’ve put off for years.
Children likely have a couple hours of school work, and if grown-ups have to work, parents and children can work together. If you need to tag team parenting and work, you and your partner can discuss, or if you’re a single parent, let any and all commitments know what they can expect from you. The entire world is on pause. Lower productivity is OK. Ask your employer what’s fair to expect during this time?
Although playdates and social gatherings are highly discouraged, you can make a pact with a family that also needs to juggle kids and work. Promise to socially distance from EVERYONE else, and then maybe one family gets kids in the am, the other in the pm.
To repeat, wake up, game plan the day, block out work and kids activities or school OR which parent supervises children while the other works. Break for lunch. Swap it over. Dinner. Wine.
With finance and family, create certainty. Create a timeline, communicate this to anyone involved, ask for help or suggestions if something seems impossible, and take it one day at a time. Be open to shifting and adapting as this situation evolves.
Additionally, take note of any intractable issues. The big challenges that you can not surmount. Maybe set these aside in order to get through these next few weeks, but also grow awareness around these insecurities. Chase Bank actually put together a helpful resource guide for Business Contingency Planning.
These are the problems that are making this a jail sentence versus an unplanned vacation.
When we ignore or avoid components of our lives they act like a powder keg and can blow at the most inopportune times. This is totally normal, and sometimes we don’t even know we’ve compartmentalized until our workplaces shut down, the government tells us we’re not allowed to leave our homes, and all our retirement and fun money goes down the drain (remember the last time that happened? Yeah, me neither).
Unforeseeable circumstances are just that … so let’s collectively support each other and know, we will get through this, like we always do.
And not to beat a dead horse, but wow if you didn’t get smacked by your level of risk tolerance.
If a couple weeks of no income caused you to question your purpose for living, I encourage you to save up at least 6 times that amount. I know, we always talk about this, but imagine going through this experience without a financial concern?
If that isn’t motivation to get your ducks in a line, I don’t know what is.
Use this time to create a real savings plan to ensure you create enough security to navigate unpredictable times. Have those awkward conversations with neighbors and family to ensure that you and yours are covered if one or more of you is incapacitated. Store enough water and supplies to make it through a couple weeks. That my friend is truly how you create certainty in uncertain times.
Whew, ok the heavy lifting is done. Finances have been addressed, family is dutifully focused, emergency plans are set, next up ...
Phase 3: Health
Staying healthy is what is going to enable you to cruise through this time. Not only are you less likely to even get sick, but you’ll be able to support everyone around you, sleep at night, and lessen the impact of stress in your environment.
There is no stock-standard definition, and each of us is different. The good news is we can still go outside, just try not to touch anything or anyone, and wash your hands when you get back inside.
Sounds extreme, but hey, for some people this is a very, very extreme situation. It’s not about if YOU or I get sick, it’s about our unwillingness to infect others, especially those whose bodies may not be able to fight back.
For those of us who may rely on a gym or class for fitness, check out YouTube. Or the Pelton app (free 90 day trial). Or Sweat app. Classes and videos range from free to about $15 a month for unlimited and customized routines, across a ton of different platforms. You don’t need any props or gear for most of these videos.
That said, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE everyone to get outside. Nature heals. Fresh air expands. We may have to walk on separate sides of the street, but eye contact and a friendly hello connects. We have an incredible opportunity to redefine social norms right now. It’s exciting.It’s also daunting. So take it one step at a time (had to).
Many people I have talked to are struggling to sleep. I don’t need to repeat the hundreds of suggestions out there, but this is a great time to hunker down (had to) on your evening and bedtime routine. Screens, blue and white light, late night snacks, booze, and more can affect not only your ability to sleep, but also to stay asleep.
I am already struggling to eat healthy, but stews and soups preserve fresh vegetables and are perfect for frozen produce. Meal planning always helps with keeping food diverse and delicious. Work with anyone you’re cohabitating with to chime in, or let them know they can stay happy and be grateful for your offerings.
I cooked frozen asparagus for my mother and she refused to eat it. Day One y’all. It's going to be a long social distancing staycation. But here’s some fun menu ideas for staying healthy with non-perishables.
Schedule skype / facetime / zoom / facebook live happy hours with friends, dinners, even gameboard night. I am not one for (video) gaming, but playing some games with friends is a great way to maintain social camaraderie.
By keeping your physical body moving, your mental health controlled, your emotional needs met, and your social connections intact, you set yourself up for success. When you feel good, everyone around you feels better.
Take responsibility for the way you show up in this world. There are simple, easy, free steps you can take every day to ensure you are able to stay healthy.
Whew, ok, we’re safe, secure, and have a risk mitigation plan in place. We’re also staying healthy, through movement and emotional intelligence. Some of you reading this may have already skipped to this step, just know, if you need to dip back down into meeting some basic physical and emotional needs, that's totally normal and expected.
We can’t plan for problems we can’t predict, so giving yourself a break and letting yourself get rest and get strong before creating some growth strategies is always encouraged.
Phase 4: Here’s how you keep your professional life flourishing.
Now, just like the previous safety and health considerations, some of these tasks may not be your favorite, they may not even be necessary for your individual situation. I ask that you think outside the box and apply these if useful, or adapt these strategies to your needs.
Firstly, start with service.
We all solve someone’s problem. Whether it be through our work, through business, through our job role and responsibilities, or just through the products we sell. Reach out to your top 10 buyers. I suggest calling them, the personal touch is powerful in this day and age. Sincerely and purposefully ask them how you can help.
Some of us experience total business shutdown, others are hovering between finishing jobs and patiently twiddling our thumbs. The lucky few were totally prepared or employed by visionary leaders, and are receiving complete support and no loss of income. It doesn’t matter.
Take whatever time and energy you have and reach out to your top ten reasons for working.
Once you’ve done that, reach out to the top ten people who depend on you for their work, outside of your actual employees. They may be totally freaked out about when you’re going to pay them, hire them, or even have any work at all, and you may not have any answers. That is OK. Work with your people. Ask them how you can support them as well. If you’re not able to pay them at this moment, let them know when you’ll reach back out to them so they can rest assured you’re aware of your commitments and they’re a priority.
I started this with how uncertainty affects the brain. If you can't create certainty you always can manage expectations. Definitely create an objective communication for your employees, and let them know when you’ll be consistently keeping them informed (example, every Monday we’ll have an org-wide email, and then expect more as this situation develops).
For those of you who had to shut your business down, cancel all commitments, or watched all business dry up overnight…...I have a challenge for you.
How can you grow? How can you monetize your loyalty? Restaurant; offer facebook live cooking classes - How To Create Non-Perishable Meals.
Retail shop; help your buyers get familiar with your website and curbside order. Everyone is suggesting gift cards and pay-it-forward options. I say add value. Offer people a special experience when they can come back in. Or a one-on-one consultation with an extra $X0 in value.
Creator, Maker, Designer, Performer, Educator (or about to be), email me at email@example.com. We’re connecting living rooms to you, and allowing you to monetize the experience.
Business owner; ask people for reviews, recommendations and referrals Start a loyalty program that would incentivize and excite even you to join.
Again, I don’t need to echo the internet, here’s some amazing suggestions about how to: support your local businesses and community (Denver specific, but this applies to any neighborhood),
and what others are doing to stay successful in these uncertain times.
Phase 5: Finally, assuming you’ve addressed all of the above, this may just be the best time you’ve ever had to set you and your business up for success.
Capture all systems and processes. Video record yourself going through your typical tasks. Send that video off to be transcribed. Go through everything. Now you’ve got a business blueprint.
Create your on-boarding and off-boarding training. Catch-up on bookkeeping (finally, create that process for capturing every, single receipt). Get 3-6 months ahead on social media marketing. Plan an epic summer (or winter depending on your hemisphere).
Actually finish half of those courses you signed up for, become an expert on your software solutions like Quickbooks or Trello, hell, create your own trainings and offer those up to your community.
Create not just a newsletter, but a nurture sequence, a re-engagement campaign, an abandoned shopping cart sequence, and all the email marketing segmenting and tagging you’ve dreamed of (oh, only I dream about email marketing, doh!).
If you're staying above the fray, you've got some strong mindset and thought patterns ready to steer you in the right direction. These tactics are powerful tools, also to be documented and relied upon in times of need. Perhaps even shared with your team and networks. Your strength is our inspiration.
If you stayed with me this whole time, I applaud your tenacity. Again, use this as a manual, skip to the appropriate phases in order to fulfill an immediate need.
I think I’ve said enough, so I’ll conclude with another quote from Elie Wesil, “Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another.”