Uncertainty is never a good feeling. In fact, research showed that uncertainty is more stressful than knowing something bad is definitely going to happen.
And these are surely the most uncertain of times in most of our lives, ever.
I can’t vouch for everyone, but sometimes in uncertain times then I feel better doing something. Might not be the right thing, but it’s doing something. Apparently the science says that’s my brain trying to improve the odds of a positive outcome.
Which of course if we’re learning anything from lockdown, it’s that we can’t control a positive outcome. But also doing little things, like staying home, washing your hands, not seeing people, all these little things seem to be moving us towards a more positive time.
What will your business look like on the other side of this uncertainty?
That’s the question. Although I guess the big question is what will the other side look like? What will be the same, and what will have changed?
What will people value? What will they want to do with their time, spend their money on?
We’ll only truly know this with the power of hindsight, looking backwards at the pre and post world.
So the answer is none of us really know.
So why do anything?
Some things will be the same
Okay, maybe not exactly the same, but enough that you could do something now. For example:
- Get on top of your inbox.
- Unsubscribe from stuff you never read
- Clean up your subscribers’ list (see, it goes both ways)
- Sort out your receipts
All those things will have some version of themselves the other side of this. Getting organised now will save you time the other side to concentrate in other areas that we’re guessing at right now.
Be like a tree in winter
I’m enjoying Wintering by Katherine May, even though I’m reading it surrounded by spring blossom and new leaves. I was really struck by this section, and it made me stop and think about how we might use the time we have at the moment.
“The tree is waiting. It has everything ready…It’s just getting on with it quietly. It will not burst into life in the spring. It will just put on a new coat and face the world again.”Wintering by Katherine May
So being as ready as we can be, even if we have a number of scenarios ready to go, means we can be more flexible when things start again. Here’s things that you could be getting on with quietly through the uncertainty.
Get clear on what you want to be known for
Whether you have a clear story about your brand, or just leapt into the doing side of what your business is, now is a good time to revisit it. What do you want to be known for? What do you want people to feel about what you do?
Have a look at what you consider your unique selling points are, and ditch them. Or at least question them. Most USPs are nothing like unique. Instead, look for what it is that makes you distinctive.
Go back and revisit your original business manifesto. Or, if you never drew up one, maybe now is a good time to get some time to yourself and write it.
Mine includes shoes.
There are no rules, just write it for you.
Write your business’ lockdown stories
This time may seem never-ending. But we all tend to have short memories. Can you remember what you were doing this time last year?
Many businesses are doing new things, or different things to what they did or had planned just two months ago. Businesses are doing things that they’d put off, thought they might get round to one day, or just thought were too hard to consider. But adversity brings not just challenges, but opportunity, the chance to try things.
Whether you have started doing deliveries, or changed your product range, or become famous for your Zoom quizzes, write the stories of what you did now. What did you learn, and would you do it again. Doesn’t have to be all positive. There’s never been a more important time to be human in your approach.
What small businesses will show in all of this is their ability to adapt, to change, and to be human while doing it. Look at the restaurants switching to delivery and collection models, or those working with Open Kitchens to get feed those in need.
Adapt, change, be ready to go, wherever we’re going next.
And remember, one day all of this will be a museum exhibit. Save some stories now for that, and help someone learn in the future.
Stories are more than words
Don’t forget the visual side of what’s happening at the moment. Your surroundings will (hopefully) never look quite the same again. Equally, there’s the people you meet, the way you’re working, the sights and sounds of the week.
While it feels like this will go on forever, the minute the restrictions change you’ll have different calls on your time, and the opportunity might be lost.
Review all your materials
Whether you produce printed material, or everything is online, now could be the time to review if they still meet your needs, and the story you want to tell. If you make any amendments to your brand story, then you might want to think about how it’s told in your materials and on your website.
You might not need to rewrite absolutely everything, and I’d suggest you don’t! There’s a great guide on Yoast on whether you should update or delete posts, or there’s some pointers here on how to repurpose your content.
Play for keeps
For businesses that have been able to keep trading through all of this, there may have been an influx of new customers. The Guild of Fine Food’s research has shown 2 out of 3 independent food retailers have seen new customers shopping with them during lockdown.
Which is fantastic news right now. But what happens when this finishes?
Now, we can all hope that they’ve just been so wowed by what you do that of course they’ll stay with you. But better to be prepared. So, make sure you’re doing the basics like getting emails and the appropriate permissions. Get your newsletter writing up to date, and with content that people want to read and share.
If you need a little inspiration, then I highly recommend David Hieatt’s fantastic little book, Do Open. So much good advice packed into one small book. If you’re not convinced, then read his blog post about why newsletters are no longer important, they’re vital.
Don’t think this has to be about massive actions, huge changes to your business. Sometimes the small things have the greatest power to change people’s minds, and actions. When I wrote a list of 47 things you can do when business is slow, I didn’t mean you had to do them all. Do the thing that works best for you.
And then, if you’ve got energy and time, do the next one. Lots of small steps soon add up.
None of us can know what things will look like on the other side. That’s the nature of uncertainty. My personal perspective is that smaller businesses could fare better as they are better able to be flexible, in their thinking and in their operations. Bigger businesses will live up to the turning the oil tanker metaphor. Some may well turn out to be dinosaurs and face ultimate extinction.
The small amongst us? Well, we can just keep trying and changing.
What about you? What are you trying? Will you be like a tree and ready to step out in a new coat?