As some of you may know, I do like doing my research. When I say ‘like’, I mean am pretty obsessed with…. The problem being at the moment there isn’t any research into what you should do in a global pandemic and there are certainly no experts.
We know the practical stuff at the moment (stay at home, wash your hands, social distance etc) but in business, on social media, in the home/life/work balance??? We’ve got nothing based on reality to say what does work, what should work and what is most definitely not going to work. Equally (as is always the way), what works for us, may not work for a business down the road.
My research so far, has been watching from a safe distance. I’ve seen the you *must* post x times a day on social, you *must* keep your clients/customers engaged, here have our *free* consultation call etc. I’ve seen the ‘we’re here to help’ posts and I’ve noticed the suddenly quiet feeds. I’ve also watched the people revamping their websites, tidying their sock drawer, completing craft projects and exercising religiously with Joe Wicks at 9am.
I’ve also read plenty of the government website when it comes to what you can and can’t do if you’re furloughed, felt physically sick watching friends and colleagues close their doors (be that for good or for now) and joined the army of parents who are suddenly juggling the education and needs of their children into their working day.
I’ve never believed there is a formula for creating a successful business. I totally believe that you need a number of key ingredients but the exact proportions of which… that depends on a gazillion factors. We’ve now added COVID-19 as an additional factor.
One cup of tea to the next
We drink a lot of tea at DigitalJen. When other people were concerned about loo roll, I was somewhat concerned about the availability of Twining’s Earl Grey teabags.
We now work on the prinicpal of getting from one cup to tea to the next. A ‘good run’ at a job for me used to be 8.15-3.15 with the odd loo/tea/lunch stop but essentially, a full working day. Just me and the laptop.
I’m now lucky if I get an hour – which is often the time from one cup of tea to the next. I make no secret of the fact I have two teenage children with additional needs. Lockdown is not their normal – it’s not any of our normal! They are isolated and without the reassuring structure that the education system provides for all our children – whether they have additional needs or not.
Before the end of week 1 of lockdown I’d concluded the work/life/home/education balance was mythical. Not a sparkling unicorn sort of myth either, something that JK Rowling could probably have created a whole new Harry Potter related book about – as Harry, Herminonie, Ron and Ginny attempt to save the world, make a living and home Hogwarts their children… at least they’d have been able to magic up dinner!
Tea is just a unit of time.
I’m English, a serial volunteer and run a GirlGuiding Guide unit. Tea is in my veins. What I’m saying though is in times like these, we can’t just make analogies about eating elephants (in small chunks) or starting by eating the frog – because Corona isn’t a measurable beast. We just don’t know. A trip for essential groceries can become a 3 hour queueathon, the news that a friend has contracted COVID can floor you – and from sad personal experience already, news that a friend has died from the virus hits you like a ton of bricks.
When you’re dealing with stuff like this, I really don’t believe there is any way that you can say ‘keep business as normal’. That posting so many times a day or not on your social media or charging less (or more!) for your products or services is a guaranteed way of ensuring your business stays afloat.
Sure, move what you can online, tell your customers what you’re doing to do your bit but also be sensitive to the fact that many of your customers suddenly have no income, their plans are on hold and potentially they’re trying to nail what fronted adverbial is to avoid the eye roll of a 9 year old. (or coming to the stark realisation that GCSE’s were easier when we did them…) We are all getting by, from one brew to the next. It makes it more manageable in a strange world.
OK Jen, so what does your ‘research’ suggest?
First of all, we’re still working (as is my husband) so I would say my research is skewed.. I think I’ve now worked 58 days in a row – a mix of being self employed, busy and trying to help people get online with apps & websites – fast.
I’d say that checking in with people to see how they are is far more important than anything else. If that’s a cup of tea slot – excellent. If it’s 2 slots, excellent. A message, dm, phone call, note through the door…
Alongside that, I’d say not to devalue yourself or what you do. If you charged £249 for a consultation pre-corona, suddenly offering it for £49 shouts to me that you don’t value your current clients who paid £249 or the value of what you do.
Be flexible. We’re all working in a way we’ve never worked before. We are all tired, stressed, isolated and, to be blunt, winging it. Flexibility, compassion and understanding go a long way.
There is a fine line between being proud of what you’ve achieved and showing off. I’m just putting it out there that I have not
- updated this website (it’s on the list…) – we make great apps – just contact me
- tidied my sock drawer
- finished the crochet project
- reorganised the shoffice
- managed to purchase flour or yeast
- ensured my children have completed all their home learning tasks
- posted x times a day on social media
- even switched on the telly for Joe Wicks, let alone contemplated joining in
- Taken part in any ‘nominate 10 friends to…’ memes
- drunk eleventy billion cups of tea (at least)
- been overwhelmed by the lovely messages and phone calls I’ve received from people seeing how we are at home – and made calls to friends and clients too
- been shopping for other people
- helped run virtual GirlGuiding meetings
- built several websites and an app
- walked more and appreciated spring
- probably drunk a bit too much wine
- been part of making this rather awesome video
We are doing what we need to do at this time.
My totally subjective and purely observational research suggests to me that we need to find what works for us. If you’re furloughed, you can’t be doing work for your business. Do something else that keeps you functioning and your brain ticking along. Even if it’s just for one cup of tea slot.
If your business is still open and can go online now is probably the time to do so – but do your research first. What are your competitors up to, will your potential customers be able (or choose) to afford what you’re offering??
Social Media – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If you haven’t got anything nice to post, don’t post anything at all. You are not a failure if you don’t post. If staying away from social media makes your mental health improve, that is more important than anything else.
Put your judgey pants away.
I’m finishing with that statement. NHS workers travel to work, in their cars, not in uniform/scrubs. People’s dogs may be a bit woofier than usual, kids may be (OMG!) playing in gardens and making a noise. Some people may actually need to buy loo roll and bleach (or earl grey teabags..). That terribly urgent email may not be answered to your timescale but the person at the other end, I am in no doubt, is doing what they can do. The world is winging it. Be kind.