Hey guys, today we’re going to talk about what to do with your business during a crisis, whatever kind of crisis that might be. I’m going to have some personal stories in this one.
And one of them I’m going to talk about is just a really great teacher I had when I was in high school. We’ve all probably had a few great teachers. (If you did not, I am so sorry for you because I have so many lasting life lessons from particular teachers.) And this particular one, Mr. Korver, was wonderful at teaching nuanced lessons from the same history stories we’ve heard time and again
I think that nuance, looking between the lines, really informs a lot of my writing today–that’s probably why he was one of my favorite high school teachers.
But the story I’m actually going to tell you about Mr. Korver has nothing to do with history. It was one of the most memorable high school moments and it was about another student, Mike. So Mike was kind of a screw-up. I didn’t really know him that well. He didn’t always take things seriously.
And he came in late the third week of the semester. Our school gave two free tardies, and then the third would result in a discipline hour. And this tardy, as you may have guessed, was Mike’s third. So he begged for a pass for Mr. Korver like, hey, please don’t turn that one in. And Mr. Korver explained that that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the students. And eventually, in front of all the rest of us in class, they made a deal, Mr. Korver would hold the tardy slip on his desk and not turn it in, so long as Mike was at his desk at the start of class for the rest of the semester, which was another 15 weeks. And you know what? Mike did it. He did the work. He showed up on time, every day for the next 15 weeks, even though in the first three weeks, he’d already been late three times.
It’s a good story, right? It’s super memorable. It has a good moral lesson.
Just Do The Work
It shows that when you put your head down, you put your mind to something, you can do it that we all can do it.
But you know, we’re not all Nike. Just do it doesn’t work all the time, right? Just do the work.
Just get better.
Just build momentum.
Just get those 10,000 hours of Gladwell-approved practice in and you’re good.
They make it sound so easy.
And you know, it often is easy when you’re in the flow when you’re in a good mood when writer’s block isn’t wearing its ugly head, right? But what about when you’re not in the flow? What about the time imposter syndrome has completely overtaken your thoughts. (Side note, go listen to my action cures fear podcast episode, it would be incredibly helpful if that is what’s stopping you from doing the work right now.)
But what about when things are worse? You’re depressed, your parents are getting divorced after 40 years together, your husband is unemployed and stressed to the max and it’s rubbing off on you, the pandemic has completely turned your world upside down. Due to a pandemic, your child who receives special services no longer has access to those services and is making you want to die inside. I think they call it depression. Right?
Yeah, that’s personal. By the way, that all happened to me in the first year of the pandemic.
But I persevered. I did the work. Anyway.
Arguably, I did not always do it perfectly. Mastery, not perfection. That was always and still is my goal. But I showed up, I did the work. And since relaunching my podcast in September two years ago, I think I’ve skipped two, maybe three weeks of episodes. Since committing to showing up on Instagram and now LinkedIn on a regular basis, I’ve rarely not.
Until… what about when things aren’t just low-grade bad, but a whole different level that bad?
I’m about to share some deeply personal things. While I’m not finished learning the lessons from the first half of 2022, and I’m sure I could add more to this article with even more hindsight down the road, I have figured out three things that have shown me through my current crisis. I hope to God you don’t have reason to identify exactly with my story, but I do know at some point your life is going to get in the way of business-as-usual. And you’re going to want a few things to lean on to implement or just remind you when it happens.
Business During a Crisis
In January, I was trucking along, much like the rest of us nearing the end of a second pandemic year, and I was in the process, much like the rest of us, of making a few business shifts. In my case, leaning more into content strategy, more heavily into content measurement, and less into funnel building for new clients. I was trying to figure out how to share that publicly, I was looking at changing my website, some of my funnels, and definitely revisiting some of my email stuff.
And then, on a Thursday night, a friend called me and asked her to come over. And she proceeded to sob on my couch for a few hours, she wasn’t doing well. And the next day, she decided to end her life.
To say that stopped and completely rocked my world is such a gross understatement. Up to this point, I had lost a few grandparents, and that was never a friend my age, never something violent, never something tragic, just good old – you’ve-lived-a-long-life old age. I hadn’t done grief before. And while she wasn’t my best friend, and wasn’t someone I saw every day, we were connected enough that she came to me in what was a very dark hour.
I have gone through so many feelings of guilt, failure, arrogance, sadness.
I stopped working on anything that wasn’t mandatory. There was a day I missed a client deadline, something I’ve never done till now. A week in, I reached out to my mastermind group and just said I didn’t know what to do. Every time I sat at the computer I just stared at the screen. Once I realized I hadn’t moved in an hour and the screen was blank in front of me. Once I sat on the couch the entire day and read a book. I never even bothered making it into my office.
My mastermind group said to just not work till I felt good again.
But I didn’t feel like that was an option. We had just bought a fixer house. And we depend on my income. We had a lot of house projects that needed doing. (Hi, A/C and completely new plumbing!)
I’d also just started turning away funnel work a month prior to this happening. And I needed to build up the content measurement clientele that I had been planning on. This, of course, added to my stress load knowing that I was doing nothing to drum up a new business and I really needed to or the rest of the year was going to be a tough year.
Three weeks into all of this we left for Florida. Initially, it was to help take care of my grandfather who wanted to winter in Florida one last time. But then he broke his hip. And it changed to be visiting him at rehab daily and sneaking in real food for him. And then, the day we arrived at our sunny, quasi family vacation and frankly much-needed break, my grandfather died too. I think I would have handled it just fine had I have not just had the month I had but, you know, that was my life at that point.
To top it all off, I also attended in Florida, a marketing conference run by people I don’t really agree with on many marketing ethics and more importantly, who had just told me to leave the community that I was involved in if I didn’t agree with them. I chose to go to the conference anyway. I’d paid for it a year prior. And I was really looking forward to making in-person connections for the first time in a few years but it was stressful being there. And knowing the ethics involved, I was constantly on guard making sure I wasn’t ingesting information that wouldn’t align with me when I was already in a fairly vulnerable state.
When I came home from all of that, I was just tired. I started going to bed before 9 pm, I wasn’t motivated to work, I was just like, done for a bit. I hung out in that space for another month or so till April hit and I actually wanted to start working again after two months of not really doing a whole lot other than the necessary planned projects I was already contracted for.
That’s my crisis. And am I completely through it? I still randomly cry when I hear a certain song or word. I totally still do and I imagine that’s going to be that way for a while having not done this whole grief thing before. I don’t really know what I’m in for. But I have a business to run and I do genuinely enjoy working most of the time.
So how am I getting back into it? What are the business lessons here? And if you are entering or already in crisis mode, what can you do now, to manage yourself doing it during it if you don’t have the option of simply ignoring your business.
Rely On Your Business Systems
If you’re a regular follower, you might be wondering, how did I not see any of this? The answer is I, Britney, have systems in my business that allow me to skirt on by when I’m super busy. I never intended them to be for a two-month-long crisis. But as it turns out, is exactly what I needed. I have been very upfront about the fact that I typically only work about 20 hours a week. And that is my business by design. My business supports my life, not the other way around. Because I only work 20 hours a week, I’ve had to implement certain systems in my business, so that when I am really heavy on a client project in a week, my own business, all the things that continue to bring business to me, don’t get slipped by the wayside.
Systems That Worked For Me
So what are the systems that worked for me during this time period?
I had content planned out for two months when I started. It wasn’t all created, but it was all planned.
I had content planned out for two months when this started. It wasn’t all created, but it was all planned. Did I still have to show up and record a podcast or film for Instagram every so often? I did. But I didn’t have to do the heavy thinking and creativity that would lead up to that creation because it was already done.
I recently had Brittany Long on the podcast talking about the hidden beauty of evergreen, year-long email sequences. HELLO, crisis. This is your friend. While I don’t yet have a full year in the email bank, I’ve been working towards it since 2021. And if you’re on my email list, you’ve seen zero evidence of my reclusion recently as a result.
My podcast producer probably noticed a lack of attention, but because she’s fantastic and on top of things, it really only took a few well-placed nudges from her that got me on task for the hands-on things I really did need to do. And while my audience didn’t know this, my normal two months ahead schedule did at one point dip down to only two weeks ahead. But because my content creation engine was primed, it kept running.
Areas Where I Need Systems
Now let’s talk about the areas where I need systems. Where did I fall down? One was lead generation. I was in the process of changing services in my business, so I don’t yet have a great lead generation system in place. And without that system to keep me going I fell down hard in this area.
And at the beginning of the year, I committed to contacting two podcast hosts per week for potential guest spots. Or if not podcast hosts, people who host masterminds for guest speaking slots, things like that. I also fell down here. Again, I fell down because I didn’t have a good system in place.
Work when the inspiration strikes.
I read a lot of crappy fiction books during this time, including the whole Bridgerton series. They’re incredibly formulaic. And that formula inspired an idea I’ll be launching soon–on how to create your own content grid when you’re feeling stifled and don’t know what to say.
As a whole, I didn’t feel creative during this time. But there were times I did and I used them.
One day I walked into my husband’s office and asked him to take the kids to the gym during dinner time because I wanted to work. Good man that he is, he saw some spark of his old wife and did it. I mapped out the entire client-focused content live series from March during this time period, the same content series that is now my new email opt-in gift. Did I also go to bed at 9 PM that night? I did. But I used two magical hours to get creative strategy work in.
Pare Down To The Needle-Movers
And then the final lesson is paring down to what really moves the needle in your business.
God works in mysterious ways, right? That’s the saying. Last year after talking about content strategy and creation techniques for years, I built out Content Lab in two different ways and realized the missing piece was measurement. I dove straight in and figured out how to double down and offer content measurement as a service. That is the gold in a content creation strategy that doesn’t take over your life, measurement.
I’ve been using my own business along the way, as an example.
And in the last few months of 2021, I realized that hour for hour, Instagram is no longer serving my business as well as it used to. That doesn’t mean it’s not working at all, but it’s definitely not pulling the weight that it used to. I started looking into other arenas for brand awareness, and I actually started paying attention to LinkedIn.
Why did I realize this? I looked at my own personal content measurement dashboard, and I saw the numbers, data-driven marketing depends on data. And friends, when you are trying to avoid your feelings, numbers might be the last thing that you want to dive into. Or it might be the easiest. I spent a lot of time looking at my numbers, because for me, that was easy. I had already done the hard work of setting it up, all I had to do is open something, look at it, and then lose myself in poring through the data for a little while.
And when I did that a truth smacked me in the face. While Instagram is easy for me, it’s not moving the needle in my business.
Remember I said my lead generation system kind of fell down? Instagram used to be a big part of that. And it’s no longer moving the needle in my business. So if I was going to spend so much time not working–and to be bluntly honest, I had no idea how long that funk was going to last–I needed to focus hard on what was actually doing some of the hard work for me. And it’s my content. But it’s my content in a more search-friendly arena. And that is not Instagram.
My story might look nothing like your life. Or, maybe a loved one–or even you–just got diagnosed with a crappy disease. Maybe your kid is really struggling and it’s all you can think about. Maybe you’re on the precipice of divorce. Whatever is going on, hugs. Virtual hugs can be fuel, too.
Oh, and before I finish this up, by the way, Mike’s story, you know, that screw-up story from the beginning of the episode, it comes up a lot in my world. I tell that story every so often because Mike is now my brother-in-law. He went on after high school to both music school and get a bachelor’s degree. He is now a full-time musician who makes a real living doing what he loves. And he’s launched an online music school for kids. Like, how cool is that? My sister visited me back in February when I was in the deep throes of all that we’ve talked about here and she told me about his impending school launch. And it is actually one of the things that did inspire me to do some good creative work.
Fellow creatives, you know how that works. You see someone doing something cool, and it inspires you. And that was a huge gift during that time period. So use whatever is going on in your life, for whatever reason you need to pare down what you’re doing to what really works rather than what’s really easy. It’ll help keep your business afloat even if you’re not growing at that point. Relying heavily on the systems that you’ve created in your business is okay. And when you do feel so lead, work.
The final lesson here, guys.
It’s not business. It’s good friends that matter.
And you know who you are if you’re hearing this. This has not been an easy time period for me. And again, I don’t know when I’m going to feel completely back to normal. But I am feeling inspired to work again. And it feels good. I am so so happy to be able to say that. I’m also happy to say I can, with hindsight, look back and say these are the things that functioned well during this time period. And these other things, they are things that did not function well. These are the things I need to work on. And because of that, I’ve got a good direction for the rest of the year. Has it all gone as planned? No, no, it has not all gone as planned. But, and this is what I think we can all agree on, to live.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. And when we work in these micro or solo businesses, we need to make sure that we are taking care of business so that the thing that should be easy, (your income, the thing you love doing) doesn’t fall by the wayside, too.