Kids and Questions

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be a young kid in all of this craziness that is 2020 so far. There’s a lot of responsibility when it comes to being a parent or caretaker of children, including the responsibility to explain some of the more difficult things in life to them. We get to (try to) explain things like Heaven and hell and faith, getting old, dying young, cancer, grades, money, and where the whole chicken-and-egg debate came from (and what the answer is).

And we get asked big questions about all we see/hear in the news like guns killing people or why it is wrong to call people by certain terms or why there are refugees. Using the gun/killing question, while the mechanics of how guns kill people or even some of the hard and cold facts of why people kill people (money, anger, accidents etc.), are things you can more or less explain to kids, it’s a lot harder to explain the heart or mind behind it, especially if we don’t understand (or it isn’t able to be explained).

And now we’re faced with a new challenge of trying to explain why we can’t touch each other, can’t go out and do our usual activities like go to school and get our hair cut and play on the playground, after doing exactly that for many generations. Maybe kids who have very ill family members can understand better, but thankfully most people aren’t in that situation, so most can’t understand or explain why a touch or activity that used to be OK is now not.

There have been some exercises videoed to show how easy it is to pass this virus along, using an old pre-pandemic example, think about that commercial with the dad with the light that reveals the “invisible” orange dust from fellow family members including the cat that he didn’t know they had who have eaten all of his snacks. So yes, on one level we can explain how it works, but there’s a whole lot about it that no one really knows yet, and we may never have all the answers. It’s hard to say that in this day and age with the internet and so many things being explainable or able to be captured on camera/audio that you just don’t know and no one really does.

In some ways, being faced with this virus and all the lack of knowledge is a good exercise in humility and keeping us humble. In this world where it seems like it’s possible to be good at just about anything with a little effort, research and/or money, it’s important to remember from time to time that we’re all still very human. Personally I look forward to getting back to trying to explain unicorns and how the color of the sky got the name it has. How are you helping kids navigate this time?

Asking Tough Questions

Here on the blogs we’ve been talking about questions a lot lately, and with good reason. Questions are a powerful tool to help with discovering the bigger picture, things that you might not consider on first blush and evaluate thoughts and plans. Sometimes you can go with your gut feeling and it’s OK, but more often than not it’s best to ask at least a couple of questions to make sure that you understand what’s being asked or shared or planned.

One of the questions I’ve asked in the past few weeks is how could we not expect that something like this would happen? I mean it’s not like we don’t ship products all around the world and we don’t travel all around the world: we do both of those on a very regular basis without much thought. We have experienced natural disasters around the world and anticipate, plan for or at least discuss the possibility of them happening regularly or in the future. So why don’t we anticipate that an illness in one part of the world would travel to another, let alone the whole world?

Maybe part of it is not wanting to believe it could, or believing that we’re healthy enough to not be affected, or not being willing to recognize similarities, or that medical professionals know more than enough to beat something quick, or not having the mental space to consider an additional stressor in our already stress-filled lives. It’s kind of ironic that this virus has both increased stress and decreased it with the lack of activity most have been asked to follow.

Apparently we’re finding out now that some have asked this question before, the rest of us just weren’t willing to hear the question and their thoughts or didn’t think there was a high enough probability that it would be a reality so we focused on more immediate threats. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I do think it’s important to consider out-of-the-box things at least every year so that we don’t get blindsided like this again. This week I encourage you to take some time to consider the questions you’ve been avoiding regarding your life, relationships and success. Even if you don’t come up with all the answers, having taken the time to consider the questions might be enough to help you in the future.

What Comes Next: Partnership and Teamwork

In continuing the essential conversation of where we go from here as businesses, I think one great place to start is with looking at what we’ve been doing during this pandemic, and that’s working together. I’ve always been a big supporter and encourager of doing joint ventures, cross promotions and supporting each other, especially as small businesses. Yes, some larger stores like Target, Costco and BJ’s are well known for selling some products from small businesses, typically buying a block of products and selling them until they run out. And that’s a great step up for many companies on many levels. But they rarely do promotion of those products or the companies that run them, unlike small businesses often do for each other, exposing them to their audiences physically and virtually.

So starting with what we’ve been doing with the pandemic, what if we just started by asking how we can support each other? It’s what we’ve been doing to help each other survive through this very challenging time, but I think it’s also something that we should do more of after. Sometimes that need may be a product need, other times it’s a people need (team members to support a busy event), maybe it’s an introduction to a partner you’ve worked with in the past, other times it’s to do a joint venture on a product that would be great for their customers and provide some income for you. You can always say no or come back with another idea or different timeline, but there’s great potential to be had if we take the time to ask how we can help support each other and our communal success.

Beyond that, in the pandemic the big buzz word for many business owners is “pivot.” It’s not a new word, but recently become more relevant as we consider the current and possible future of how we sell and work together. In line with the idea of joint venture product production and asking how we can help, many companies are adjusting to meet the needs of people, including creating essential supplies that they’ve never planned or wanted to make. In some ways I think it will be more important than ever to be in the entertainment and hospitality industries in the future, that there will be an increased demand after seeing what we’ve lost or been unable to access. But we also have to consider what is really essential and how we can meet those needs in the future, because some businesses will definitely take a more permanent hit. I think all of our businesses will have to do some pivoting, likely by working together and learning from each other to do it.

Finally, I’ve been so excited and blessed by seeing how many companies and leaders are working together to get through this pandemic. I’ve been getting (relevant) updates from politicians, more than just requests for money from non profits, whole industries are working together rather than fighting for customers or seeing each other as competition, and companies are working together to get food and other necessary products into the hands of people who need them. Most of these don’t take a lot of money, but they make a big difference for a lot of people, even if it’s just to show that they care and aren’t just about the bottom line.

Do you have experience working with other businesses? Has this experience over the past few months changed how you’re going to do business and who you’re doing it with?

Navigating Business Uncertainty

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now in the world, and one of the biggest challenges to or aspects of that uncertainty is how fast the information changes. It’s hard to make a lot of concrete plans and communications from a business perspective because you don’t know how quickly the supply chain will pick back up, or if the supply chain that’s working now will struggle in the coming weeks, or what will happen with the health of your team and how affected they’ll be by the situation, or if you’ll be able to do the work you need to do to create content or products while suddenly having to teach your kids as well for the rest of the school year, or how your customers are doing with finances and when people might be back to relatively normal life situations.

One option at this point is to simplify. This would mean that you would offer fewer products and services right now, focus on promoting just those that you’re able to support, offer only new products/services that are specific to the season or situation, and/or don’t work on developing anything new. Don’t send as many newsletters or promotions out at this time as you usually do, just every week or so to keep in touch with customers and let them know you’re there to support them. This all keeps you moving as a business but not at the usual pace or with the usual level of activity to be sensitive to both the changing situations and the change in your customer’s (and employee’s) lives.

One option is to just support. You can also choose to do no promotions, but stay in touch with your customers and offer support. Still send out the daily newsletter (or whatever your usual frequency is) and social posts, but not with any outright promotions and only with content that supports your customers getting through the challenging time now (helpful and/or fun tips and other media). You won’t do any outright promotion at this time but you will still maintain your store/site to the best of your ability so that customers who choose to could purchase.

Of course you can also do a combination of these two options, but whatever you choose to do during this time, you should make it abundantly clear what your decision is to all of your customers and employees, updating them as things change and as necessary. If you’re one of the essential businesses right now you should choose to communicate more frequently with updates (sending out daily/weekly updates about service availability, product supply and/or order shipments), and if you’re not an essential business your customers probably don’t need up-to-the-minute updates so you can just hit the highlights weekly or when you’ve got an update. Regular and consistent communications will help your customers and team members feel less alone and isolated during this time, give them something to look forward to, and help build or continue your relationship for when life returns to some level of normal.

How are you navigating this crisis as a business and business owner?

Be Careful What You Ask For

I distinctly remember when we were working our way out of 2019 and into 2020 how excited we were about moving into a new year and new decade, emphasis on the “new,” and leaving behind what had been a rough couple of years for some of us. Well, the funny thing about putting something out into the universe is that you have to be careful about what you put out there. I say this because we most certainly are working towards something new, by ways of a world-wide pandemic which is something that I don’t think anyone would have agreed to as part of the process to “new.”

I get asked questions by other business owners and people working to achieve success all the time and more times than not I have to ask for clarification on what they’re asking because the question they asked me was really vague or could be answered in a dozen different ways. Sometimes what you really need is someone helping you figure out how to ask a better question or to figure out what a better question is, but that’s not typically what people are thinking about or looking for. I love giving advice, but I could give hours of advice before I really get to the topic that would benefit someone unless they have a (more) specific question or topic.

The good news is that we are indeed presented with the opportunity to create something new, awesome, powerful and supportive for ourselves and the others that we share this world with. If we’re honest, how do we expect to get something new if we don’t make changes, right? Part of the challenge is that we probably weren’t very clear back in 2019 what “new” looked like anyway, we just knew that we didn’t want what we had been experiencing. Hopefully this pandemic development will be like ripping a band-aid off, and it just very expediently brought us to a bottom and we’ll have just enough time to consider and make plans for next steps by the time things start to turn around.

Take time to process the losses you’re experiencing and the dramatic change of your life, it’s totally normal to be experiencing some or all of the stages of grief as part of this journey. Then send thoughts of kindness, love and healing to the world, focusing on healing rather than the fear or uncertainties. I don’t have all the answers to what our new world will look like or when we’ll get there, but I do know that you’ve got options on how you move through this challenge. The future will eventually be here, we will eventually move through this crisis, and what “new” looks like will depend largely on what you do with this time. What do you want the new future to look like?

Doing Your Part

This weekend I was reading about the Pope and how dramatically different His world, and all faith worlds, are right now, since no one can gather in their religious spaces with all of the requirements of staying at home to stop the spread of the virus. One article I read raised the question that some people ask, and that’s where’s the church been lately? To be fair, unlike with other world-challenging situations, those of religious backgrounds can’t do a whole lot and aren’t able to minster in their typical ways. But I digress, that’s not really what we’re here to talk about today. Instead I want to talk about a variation on that question, and that’s what do we do in this situation? What is ‘our part’ (from the saying “do your part”)?

Is it staying at home? Is it cheering for medical professionals at a certain time with open windows? Is it moving the economy along? Is it giving people time to heal before the world resumes activities? Is it bringing groceries to neighbors? Is it taking a job where you can? Is it panicking? With the exception of the last idea there, I don’t believe there is one right answer. This is true for many aspects of our lives: there isn’t only one right way to success, there isn’t always a single right relationship to be in for your whole adult life, there isn’t a best nutritional plan to follow for everyone, there isn’t only one good way to raise or educate children, there isn’t one thing that makes everyone happy universally.

But it does speak to one of the most universal truths, and that’s that we’re all human and should be respected and treated as such. It means accepting that everyone won’t love you and what you’re passionate about. It means you won’t always see eye to eye with everyone on every topic. It means we’ll all work through this challenge/trauma differently.  It means we’ve each had different life experiences. But it also means that, especially when situations like these present (but not exclusive to them), it’s always good to interact with each other with compassion, love, a patient heart and mind, and a willingness to listen.

To address the earlier question, there’s one thing all of us can do, and that’s share something encouraging or supportive or even funny with others in our realm of influence. Keep sending out newsletters and blogging in your (business/non-profit) community even if they’re of a little different topic than usual. Stay connected by sharing on social media and through text and phone calls and on online communities. Pass on knowledge you have that can help someone else through this challenge. And if you feel capable of doing something beyond that, then with appropriate investigation and planning, go ahead and do that.

The only way our communities will emerge from this intact is if we make the effort to stay connected and not shy away from the world or erect mental and emotional boundaries where there are currently physical ones.  How are you keeping your community strong?

Reality Reflection: Victories and Change

We talk a lot about the topic of change when it comes to life and victories, and yet we’ve never faced a change quite like this in our lives. This challenge has created a lot of stress in our lives and created lots of changes, but has also opened up a lot of opportunities for us. I’m talking about the things that we’ve thought about doing for months if not years, and never made the time or been handed the time to get that stuff done. I don’t like many of the changes and challenges we’re facing right now any more than you do, but we’ve got a choice what we’re going to do with what’s been handed to us.

Like other times in our lives, I think it is important to take time to grieve and attempt to comprehend our changed world. It’s absolutely likely that we’ll return to what we used to know as normal sometime in the near future, but something of this scale cannot be quickly forgotten, nor the scars erased so quickly. If we don’t take time to process and plan for something of this nature in the future, all of the people who experienced great loss during this time (and that’s many people around the world) will have made those sacrifices in vain. All or most of all of us are suffering or sacrificing in one way or another at this time, most of us are disrupted in some way or another, and there’s no shame in admitting that you need time to rant about it or time to process the way your heart is breaking. So go ahead and take time if and when you need it to process not only the tragedy happening, but also the possible ways our world will change in the future.

Then choose how you’re going to move forward with your life. Choose to make the best decisions you can about your health and nutrition. Choose to invest in the relationships that mean the most to you. Do the best you can to invest and plan ahead for something challenging like this in the future. And do something each and every day to feel a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s cleaning out a closet, doing your taxes, exercise, cleaning up your garden, painting a room, cooking a meal, playing with your pet(s), doing homework with your kids, spending quality time with your significant other or reading a book.

There are no hard and fast answers at this time, so it’s up to each of us to do our best with where we’re at. Take advantage of any time you’ve been given and put it to good use. Don’t let a day go by that you tell someone you love them or are thankful for them. Never forget that each and every day of health and life is a gift. Do something positive each day, and choose to live your life.

The Value of a Painting

This week in the art world something very interesting happened: a Da Vinci painting sold for $450 million. That’s just a few dollars, no big deal, I bet you’ve got that under your mattress for a rainy day, right? Not likely. However, as I was marveling over the fact that someone just spent that much money on a poster sized painting, it got me thinking about what it really means for us and our businesses.

In fact, it’s really great news for us. It means that there is money to be spent, people are buying, and people are willing to spend a lot of money. So the next time someone says that you’re not doing well in business because no one is buying anything, think again. That person or people who just bought that painting still need to eat and live somewhere and have clothes and probably watch TV and talk on their phones just like the rest of us. So take a moment to celebrate that and let yourself be relieved that there is money to be earned.

But what you can’t ignore about this incredible purchase is that the reason that someone paid $450 million for a painting is because of the perceived value. Someone has an overwhelming desire to have this painting in their possession. Maybe your tax audits or websites or cups of soup aren’t quite as interesting as a painting by Da Vinci, but you’re not asking $450 million for them. So it becomes a question of have you communicated the value, the interest, the intrigue behind what you’re offering, and have you told anyone about what you’re offering?

Take some time this weekend before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday start next week Friday and make sure that you’re communicating clearly the value that you bring to the table.

What’s The Real Issue?

A friend of mine is moving and therefore leaving the company they’ve worked at for many years.  They’re a hard worker and have many years of experience in their field and since they started hinting about their departure a year or so ago the company has tried to replace them with varying measures of success and failure (mostly failure).  So we were discussing why it’s so hard for the company to replace them.  Of course my friend is top-notch in their field, but there’s a lot more to the story than this individual being great.  And our conversation got me thinking about why we don’t succeed at some things, or why some things don’t work out as we would expect.

Someone could say ‘I’m not getting anywhere with my Facebook page’, and you could look at the page, see the page is updated maybe every 2 months and then only with a sales pitch and come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not successful is they’re not posting consistently. Someone could say ‘I’m not selling anything’ and you take a look at their business and see that they haven’t done any marketing beyond establishing their physical and online stores, and come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not selling is because they’re not marketing. In another case someone could say “I’m not getting any sales” and you look at their products and see that there’s nothing unique about the products, come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not getting sales is because their products aren’t unique.

Now, we could go back to the same 3 examples and probably find other reasons why they’re not successful in those areas, but what it comes down to is the fact that the issue isn’t really the issue. Yes, not getting anywhere with Facebook or not making any sales are issues, but what they really point to is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed first. Until that larger issue is addressed the smaller issue won’t be able to be completely resolved. Sure, you can make some headway by doing paid FB ads, adding more stores online and offline, or adding more products respectively, but that’s really not addressing the issue that needs to be addressed.

To follow through on our examples, my friends’ company doesn’t need someone who can technically do their job, they need someone who’s a leader and able to help the employees they’re responsible for be more successful in their jobs, and/or hire new employees who are qualified for and have the attitude for success.  In the case of the Facebook page example unless the business really uses all of FB’s aspects along with a solid content strategy they won’t get anywhere.  In the case of the business not selling anything but having physical and online stores, you can have the best products or services in the world but if you don’t market them, you can’t sell them.  In the case of the generic products, yes, there will always be a need for generic products, but why be generic if you can bring something unique to the marketplace?

Today I would encourage you to sit down and take a look at the things that have presented as issues or you’re concerned about and look a bit deeper into them and see if you’re missing the real issue.

A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar