How Business Strategy is Developed in a Crisis
I remember how excited I was in the weeks before the start of 2020. Newly married, I was finishing out the highest earning year in my Speaking/Coaching business. Toward the end of December, I’d written my 2020 goals up on the wall near my desk. I had my business strategy in place, my systems set up. Speaking engagements filled the calendar. Life seemed to be going in just the right direction.
And then in January, things started changing. Slowly. We started hearing about a strange virus over in China. At first, I completely ignored it. However, it became more and more difficult to ignore as January moved into February, and we began hearing more and more about it. First in Europe and then here in the United States.
Life changed very quickly, and I became concerned. Would I need to make changes in my 2020 business strategy?
Although I didn’t want to undermine other people’s feelings during this crazy time, I also knew I couldn’t make others’ stories my story. So often in the past, when a world crisis had occurred, I’d found myself getting caught up in the drama of the situation, so much so that it would take over my every thought. It would become my story.
That means when crises have hit in the past, I’ve often become paralyzed with fear. Glued to the news, I’ve let go of everything productive I’d been doing previously and become totally and completely focused on FEAR! And I can tell you right now that’s not an effective business strategy.
Every crisis I’ve faced has been a learning experience. I’ve learned as much about what not to do as what to do. In the process, I’ve come to understand how change in business strategy directly results from my own response to crises.
Reactionary Business Strategy
One crisis happened In September of 2001. After the 9-11 attacks, my real estate business came to a screeching halt. Here was a business that was booming, and I wasn’t mature enough to focus on what needed to get done for the sake of my family.
Instead, I allowed myself to be caught up in the cycle of drama that went on day after day on all the news channels. This was before social media, yet I had an endless barrage of emails coming and going—all focused on the attacks—as well as online newsgroups to participate in.
Then I created my own disaster by getting caught up in negativity, fear and hopelessness. My reactionary business strategy was as extreme as my emotions: I walked away from selling real estate.
Six years later after a lot of personal development, I moved to North Carolina. It was 2007. I’d had a long career in the printing industry as well, so in March of 2008, I purchased an existing printing company. I made my share of mistakes when purchasing the business and should have done a more thorough valuation; however, the economy seemed to be doing pretty well, and I ignored any warning signs about the business.
When the economy crashed in September 2008, the floor fell out from under us. Within weeks, we lost 50% of our client work. The new work that was still coming in was always being negotiated heavily by other business owners just trying to stay afloat. My employees were panicked. My business partner was panicked. And unlike what happened with the 9-11 attacks, this time I tried to keep my cool.
Yes, I was scared, but I worked hard to stay optimistic. So much so, that I ignored multiple warning signs that my business was in trouble. I figured if I dug my head into the sand, the worst would pass, and we’d come out okay on the other side.
During the first year of the recession, I received some extremely poor business advice, and unfortunately, I made the decision to act on it. I started taking printing orders from anybody and everybody that had an order. I was so focused on not going into an emotional tailspin again that I was trying to bring in as much work as possible, regardless if the work was truly profitable or not.
Again, I chose to keep my head in the sand… “The worst will surely pass,” I thought.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. More sales were coming into the business than before I purchased it, but it was so deep in debt, I couldn’t offset the bleeding. In July of 2013, I shut the doors for good.
Two crises. Two businesses gone. Two ineffective business strategies based on my negative emotional reactions.
In the months leading up to closing my business, I’d realized I wanted to make a major career change as a professional speaker and coach on referral marketing. I’m a great networker with a strong understanding of how to connect people in business. I see everyone as a puzzle piece with others being their corresponding pieces. Those are the business connections I make.
I’d built up so much good will in the business community that when I decided to change careers, I was instantly supported.
My first speaking engagement took place on July 3rd, 2013. Three quarters of the room was filled with supporters from my existing business network.
A new business was born. A new visionary strategy set in motion.
Effective Business Strategy Born in Crises
In March 2020, when states around the United States began shutdown orders due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, it occurred to me very quickly that I was going to have to make changes in my business strategy. The buzz word at that time was “pivot.” And pivot I did.
1. Be willing to adjust.
I had an in-person live event scheduled for March 24th in Cary, NC. Within days of the event, the governor made an executive order reducing crowd sizes to 10 people. Most of my events usually had between 50 and 100 people in attendance. There was no way I’d be able to go on, so I transitioned to my first live virtual event, a strategy I’d never even considered previously. Fortunately, everyone who’d registered for the in-person event still came to the virtual version, and aside from a couple of minor technical glitches, all went well. I felt confident and enthusiastic.
2. Keep emotions out of decision making.
I was sure the virus would be eradicated quickly, and things would get back to normal within three to six weeks. Every time the circumstances in the country worsened, I did everything I could to keep my emotions in check so I could make decisions based on sound strategy and not on whims.
3. Stay “others” focused.
I watched people go into a tailspin of fear, and I wanted to offer encouragement as quickly as I could, so I wrote a new book, “Mindset Matters: Setting Goals and Securing Sales,” and published it in record time. We even pulled off number one best seller status in multiple categories on Amazon. It was quite a rush, and I was happy many people were finding encouragement in the book. Crisis or not, a focus on helping others is always an effective business strategy.
4. Seek guidance outside yourself.
When we were ordered to stay home, I prayed for a peaceful heart. People I knew were dying, and I prayed for comfort. Friends were losing their businesses, and I prayed to be able to offer encouragement and solutions. Our country was in absolute turmoil politically, and I prayed that all our leaders could put their childish differences aside and work together. Prayer. Guidance from outside myself is something I cannot do without.
5. Remember that physical and mental well-being are essential to effective business strategy.
At times, I felt very encouraged, knowing that eventually things were going to be okay. Other times, I felt just the opposite, discouraged and down. My favorite place for my mental state is the gym. But gyms had been ordered to close, so I immediately got some weights and began working out at home and running outdoors. Keeping myself mentally and physically fit is crucial for business success.
6. Be careful what you’re watching and listening to.
Social media is one of my favorite places to find fun, escape and engage with friends, but It became poisoned with endless battles and wasn’t fun anymore. I was so disappointed at the things people I’d respected were saying to each other, and I wondered if they’d say the same things if the other person were standing in front of them. A social media presence is typically an effective business strategy, but in this case, it was more beneficial to scale back.
7. Be mindful of your mindset.
And through all of this, I constantly worked on keeping a positive mindset. I did a lot of personal development, stayed focused on helping others, and worked on my improving my coaching practice. I remained focused on the positives I have to offer, even turning virtual workshops into online self-study courses to expand my services.
Has this been the year I expected back on January 1st? Absolutely not.
However, I could fill up 20 libraries with all I’ve learned this year. My health is better than it’s ever been. With effective changes in business strategy early in the year, both of my businesses are maintaining.
And I had an incredible year being locked up with my incredible wife Julie. What a blessing that’s been for me. We’ve laughed together. We’ve gotten angry at the world together. We’ve encouraged each other. We’ve prayed together.
Will things be different in 2021? I feel pretty confident they will. Am I going to set goals for 2021? You better believe I’m going to. I’ll plan my goals, lay out my revised business strategy, find accountability and execute those goals and strategy.
What’s your plan for 2021? Have you put a visionary strategy in place that’s not a reactionary or head-in-the-sand approach?
The world doesn’t stop here, so you can’t get off. If you can’t get off, then you might as well keep going. Here’s to effective business strategy and growth in 2021!
What a great article! It really sums up what NOT to do- and what TO do – after you learn the lessons of the previous failures .,. and can help others with empathy and business savvy 😉. And what a wonderful thing to have a good wife to be in lockdown with – a blessing in disguise, right? ☺️
Thank you Laurel. I know you’ve got a good man at home, so I guess we both did pretty well this past year. 🙂