Home Blog Business intelligence: making informed business decisions during the pandemic

    Business intelligence: making informed business decisions during the pandemic

    By Lauren Kress | grow your brand, blog, season 2 | 18 Mar 2020 |

    In this episode, we explore what is happening with the COVID-19 response and why, what you can do to prepare for the forecasted coronavirus driven recession and sustainability strategies to consider when making decisions about business and marketing activities in these times of uncertainty.

    Prefer to read? Scroll down for the full transcript of today's show.

    Key discussion points:
    1. The current global economic situation
    2. How COVID-19 is impacting different industry sectors
    3. COVID-19 impact on small business
    4. The current mindset and emotional state of business owners
    5. How to mentally and emotionally navigate the current crisis
    6. Where to from here? What can we do?
    7. Building resilience and staying grounded

    Learn more about our experts from today's show on LinkedIn:

    A big thank you to all the experts that made this episode possible!

    Menno Middeldorp on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mennomiddeldorp/

    My husband Henry

    Steve Carfino on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-carfino/

    Ricardo Guiterrez on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rigutie/

    Robin Miles on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/highperformancecoach/

    Tulsi Van der Graaf on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tulsivandegraaff/

    Evonne Englezos on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/evonne-englezos-executive-coaching/

    Links to get in touch with Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist®

    Tweet with Lauren: @laurenkress89

    Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurenkress89/

    Or you can also come and say hi on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenkressconsulting

    To find out more about Lauren’s one-off brand strategy sessions to help your brand:
    • Respond to the customer mindset shift
    • Strategically communicate with customers and stakeholders
    • Create meaningful online brand experiences respond to the crisis 

    Send an email to: lauren.kress@thechangemakers.org.au

    To access other episodes, show notes, resources and more head over to: www.laurenkress.com/grow-your-brand

    Full Show Transcript

    Lauren Kress: G'day everyone and welcome to a special episode of Grow Your Brand, the podcast show where we talk about how to unlock your potential so you can get more out of your life and change the world for the better.

    I’m your host Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist® and you’ll note this isn’t part 3 of developing your style as promised but something quite different.

    Looking around at the world right now and the chaos, fear and uncertainty that has embedded itself in our collective lives, I wanted to do what I could to provide you with insights from a range of experts about how to take care of yourself and your business during this time.

    So in this episode we’re going to explore what is happening with the coronavirus response and why, what you can do to prepare for the onset of the global recession we are seeing emerge from the coronavirus response and sustainability strategies to consider when making decisions about business and marketing activities in times of uncertainty.

    So you’ll be hearing less from me today and more from an extremely generous and insightful group of people who have taken the time to share their knowledge with me and with you listening in amongst everything that is going on for them personally and professionally as well.

    Please check the show notes to find out more about how to get in touch with experts featured on today’s episode. Depending on what you guys think of this episode and what happens in the coming days and weeks I may do a few more episodes in response to the current health crisis we’re dealing with.

    Now I want to explain a little about how I’ve put this episode together because I believe one of the big issues with a lot of myths that guide our decision making in our daily lives come from relying on traditional media for information.

    Obviously, you’re listening to a podcast so you’re not just getting your information from mainstream media, but what you may notice is that when we rely on news updates on what’s happening we get the cold hard facts but we actually miss out on a lot of the context that we require to acquire meaningful insight.

    The news tends to focus on the what story, but less on the how stories and extremely rarely on the why stories, and this can make it difficult to piece together what is going on.

    So it doesn’t help us very much when it comes to making decisions and taking action. Instead it builds fear and sends us into panic. It’s actually why I don’t spend a lot of time listening to or watching the news.

    There’s a really great book by Alain de Botton on this topic. It’s called The News.

    For me when it comes to gathering information, I don’t want panic and piecemealed facts, I want meaningful insight and transformative knowledge. So what inspired me to do this episode was to address the knowledge gap for business owners and entrepreneurs out there who want to get clear on how they can navigate the coming days and weeks when there is so much uncertainty.

    This episode is an extra long episode because I wanted to explore this topic at a deeper level which I believe will be of most use and value to you at this time.

    We will start by taking a look at the current situation and how the response to the coronavirus is impacting industry sectors and in particular small businesses within these sectors.

    Then we’re going to talk about the mindset and emotional wellbeing of business owners right now and how to mentally and emotionally navigate the current crisis to be in a position to make better decisions. Then we’ll look at where to from here, what we can do and what we can take the time to appreciate and look forward to.

    Just to let you know upfront, the first part of the episode may trigger anxiety or fear because the current situation is challenging, but I promise you that if you keep listening, there are lots of strategies and actions we discuss to help you take care of your business, your staff and your mental health in relation to this situation, so make sure you listen all the way to the end of the show.

    In putting this show together I have to say personally I’m feeling a lot more positive and can now see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Before we move onto the main segment of the show today I do want to stress one more thing. Everyone’s situation is different. It is why the advice I share and the advice our experts today share is in relation to the processes, practices and strategies available to us to help inform our decision making process. The fact of the matter is that no matter how knowledgeable an expert is, they can’t provide direct advice on what you should do as a business next without knowing more about your current circumstance.

    What they can comment on is the frameworks that are helpful to employ and new and noteworthy considerations to factor into your decision making process.

    So let’s start at the beginning, what’s happening with the coronavirus and how are the current restrictions impacting the economy?

    I asked Menno Middeldorp, Chief Economist at Rabobank to explain:

    Menno Middeldorp: I think that right now we're seeing the onset of a global recession due to the virus and the measures taken against it, we would expect that production is sharply lower in this part of the year, then what was before. And we would expect that during the rest of the year, that there will be a recovery once the measures are lifted, but that we won't be able to get back at least not within this year all the production that was lost, particularly in sectors where catch up is not really a possibility.

    Think example for restaurants or people, you know, they're not going to go to a restaurant a lot more during the rest of the year than they would have anyway so you know, the loss of restaurant services that happened in the beginning of the year when the virus was active and the regulations or restrictions against it were active are never going to be caught back up.

    The impact of the corona virus on the economy is likely to be different than what we saw during the great financial crisis. That was a credit crunch. The financial system was able to lend to companies and that created a sharp contraction followed by an extended period of slow growth.

    This is different in the sense that it's an external shock. And that's coming from a virus and in particular, the response to that virus.

    All the measures that have been put in place in different countries starting in China, but also now in most European countries, to contain the spread of the virus are really important to save lives, but they do put big restrictions on the economy.

    Lauren Kress: So are these restrictions necessary? Why are they in place? My husband Henry, an Emergency Doctor put it like this:

    Henry: The problem we've got with Coronavirus at the moment is that there's only so many doctors, nurses, and beds in the hospital. If everybody in the society gets sick at one time, we don't have anybody to look after anybody or have any beds in hospitals to put people in.

    So the idea is that by slowing the spread of infection by social distancing, by not shaking hands or hugging, by not going by counselling or these big things like AFL matches and conferences, and so forth, that will really slow the spread of infection down so that only a few people get sick at any one time, and so that we can look after everybody.

    Lauren Kress: Whilst social distancing is a critical step in managing the health crisis that has already overwhelmed a number of healthcare systems across Europe, the empty shelves at the supermarket, the closed restaurants and the cancelled conferences and sports events is eerie and surreal to say the least.

    Sports commentator and basketball hall of famer Steve Carfino explains things are uncertain for sports at every level right now.

    Steve Carfino: The coronavirus has rocked the sporting world, I didn't understand the severity of the coronavirus affecting sport until the NBA postponed their season till further notice when one of their players was infected by the virus. The Utah Jazz was the first team to have anybody and then the league just postponed the season till further notice and then college basketball in the US followed March Madness cancelled and so that is just unbelievable because that is the crescendo of college basketball for them to just pull the plug on that is massive.

    Here in Australia, the NBL had the best of five series between the Perth Wildcats and the Sydney kings where game two and game three were played without fans. And then after that the series was cancelled, so I'm not even sure how that works, who's the champion? If there's going to be an asterix as to whether the Perth Wildcats win because they were leading the series to one so who knows where that series is going to end up.

    In the football codes, NRL cancelled this week and then postponed the next week. AFL rugby so the football codes have been affected, postponed or cancelled. School sports have been rocked as we moved into the winter term and so are the football codes and various sports at school.

    School tournaments have been cancelled, carnivals have been cancelled and school just today have been trialling a remote system where the kids are going to be working from home sosport, school, professional at the collegiate level all took a backseat to this virus.

    Lauren Kress: But what if coronavirus isn’t in your country yet? Do you need to worry? Or is it business as usual?

    Menno Middeldorp: I think for companies that are outside of countries that are already affected this may seem like something that's far away, but there's a good chance that the virus will affect their country as well. It's good to plan ahead for those contingencies.

    And secondly, even if they aren't directly affected by the virus at some point in the future, they may be by either supply chain effects, because they may not be able to source parts they need more other inputs they need, or they may be affected by a decline in demand from the rest of the world, either because they're exporters, or because they're part of an economy that exports to the rest of the world. So this is really going to affect most people in most countries in some way or the other.

    Lauren Kress: So how is this impacting small business? Menno Middeldorp adds...

    Menno Middeldorp: A lot of small businesses are particularly vulnerable to this recession because there's a sharp decrease in the demand for their services. That means there's no cash coming in and as a result of this much lower cash flow, they're going to have difficulty meeting their obligations. So, I think for a lot of companies in general, but small businesses in particular, that don't have big cash reserves. This is a particularly troubling situation.

    Lauren Kress: I asked Robin Miles from Inspire Me Consulting to share his perspective. Robin is a high performance coach and consultant who works with executives, teams and organisations to help them make conscious and collaborative decisions and explains many business owners are feeling overwhelmed.

    Robin Miles: So for small businesses right now, things are really pretty challenging because I think a lot of big organisations, yes, they've been impacted by it, but they've got a propensity to be able to kind of absorb some of this and those types of things. Whereas small business, I think it can be, really I think we need to identify for ourselves, our own mindset and what's going on. I think the reality is that a lot of us are actually in a whole mindset of overwhelm and that's what's actually kind of going on for us.

    Lauren Kress: In Australia, many small businesses have had a particularly challenging start to 2020. Ricardo Gutierrez is the Director of Bedssi Accommodation Solutions and he also runs an awesome podcast called the Innovator Diaries which I highly recommend checking out.

    Ricardo’s business helps all types of groups and delegations find the most suitable rooms in all major Australian cities and his business, like many businesses in Australia has been hit hard, not once but twice in 2020.

    Ricardo Gutierrez: So far, the coronavirus has impacted the education industry and the travel industry greatly. The universities and colleges mainly have been impacted first, because of the fires. Many students didn't come that were coming in study groups and customised groups, then the virus started to affect China. And a big chunk of students are from China. So when they stopped coming, that was a lack of revenue and students that they didn't have.

    Also, a lot of study groups and delegations come from that part of the world so that was the first impact. Then the virus started to spread and all the countries started to stop international travel. That's when all the rest of us started to get impacted, because all the students that had paid and all the groups that had paid started to cancel. Obviously, refunds had to be given. And yes, everybody is basically trying to manage as best as they can, without that revenue, and without those students, and because education is such a big industry, that means that thousands of students are not coming.

    So accommodation services, which part of that has been impacted, the food and restaurants that counted with students have been impacted as well. The measures that the government is taking in order to prevent the spread of the virus is going to impact everybody. All those that have been impacted, for example, the education agents. They're placed all over the world. They're the ones helping education institutions bring international students into Australia, the numbers stopped because their own countries are putting measures in place.

    People that already had visas, and were ready to travel. Just said no, I'm not travelling anymore so this is the current situation. My business in particular, we had many groups and delegations coming to Australia and scheduled to arrive between February and May and June this year. And they have all been cancelled. Basically, the work we did in 2019 has been wiped.

    But as Menno Middeldorp explains it’s not just the tourism and education systems that are being affected here in Australia and overseas:

    Menno Middeldorp: As long as restrictions are in place, activities are sharply lower than it was before the coronavirus. So, you see that in some sectors, activities are not happening at all, for example, restaurants are closed. That sector is deeply affected and travel is severely limited so that sector is deeply affected. But even sectors that maybe don't have direct restrictions are also impacted in different ways, there's a limit on people's ability to go to work in many cases, which means that, obviously companies that depend on these employees are not going to be able to produce as much as they did before.

    Even if there aren't direct restrictions, in a lot of cases schools are closed. Parents need to stay at home to take care of their kids. They can't work from home at all, in their particular sector, for example, in industry, and manufacturing, then those companies are going to be affected. Manufacturing is also affected by supply chain effects. What we saw in particular, is in China where the where the virus hit first, large parts of the economy were shut down.

    China is the world manufacturing hub, and part of many supply chains worldwide and those are all being severely affected by the shutdowns that occurred there. Even if you know you're not in a country, which isn't directly impacted by the virus right now, you may be indirectly impacted by the fact that some parts are no longer available and manufactured goods can't be made.

    Lauren Kress: So with this situation in mind —  what is going on in mentally for us as business owners and entrepreneurs?

    I asked Communication and Conflict expert Tulsi Van der Graaf from Brave People Solutions and Mindstrong Global CEO Evonne Englezos to comment on what they’re witnessing happening firsthand for a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs right now.

    Tulsi explains that everyone, including business owners are feeling vulnerable

    Tulsi Van der Graaf: I can see there's a lot of uncertainty and vulnerability

    everywhere, including with business owners, particularly those who are already feeling the impact or expect to feel the impact in the not too distant future.

    And I do worry about those businesses who are particularly vulnerable at the moment anyway, even before the challenges that we're now experiencing, and it's hard to know for all of us how bad it's going to get. That feeling of not knowing can be very challenging too at the same time, I also see people rethinking strategies around how they might do business. I've certainly been doing that myself and seeing people that I collaborate with coming up with new ideas about how we can connect and reach people.

    It seems like there are some different kinds of approaches that people are taking. Some

    people are getting very stressed and really feeling that sense of fear which is very challenging to feel. I see others staying very positive or most upbeat positivity and looking for opportunities that can arise in the context of changing circumstances. And it's really not an easy place for people to be.

    Lauren Kress: Evonne Englezos who helps entrepreneurs have the energy to do what’s important, stay calm on the inside adds that a lot of people are trying to anticipate what will happen next which is difficult to do right now

    Evonne Englezos: I think that people at such different places there is a lot of uncertainty, fear and stress. Everyone's wondering, how is the impact of this health crisis, it's a global health crisis going to impact me, my business and the team I run, my family. Lots of people are trying to anticipate what is going to happen in the months ahead and I think that's a difficult thing to do.

    Whatever you do in stressful times, so if you're someone that loses your temper, whether that's your spouse, your partner, your business team, your business partner, that's more likely to increase. If you're someone that drinks to cope with stress, it's likely that you'll need four drinks rather than the two drinks of an evening to try and take the edge of the stress because as our stress increases, we go more to our coping strategies.

    One of the coping strategies that's very common for business owners, small business owners is avoiding what they feel in order to get busy and focused on business goals. You're likely to do more bits, which is where our boundaries slide spending more time thinking, doing, learning about what to do in business. And really, it's important to learn how to cope and deal with our stress in the moment. The state of our mental health in a crisis is really dependent on the state of your mental health before the crisis. When we have been battling with low levels of anxiety or depression or feeling burnt out that any kind of crisis taps into what's already there, and then it leads into a cascading downward spiral.

    I really want to encourage you to think, just to reflect, “Where have I been at?” The uncertainty of this time means that the epidemic of stress, burnout and mental illness will increase. That's been a big component of our focus at Mindstrong, which is that these epidemics are increasing in our business owners and leaders. When we become highly stressed the quality of our decision making absolutely drops dramatically, and when processing stress the part of our brain that makes decisions basically goes offline. This is because our brain and body is flooded with chemicals to deal with the stress in an automatic reactionary way rather than being able to think through things.

    I'll give an example of this, where I was speaking with the CEO today, and he was saying that he needs to get rid of his casual staff. When we're in highly stressful situations, we think in quite extremes, so all or nothing. There's a lot of distress as the CEO in his face as he's talking to me about the need to do this —  to let go of this one casual team member and it has implications not just for himself, but he was thinking about the team, the rest of the team. And just what I did was suggesting that rather than thinking in extremes, right, that I must get rid of this person because he was starting to - we need to prepare for what's coming.

    I talked about thinking about how we can contract differently rather than in extremes, extreme ways. That is to think about, can I decrease the hours before getting rid of this person? And he just looked at me and when that is such a good idea. Now, it's simple and people might be thinking, of course, you would think of that first, but you don't in high stress situations, we all can get into that space of being highly reactive, and highly black and white in our thinking — concrete thinking in what we believe is the right thing. When we actually deal with the stress, we can come up with better solutions. And so he may eventually need to let this person go, but initially, it's trying to help him deal with the stress so that he can see there's other solutions.

    Lauren Kress: Menno Middledorp explains that it’s important that Governments step up to support these businesses that are at risk of failing in order to avoid longer term economic repercussions from the current health crisis.

    Menno Middeldorp: Many companies are going to come under financial strain during this recession, and if they aren't able to either delay payments or get access to credit and liquidity, they might fail. That's not just for those companies, and for the people that work for them but for the economy as a whole. That's obviously not a good development. What's really needed right now is for governments to step up and avoid widespread bankruptcies that would turn essentially a temporary economic situation as already quite bad in turning to a longer term problem for the economy.

    Lauren Kress: Now as a business owner myself and someone who proudly calls herself a control freak, I know how difficult uncertainty is for me, many of my clients and many people who operate their own businesses. So with all of this stuff that feels so out of our control right now, what can we do? What decisions do we need to be making?

    Tulsi Van der Graaf shares what to be aware of when it comes to making a decision in a time of crisis...

    Tulsi Van der Graaf: When we're talking about a crisis, I think most of us would say, yes, when we're in a crisis, where we feel under threat, it does kind of trigger that threat response that we all have within us within our brain. Generally, when we're more stressed or under threat, we are less able to think and make decisions, you know that prehistoric brain response kicks in where we go into that fight, flight or freeze response. It can be hard for us to make decisions that are based in reality and take the time to really focus on the range of issues and challenges that we're facing.

    When I see it as sort of a crisis I think it's, it's this idea of, yes, we can have that reaction to a crisis and know that we feel we're in crisis. There's a process of trying to settle down and see the reality of the situation, which is challenging, but also find a place within ourselves where we can feel more settled and calm so that we're more able to make those decisions. It's really about trying to focus on thinking strategically and managing that stress and challenge within ourselves. That's the first. The first step really in responding better rather than worse to crisis, slowing things down and having a chance to talk to others and collaborate and support and be supported is a really important part of that.

    Lauren Kress:  Robin Miles outlines 3 steps to think through and how to mentally navigate a crisis situation...

    Robin Miles: I think the first thing is actually just accepting that we are in a state of overwhelm and accepting that takes some of the pressure off. The world's highly disruptive, and the situation now is going to be different in 24 hours, and we don't literally know what that's actually going to look like and be for us. I think then, secondly, the thing to actually do is we need to accept the reality for ourselves, and we need to let go of any pre-judgments or considerations and those types of things.

    We actually just need to consider for ourselves, right, and as I said to a client today that what you need to do is absolutely recalibrate your hierarchy of needs for the reality that exists. Like, what is it? I know that ideally you wouldn't sell that investment property or make the decisions that you would do but right now, what's actually most important to you right now. I think this is for all of us a really good opportunity to do some fundamental thinking about what we really want to do, and truly accept the situation as it kind of stands.

    I also think there's some opportunities for people to kind of go at the end of the day, this is a crisis that's hit us, but in 10 years time, will the situation now have defined that potentially but potentially not… potentially within 12 months, things could have moved on. I think there's a need for investing in things with a due regard for flexibility, and also an opportunity of looking at things to go, look, this is what I can do right now. So a lot of people might be developing longer term strategies and everything else like that in a crisis situation, you need to kind of go, first of all, I don't want to put myself in any additional harm. Secondly, what's an action that I can take that can improve things right now, the future will look after itself but what are those things right now.

    And it's almost having a mindset of an emergency response in your own business because there could be things that you can just do that a quick win easy things for people, and actually things in small business, I think you're nimble enough to be able to get out there and provide services and support to people that actually really need you right now. I know that might be really hard because you might have one target market that really doesn't need that service but what else can you actually do right now to be of service and if we're going to be of service in this time, then that's where financially we can kind of look after ourselves.

    Equally if we really know that we can't operate in a business that we've got, and financially there's issues there, then looking at other income sources for yourselves and just accepting the reality and making whatever tough decisions that you need to within the short term.

    Lauren Kress: Evonne Englezos also warns that it’s important to not put too much faith in business gurus who aren’t in a position to comment on a particular business situation and understand how to process our stress.

    Evonne Englezos:  Business owners are looking to the more successful high profile business gurus I'm going to say, for guidance and to to have an idea on how to weather the storm that is coming that we're told is coming. What's really important is having the skill to be discerning about what information to take and what's appropriate for you individually, then an experienced business guru can be saying something that isn't going to match your circumstances.

    A lot of business owners go into focusing on business strategy and business metrics only. That is super important but we also need to hold that as a very human element to this. I'm coaching business owners on how to prioritise, really processing stress, when every part of them is telling them to get deep into work mode and prepare. The very first thing that I see sliding is their boundaries, you know, having clients who are turning into up to work their offices much earlier working from home a lot longer hours, trying to do more in order to try and soothe their stress and soothe their anxiety that things are about to change and how do I prepare for that?

    But it's these heightened and prolonged experiences of stress, which inevitably lead to burn out and that's why I really want to encourage people to prioritise looking at

    to stress and not stress management, how they process stress, learning how to do that, so that they're not only focused on business and strategy, but on themselves. So because we don't know how long these changes and the recession and the global markets and business are going to be impacted,  really looking after ourselves is pivotal to being able to do this.

    Lauren Kress: Ricardo Guiterrez explains what’s happening at Beddsi next and what strategies are helping them to sustain business in the short term

    Ricardo Gutierrez: I was actually in Melbourne last week meeting with clients and even though everybody's suffering right now, even though everybody's feeling the pain, the meetings were surprisingly positive. Everybody is saying, okay, this is happening. We don't achieve anything by being stressed or being negative or complaining. Not one thing is achieved by that, just look at the future.

    So we're counting on, hoping that things are going to start running and working again after maybe June or July. Basically the planning was based and focused on in semester two. July onwards, hopefully by then something is going to happen at the peak of the virus and the reality of the virus is going to stop or start to go down. People overseas are going to start thinking about travelling. We're counting on that to happen very soon.

    Yeah, like we're focusing on the future focusing on what events, what groups, what classes are going to be taught in July.

    And then just focusing on that, and within Australia, we are counting on people to start travelling domestically, more and more. All these groups and delegations moving around for conferences and events and visiting family, all of that is going to happen sports, everything is going to start coming back to life again. Things at least slowly start coming back to normality. We were lucky in some respects, even though everything was wiped and all our groups were cancelled, we've been lucky that we are an online business.

    So basically, we put a lot of effort in the past few years to create very strong processes and systems that minimise the need to hire. Like a lot of stuff. We also automatized a lot of these processes. So instead of having somebody typing things and doing certain tasks, the system does it automatically. That's also helping and because of this, all the staff are working from home and they can work from anywhere in the world In fact, so there is no need for rent. What has helped is that exactly, there are no big fixed costs, and there are no huge amounts of salaries.

    That is the problem with many of the businesses. When you have some revenue and some incoming business stops, suddenly, you don't have any cash flow in the revenue. But then instead of receiving something, you need to keep on paying the rent, keep on paying salaries. Now your clients that are not coming, want a refund, so your cash flow is gone, and it's suddenly gone even businesses that have been careful can be greatly impacted by this. Suddenly the savings and the bank accounts start going down really quickly and that's something that we don't really have.

    So even though we're not receiving the revenue, even though we're not receiving the cash flow, we've been extremely careful in managing the finances. That allows us to hopefully ride this wave for a little bit longer, without any major risks.

    Lauren Kress: Menno Middeldorp seconds the important role remote work has played during this time, particularly in places where there is a full lockdown.

    Menno Middeldorp: The importance of being able to work effectively from home is one thing that has really been brought home as it were, during the current situation. I work in the Netherlands, and it's been very important for me to be able to continue my job, working from home and that's not possible for a lot of companies. That's either because they haven't been prepared and haven't been able to set up the systems in time, or because the nature of the work doesn't allow them to do that.

    If you're in the manufacturing sector, or you’re a builder or anything like that, it's just not possible to get work done from home. If they are in the more extreme lockdown scenarios, you see that the sectors are really being shut down.

    Lauren Kress: So where to from here? What can we do?

    Tulsi explains the importance of slowing down and taking the time to constantly check in with the people in your business

    Tulsi Van der Graaf: From my perspective, I think it's really important if we're trying to make the best decisions for our people and our business. It's very important to slow things down and consider all possibilities and think about all options for action because

    At the moment, there is so much uncertainty and we can't really know what's going to happen and how things are going to unfold. But what we can look at is different scenarios, different, different possibilities for the future, and how we might need to respond, depending on what does unfold.

    Looking at the business, and the people are two very different focus points, even though there might be some interaction and connection, of course, I mean, the business side of things, obviously, you know, involves looking at things strategically and, and having to sort of have a new plan of action. That with the people side of things, those that focus are ongoing and really need to be the focus on your people, on us as human beings in this time of struggle is really, really important. I think there's a number of stages that need to follow to really feel like or to know that you are supporting your staff most effectively.

    For me, it looks a bit like this. The first step is acknowledging the challenge so really putting words to how it is for everybody at the moment and what we're facing here. It's also asking how people feel about the current challenges because different people, depending on who they are and their histories, their background, their current life circumstances are going to feel differently. Some people may feel extremely fearful and extremely threatened other people might be not really feeling a lot or focusing on being positive or not really believing that there is as much of a challenge so you've got a whole range of possible emotions and experiences.

    The next step of that is really acknowledging and having the language and the ability to support people. Now, you know, that can look like demonstrating empathy, even something as simple as saying, “Look, that's a really hard feeling to have, this is a really challenging time. It's really hard to feel this scared and uncertain.”  Or it might look like, you know, “I know that things in your work were already uncertain and you were already going through challenging times. And now this has put a whole new layer on that that's not easy.” That's the kind of language that is helpful to support people and make them feel like they're understood and not alone.

    And the next part of it is asking what they need. So it's literally saying to people, you know, I know that you're going through, you know, a particular challenge at the moment and you're feeling really uncertain and fearful. If that's how they feel and you ask them, you know, what do you think? What would help you right now? What can I do to support you?

    Lauren Kress: Evonne explains that emotional regulation is key in helping us to prioritise the decisions we need to make.

    Evonne Englezos: So I know there's a lot of advice around make sure you keep your cash, make sure that you keep your salespeople and your marketing strategies going. One of the biggest things I want to encourage is learning how to regulate your emotions and that might sound odd. However, recognising the stress and how to pause so how do I calm my internal world? How do I calm my nervous system? By breathing or talking to someone before I take any action? Right? it is the most simple and yet toughest thing to do in high stress situations.

    So prioritise the decisions that need to be made and don't do this by yourself. When we're stressed, we can really try and bunker down and work this out all on our own. I think that's one of the biggest mistakes that business owners can make. If you have a coach or a mentor that is very logical and rational, what can happen is you miss the opportunity to calm your internal world, breathe, pause, learn how to pause before you take any action, get input from others and get creative. It's difficult to be creative and make the right decisions when your stress response is activated. Rather than taking the extreme all or nothing approach, be discerning and agile. That means what will work for one business owner and their team will not work for another.

    The more we can get the leaders and teams to breathe and process their fears means that their decisions won't come from fear, but be more measured and more appropriate for your situation and your industry better. How can people mentally prepare for the months ahead? Well, this is not about mindset and positivity or ignoring the fear and focusing on business goals. This is truly about knowing how to process stress better, more effectively, in the moment as it happens, get to know your usual response to stress and learn better ways.

    So what do I mean by that? Some people explode, they lose their temper externally, they become aggressive, think fights in the supermarket is a really simple example. For others, they implode they might drink alcohol, they do whatever they need to to numb out from their distress. When you know this information about yourself, you need to slow yourself down and actually understand that these approaches to processing stress are not going to cut it, and a lot of people will suggest things like meditation and mindfulness. But these are very challenging practices when we struggle with stress and we're wearing out survival mode when we're in fear states.

    When we have a busy and chaotic mind when we're going into survival, there are practical skills that you can put in place to help you through these difficult experiences. The one thing I always suggest to clients to develop and develop with them is the ability to pause. Now you will have heard me say this a couple of times, being able to slow yourself down before you react before making big decisions before losing your temper. Breathe, calm your nervous system. If someone is talking to you, I suggest if you notice your reaction, if you notice that you're frustrated, if you notice that you're highly stressed, it is better to say I need to get back to you then it is to give a highly reactive response and then regret it later.

    Just think about a crying baby. If you have a crying baby, we don't walk into the room and say, “Hey, just be positive or it's okay. We will get through this.” We focus on soothing that baby, helping to slow their breathing, helping them with the kind and reassuring voice helping to calm their internal world. Don't ignore your feelings. I know a lot of people think there's no place for feelings in business. Well, the reality is, this is a highly emotional, highly stressful time and we need to pay attention to everything going on inside of us, and soothe that response as much as it will be around taking external steps.

    We at Mindstrong are definitely helping clients with this stuff is highly stressful and the psychological pressures that business owners and business leaders are going through is tough. We support them by integrating our executive coaching together with our experienced integrative psychotherapist. So please reach out to me on LinkedIn if you need to.

    Lauren Kress: Despite many businesses dealing with challenges, there have in fact been some sectors that have benefited from the current situation as Menno explains

    Menno Middeldorp: You do see some sectors that are benefiting from the measures that are taken against the coronavirus. People are basically stuck at home, so anything that they can have delivered to their house, particularly food delivery, but also other products, anything that they can access to the internet. So digital services all seem to be benefiting from the current situation.

    Lauren Kress: I asked Robin Miles to help us to understand a bit more about how we can pivot in response to changing market needs - here’s what he said:

    Robin Miles: Yeah, I think the word pivot is really important here because it's not throwing the baby out with the bath water. I've always recommended — I did a live on this the other day about resilience and the philosophy of having one target market, one problem, and I sold them that if there's a shock, then that can all just be taken away from you. So I actually do recommend that people have diversification within their businesses to make them more resilient, just generally. What you say is that we all have very different skills and abilities and maybe we've focused on that. But if we kind of go back to well, what are some of the fundamental other things that I've done historically I can do?

    It's always think about what can I do that would be of value to somebody where they'd be willing to pay for it. Just go back to those first principles. It may not be your kind of whole life purpose, you know what ideally you want, but if it's ticking those three boxes, then it's kind of like this. Just put a message out there to see if people kind of, you know, want that service or whatever. It's absolutely about going back to the first principles of things that you can do. And I always remember one guy, years ago, he actually diversified. He was a consultant and he actually said, You know what, I've looked at the market and I'm going to go back to plastering and I said I didn't know you could plaster. He said, Yeah, my dad was a plasterer so I learned plastering as a skill.

    And in actual fact, the construction industry is absolutely booming at the moment, and I can really hit money if I do plastering. I was like, wow, okay. I'll do that while you know, and he said, “But I only have to do that three days a week to earn the money to be able to continue doing my other stuff as well.” So it's not one or the other, it’s about how you can draw income from multiple different kinds of streams and think about, you know, what could you do that's going to be of service, there's going to be of value to someone and they're willing to pay.

    If that's nice and easy, just get going with it and it could be an interim thing for you. You might actually find a new whole product or service line for yourselves because it might be something that could continue in the future as well.

    Lauren Kress: In terms of taking steps to grow your brand during this time, I believe there are opportunities for us to make our mark right now. It comes back to remembering who you serve and what you value over your products and business model.

    If you remember back to episode 7 where we talked about creating your value proposition, this is exactly what we talked about. From a brand strategy perspective I believe it’s important we consider the same things we’re always considering and that is that the business needs to respond to market needs and provide value where it’s needed most.

    To that end right now, at my business The Change Makers Collective, we’re providing one-off brand strategy sessions to help brands big and small meaningfully respond to the health crisis - if you’d like to get in touch with me about this my email address is in the show notes.

    Lauren Kress: So what is there to look forward to for the future and appreciate in the present? Menno explains the good news is that many governments are preparing to ease the financial strain on businesses

    Menno Middeldorp: It's good to see that a lot of governments are indeed moving forward with plans in order to help companies out. A number of things that are going on are delays of tax payments and there are guarantees in some cases for loans. And the central banks have stepped up in many countries to provide financial facilities to provide liquidity to banks that can then be passed on to companies, small companies in particular.

    Lauren Kress: Ricardo asks us to see this as an opportunity to get back to basics and show that we are being proactive

    Ricardo Gutierrez: I think this is the perfect opportunity for you to look inwards. Crisis tends to make people tend to panic and I personally think you need to stop and go back to basics. Look at what has been working, what hasn't been working. Normally you run, run, run, trying to do things that appear on a day to day basis. But this is the opportunity to go back and see which processes are in working which systems need to be improved.

    It's time to perhaps increase your communication with clients, let them know that you are being proactive that you are ready to move forward. It's time also to not only see what kind of opportunities are for you, but how to help each other. I think that's a key thing because everybody's feeling the pain. Everybody's suffering right now. So why not look for opportunities where we can help each other, you know and that's, I suppose, business as such, and that's what sales is. Not that this is my product, and this is what I want from you or not, it's what are your needs? What problems do you have? And how can I help?

    So it's that going back to basics. It's trying to fix what's not great. It's trying to make the good things even better and just be productive. I think, even though you may be slow, do steps every day, take steps that make you move forward. And I think that's the strategies that I just need to focus on right now. Especially because I already know that nothing is going to happen between now and June. No new groups are going to happen unless some miracle vaccine appears or something drastic happens. Nobody's going to decide to travel. You know, so perhaps I would like to take this opportunity to ask other business owners or organisations that if you are thinking of travelling in groups domestically through Australia or coming to New Zealand, and you're looking for accommodation for groups, Beddsi can help you.

    Accommodation is all the things we do every day, all day. We don't do anything else. We're specialists. Our success rate is fantastic. The reviews we've received from clients, they're great. My job is to take the problem off your hands. My job is to minimise complaints, and work with professional providers that can give you the best possible experience while you travel.

    Lauren Kress: Tulsi reminds us to stay connected with the people who matter to us in our personal and professional lives

    Tulsi Van der Graaf: One of the things with resilience and an ability to bounce back and manage challenging times. One of the really important parts of that is connection and it's really interesting at the moment because we're being asked to physically disconnect from others. It's important to stay connected in other ways because if we lose that connection, and we feel isolated, in a way where we don't feel that other people are there to support us, and we really are alone, that will actually increase the likelihood of us not coping in hard times.

    So luckily, with technology, we have a few more options than perhaps 100 years ago, but it's working out what are the best options for your people, and for the people in your personal life and in your work life? What are the best options that you've got to stay connected? And there might be, you know, an opportunity to think about okay, let's talk about how often we want to check in how often we want to have, you know, a group chat or, you know, see each other, you know, through our computer, talk about what how we feeling and what's happening.

    It's trying to find ways to include, you know, a little bit of fun and humour and lightheartedness and some positivity, as well as you know, some focus on keeping things moving in a way that people still feel empowered and still feel like they've got some level of control even when it's so uncertain. The other thing, I think that's really helpful in times of challenge is really to focus on those moments of joy. And every time you have a moment of joy to recognise, and go oh that was a moment of joy. Also to think about it in a context of challenging times.

    What are the things that you're still grateful for within it. I know people talk about that gratitude practice, you know, where you should be, you know, everyday you should be grateful for, five things and write them down. I think that that's a good strategy but for me, one of the really powerful strategies when we are having challenging times is to look at the challenging times, acknowledge it, accept that this is what it is. And then within that, focus on the parts that you're grateful for.

    For example, you might now be working from home, and that might feel isolating but then you might have been having opportunities to have some more chats with a close friend, or you might be reaching out to people overseas because you're concerned about how they're doing so you have more connection that way. So thinking about what you are most grateful for, can be a really great way of keeping focused and and a little more positive than you might feel.

    Lauren Kress: A big thank you to all our guests who made this special episode possible:

    Menno Middeldorp

    My husband Henry

    Steve Carfino

    Ricardo Guiterrez

    Robin Miles

    Tulsi Van der Graaf

    Evonne Englezos

    In the spirit of reconciliation I would acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. I pay my respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living and working on the land today - the land that always was and always will be, Aboriginal land.

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