My mother in law Angela Slim could always tell when a storm was coming.
She would sit on her favorite spot on our couch, touching her elbows and knees and say “I can feel the weather changing.”
Often, there was not yet a cloud in the sky, but her body and spirit were deeply connected to the elements.
The daughter and granddaughter of Diné medicine people, she recounted long stories of ceremonies she both watched and participated in, often centered around elements like wind, earth and water.
On particularly stormy days, she would go outside and get quiet, looking at the clouds, then slowly and quietly talk to them.
Even though storms affected the arthritis in her body, she held great reverence for the wind and rain. She acknowledged the pain she carried, while expressing deep gratitude for the gifts of the storm: a soaked earth for the plants, seeds scattered in the wind for the flowers, and unearthed worms and critters as treats for the birds and animals.
To us, her deep connection with the weather seemed like she could move it at will, with her powerful words and prayers.
What if we didn’t fear the storm?
When things in the macro economy slow down or our clients’ buying behavior shifts, putting us in a bit of a business dip, it is natural to feel anxious.
We might revert to behaviors like constantly refreshing our browser to see if a signed contract will magically appear in our inbox.
We might spend time cursing our past selves for what we woulda coulda shoulda done six months ago.
We might track external indicators like the stock market and wait for a positive trend to appear (which by the way, is appearing — 5 weeks in a row of positive gain according to today’s August 1, 2023 Morning Brew fix).
These behaviors lead us to one place: steeped in fear, regret and doubt.
We fear the storm in our own life and get stuck in the middle of it, whipped around by external forces outside of our control, or past decisions we can do nothing to change.
How to flip the dip and activate a new season of business
Instead, remembering my powerful Mother in Law Angela, we can get ourselves to a place where we acknowledge the impact of the storm while clearly and powerfully mapping a path out of it.
Here are the tried and true ways to “flip the dip” and get business flowing again:
1. Remember who you are
My long-time friend and client Lisa Merlo-Booth is a relationship coach and therapist who coined the term GPS: Grounded, powerful strength. I have always loved this term, as it is a strong emotional posture. To get yourself there, do simple things like:
–Take your shoes off outside and stand on the earth for a few minutes while taking nice, deep breaths (my husband Darryl’s starting point whenever any of us get overwhelmed at home).
–Reflect on the times when you have successfully weathered past storms. What did you overcome that felt overwhelming at that moment? What gems will surface when you remember who you are?
–Scan your calendar for the past three months and note the things you accomplished. What hard things did you accomplish? What successful conversations or projects did you have with clients? How did you show up for loved ones in your life? You have not been standing still.
–Make a favorite photo of yourself the background and lock screen of your phone. That is you, the beautiful badass, staring back at you at all times.
2. Do a quick cleaning sprint
Now is time to clear the decks, remove distractions and create a space you can work in. You do not have to do a complete clean sweep of your physical space if that is not feasible or your thing, but here are some actions that will make it easier to focus:
–Axe any activity in your calendar that feels like an obligation, not fuel
-Move piles of paper or books related to a future project that make you guilty when you look at them. You can take them back out when you are ready to work on them.
–Give your main working space a good wipe down. Dust bunnies, coffee stains, bits of croissant stuck in your keyboard, be gone!
–Archive older unopened emails in your inbox, even temporarily. Radical, I know! The emails don’t go away, they will just stop screaming at you to read them all when you look at email.
3. Narrow your focus
It is hard to get traction in any one area of your business if you are working on multiple projects for multiple audiences at the same time. Charlie Gilkey at Productive Flourishing gives a helpful framework with his Cash Flow, Opportunity Visibility model.
In essence, the goal of any business activity is focused in one of three areas: increasing cash flow, creating opportunties for the future and/or gaining visibility. One business activity such as speaking at a watering hole for ideal clients could include all three, which is great.
But if you need to get some action happening in a 30-day window, zero in on cash flow opportunities in the short term, such as:
-Reaching out to past prospects who expressed interest in working with you
-Contacting current favorite clients to see if they need extra help or a boost
-Contacting past favorite clients to let them know what you are up to and to inquire about what they are working on
-Scheduling 15 minute conversations with Peanut Butter and Jelly partners who have lots of work at the moment — they may have immediate referrals
Once you execute large batches of these activities in a 30 day sprint like outlined in point 4 below, move in more visibility and opportunity activities to your weekly plan.
4. Seed like hell
Now is the time to organize your Tiny Marketing Actions in batches so that it makes it easy to reach many people without taking a huge amount of time. Great seeding actions include:
–Make your “short list” of best opportunities at the moment. Dig into your inbox (before archiving it!) to identify a dropped ball or open loop with a potential client. Zero in on the actions that have led to client projects in the past. Make lists of folks to reach out to.
-Create email outreach templates for the various groups mentioned in point 3 above. Then send out a batch in one sitting, like twenty individual emails. It feels so good!
–Conduct mini project sprints for things like creating marketing assets for an upcoming program. Do a bunch at once, schedule them out and then move onto the next batched project.
–Attend a live event that feels like a watering hole for your ideal client base. Challenge yourself to talk to people you don’t know, and listen with deep curiosity to their story.
–Create a galvanizing event like hosting a webinar on a topic of immediate interest to your ideal audience. Be relentlessly helpful, as my friends Susan Baier and Tim Grahl like to say.
–Write that newsletter! I don’t care if you have sat on your list without sending anything for three years, all that matters is that one reader will get your message right when they need it.
-Lather, rinse, repeat. While your Tiny Marketing Actions are highly relational individually, volume of TMAs really does matter to shift the weather in your business. In my experience, this is the most important thing you can do when stuck in a rut. Detach from outcomes, and continue patting yourself on the back for planting as many seeds as possible. Some will come to fruition immediately, while others will seed future opportunities that will come just when you need them.
5. Ask for help
It can feel lonely and overwhelming to try to do everything on your own. Entrepreneurship is a team sport. Ways to ask for help:
–Reach out to a favorite productive colleague and ask them if they want to do a mini project sprint with you, like working together silently on Zoom while you complete Tiny Marketing Actions together
–Ask a trusted mentor for their best advice on getting through this stuck period. Be specific in what you are asking for, like “Can you tell me the three things you did when you faced a similar business development situation that really made a difference in your cash flow?”
–Hire a coach if you have the resources to work on your leadership mindset, business operations and strategic growth plan while you navigate a temporary slow down in business.
One of the most powerful things my friend Greg Hartle says is
“Your temporary situation does not have to become your permanent reality.”
Step out into the storm. See it, feel it, talk to it, then shift your season.
I believe in you.