How to manage short-term pivots with long-term planning

I was listening to Brené Brown’s new podcast Unlocking Us on my morning walk today and she said something like this about this time: “We don’t know how to do this.  No one does.” It is the topic of her first episode, FFTs, or F-ing First Times.

Most people have lived through one or more of things like natural disasters, recessions, trauma, grief, heartbreak, illness, accidents or business blow ups.

But never have we collectively lived through all of these at the same time.

Our emotional cartilage is dangerously low. Uncertainty abounds.

So how do we navigate our business during this time?

As a business coach, I am naturally wired to create questions, frameworks and tools that help my clients navigate their challenges, while growing their leadership capacity.

It is my job to help them think about things they may not be aware of, or to address critical things they do not want to think about.

In every single coaching call these past two weeks, I have had the conversation about what to do in the short term balanced with actions we need to take to seed the longer term opportunities.

I know that if we only focus on surviving the short term uncertainty, and do no thinking or action about seeding longer term opportunities, we will face a secondary wave of financial uncertainty 6 or 8  months from now.

(Caveat: For some of you, navigating one day at a time may be all you can manage emotionally right now, and that is ok. Come back to this when you have the energy to do so.)

Here is a framework that my help you think through these questions in an organized way:

Short-term pivots

Some business owners, like speakers or event planners, experienced immediate and radical evaporation of their projects as soon as the COVID19 crisis started. Other business owners are noticing smaller shifts in things like sales cycles (lengthening the time it takes new clients to make a decision to work with you) or accounts receivable (increase in the amount of time it takes people to pay outstanding invoices).

There are very unique circumstances related to the global pandemic, and response to keep the virus contained.

Your goal as a business owner in the short term is to:

  • Identify opportunities to generate revenue to secure the long-term viability of your business
  • Remove as much uncertainty as possible from your business planning, since lack of clarity adds to your overall stress
  • Navigate this time with consideration for your family members, neighbors and community, given that your individual choices are very connected to the health and well-being of others right now

Worksheet #1: The Short Term

Ideal Short Term Client: Who has a problem you can solve right now, and has the resources to hire you to solve it?

This may be a client you used to work with that you have great competence in serving (in an old role, or in an earlier iteration of your business).

Offering/Service: What kind of offering would solve that problem?

What would be the most helpful to this client? Can you reach them with a virtual offering if they are used to doing things in person?

Emotional State: What is this client feeling right now? 

(Likely fear, unmooring, uncertainty)

Marketing Tone: In this time, are there any special considerations for your messaging ?

(Lay off hard-core marketing launch sequencing, avoid making light of the global pandemic by using cute phrases that are insensitive to people experiencing trauma, etc)

Financial options: What financial options would make investing in your product or service easier for this client? 

(Payment plans, alternative pricing, pay-what-you-can models, financing)

Long-term landscape

Your goal as a business owner in the long term is to:

  • Identify opportunities to generate revenue that are linked to your deepest strengths, thought leadership and market opportunities
  • Be proactive about operationalizing your core systems like marketing, sales, finance and service operations
  • Widen your net of opportunities to expand in new markets, form new partnerships and serve new customer segments

Worksheet #2: The Longer Term

Ideal Long Term ClientWho has a problem you can solve when things stabilize and is likely to have the resources to hire you to solve it?

This may be a new type of client(s) you are excited to cultivate.

Offering/ServiceWhat kind of offering would solve that problem?

What would be the most helpful to this client? How can you build in a range of options, given what we learned about preparing for disruption and uncertainty?

Emotional StateWhat is this client feeling right now? 

(Likely relief, guarded hope, even optimism)

Marketing ToneIn this time, are there any special considerations for your messaging ?

(Focus on regaining momentum, creating a better future, rebuilding reserves)

Financial optionsWhat financial options would make investing in your product or service easier for this client?

(Lump sum payments, alternative pricing, etc)

Include both short- and long-term perspectives in your weekly planning

By defining both short and long-term business scenarios, you will have a more nuanced view of how to navigate selling in the short term with seeding for the future.

Everyone will not be on-edge and scared forever. So don’t design your long-term offerings based on that temporary situation.

Things are different in the short-term with COVID19 (next 30-60-90 days), so running your social media and promotions as if nothing is happening can feel insensitive and even insulting.

Maintain a balance of selling and seeding activities and you will stabilize your emotions, momentum and finances.

Don’t worry about the perfect blend — we are all figuring it out together.

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