You might still be scarred. Or scared. Or anxious. Or frustrated. Or all the above.
No, we’re not talking about murder hornets. We’re talking about surviving business right now. For those of us who were in business through the recession in 2008, we’re seeing a bubble right now that is eerily familiar but also really different. For those of us who didn’t, but who’s businesses survived quarantine (mostly due to the industries we’re in and an influx of government assistance), we’re treading unfamiliar waters. And the way people are interacting with businesses right now is different.
We’re different. Our clients are different. Our employees are different. Business feels like a whole new ball game. JoyGenea and Michelle talk about how that feels in this episode of If These Heels Could Talk.
M: Hi everybody! Michelle here, owner of BadCat Digital.
J: JoyGenea with Solutions by JoyGenea and welcome to…
M: If These Heels Could Talk!
J: Thank you for joining us today. We are having some rather in-depth conversations about…
M: Oh I don’t know. Risk aversion. Risk management. Looking into crystal balls. Trying to figure out what business is going to be in 6 months, 8 months, a year.
J: Oh, wait the same thing we’ve been doing for 3 months.
M: Yeah the same thing we’ve been doing for 3 months but the challenge is, of course, as people kind of assimilate to new risks, which is what’s happening.
J: It is.
M: People are assimilating to new risks and getting used to the idea that if I go out in public and somebody sneezes on me I could get super, super, super-duper sick. Or ignoring it because nobody that they know has gotten super-duper, duper, duper sick. So assimilating to those as that happens then business inevitably starts moving again. I mean your business, my business – people are calling again. People want to meet in person again.
J: Oh you can feel it.
M: You can feel the shift.
J: I would definitely say you can feel the shift. Amongst our clients, and that’s why they’re calling because they’re feeling the shift amongst their clients. Things are picking up. People are engaging again. Commerce is flowing. I would say commerce is flowing.
M: And the thing is that it’s not necessarily all flowing the way that people think it is. So restaurants for example in Minnesota now have indoor dining ability but their revenue is lower than it was most of the –
M: When they could just do takeout because people have stopped ordering takeout thinking oh well it’s dinein now, they’re ok but not many people are going out to eat and the dine in isn’t even up to the 50% or 75% capacity whatever it is today. Some restaurants are following all of the guidelines which include non-reusable…
M: Menus and wearing masks and some aren’t just not. Interesting.
J: Well and what we’ve been kind of pre-talking about was the fact that there’s as there always is, everybody has their own form of reality.
J: And now that is looking very true to me right now. We all have our own form of reality as far as Covid-19 and how to best protect ourselves and our community. We all have our own perception and reality to how to pick up our businesses and move them forward.
J: And so one of the things I had brought up when we were starting to discuss this I’m wondering if some of the people that I’ve been talking to in business aren’t in a little bit of denial about the risk that’s out there and Michelle brought up – you just brought up a really, really good point.
M: Well which is that there’s always a lot of risk in business and, you know, we don’t know what six months brings and that should be more blatantly clear in month 4 of Covid than ever before because even 6 months ago I wouldn’t have said I was in this position. The trajectory that we were on has shifted massively and where my brain goes and where my business goes is hey we survived that. We can survive a lot of things. And I opened myself up to the possibility of doing business in completely different way than I hadn’t conceptionalized before because I had to.
M: And so now I feel much more nimble and much more able to respond to circumstance than I did before. And just much more comfortable with that as a risk and so I’m gonna take full advantage of what is happening right now while I can.
J: Oh yeah.
M: Because I do have this fairly unpopular but not necessarily unfounded thought that we might shut down again. Nobody likes it when I say that.
J: But it’s a reality that’s sitting out there.
M: It’s a reality that’s sitting out there.
J: And every school district is having this conversation right now.
J: Like don’t pretend it’s a just us reality.
M: No. No. Every university, every school district is thinking, what’s the fall going to bring?
J: Well and in Minnesota this week they talked about the 3 educational options.
J: And schools need to kind of decide so they can start to lay out a plan for the teachers and for students. Like people need to kind of have an idea.
M: So this hit us like a ton of bricks and we didn’t all prepare.
J: I don’t think anybody prepared. Let’s rephrase that.
M: Well I think some people saw some things a little bit ahead from –
J: Yes, like from January to February. Like they took a few cues. I agree with that but I was gonna say overall though anybody really planned for a complete shutdown. Commerce and life.
M: And so now that it’s been forced upon us that just makes another one seem like eh well deal with it when it comes. I think what you’re seeing as businesses need to be really, really careful and hold onto cash and why are people spending money again and why is this happening again. Why are businesses making capital investment again?
J: I’m concerned about the amount of risk.
J: To me I’m observing.
M: And to me I’m like pshaw.
J: Why not?
M: Money’s cheap right now. There’s going to be a very large labor pool available especially after the bonus unemployment ends in a couple of weeks. I mean it’s not awesome for everybody.
M: I’m not going to say that but I don’t want to be callous but at the same time that creates opportunity for business that wasn’t there in January.
J: And that’s really kind of what our podcast is about today. I think. It’s really about the fact that one everybody’s going to have different levels of risk comfort coming out of this.
J: I would totally agree with you. My risk tolerance in this helped give me a big stretch.
M: Huge stretch.
J: Huge stretch in that.
M: Not that I wanted it.
J: You know what, I did.
M: You did?
J: I did and I did not know how to give it to myself.
M: Oh, well there you go.
J: I’ve done other things that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone to help me expand but have to say this one was really incredible in the size and magnitude. Like I had to figure it out and had to step up. Quickly there just wasn’t time.
M: And there wasn’t a choice.
J: No, there wasn’t a choice. There wasn’t time and it was really in there.
J: I just hadn’t flexed that muscle. I hadn’t used it so I was just afraid it wasn’t going to work.
J: Turns out all good. Even though I’m more conservative about my growth and my business and how I run it I can still see myself being a bigger risk taker. I’m thinking of doing things that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I’m thinking about doing them in bigger manners. You’re right, I’m not that different from what I am hearing from other people.
M: Well and what I’m kind of just trying to say is the circumstance doesn’t change but your frame does. So like how you approach the circumstance is the big thing. So you were talking about, you know, you’re starting on this journey with a coaching business and developing what you need to kind of take on more coaching clients. You have coaching clients. You have your licensing and all of that and now it’s just about kind of getting it marketed. Getting your name out there. Looking to get more clients and being well what happens if I’m invest in all of that and then in 6 months they aren’t there and I’m sitting here going but there’s 20 some odd percent unemployment. There’s going to be all of these people who want to start a business and won’t know what to do and you’re the perfect coach for that. So if you market to that….
M: They are going to be there in 6 months, 8 months, a year.
J: So, it continues to be something we’re always kind of talking about which is really listening to the market and that’s what I think I’m still getting a pulse on and that might be part of what’s concerning me about a few of the people I’ve spoken with this week. Is I don’t know that they’ve got a pulse on the right client quite yet. Or how they’re phrasing what they’re wanting to say to that target demographic. Like they haven’t quite-
M: Nailed it.
J: They haven’t quite nailed their target demographic and that their target demographic moved. I think that’s what it is.
M: Right. That it shifted. And that their target demographic has started to think differently about capital investment and risk and all of the same things that they’ve learned and shifted their brains about.
J: And that’s part of the conversation. You’re right, I’m having with a variety of my clients, which is new, so you’re right I’ve become a little more weary when they call and say well I want to put all this stuff up on my website and so forth and I’m like let’s not do casserole on the website in 20 different things. What’s our target? Like who are we trying to talk to?
M: What do we really want?
J: Yeah. What do we really want? So trying to reel some of that in. They’ve almost become so risk adverse, they’re like let’s just throw it all up there.
M: Let’s just go!!!! Well and I think the other thing both of us have had the amazing benefit of in the last few months is clients have taken a little bit more time with decisions and they started to create things earlier and we don’t want to go back. We don’t want to go back to last minute emergency, no thinking. We want to stay in this place of let’s think it through. Let’s take the time to really think it through.
J: Let’s at least get it 80% right the first time instead of 5 iterations of 20%.
M: And let’s not, well and, let’s not aim for 97.5% and then never release it.
J: You’ve had a few projects that sit on that level.
J: And it’s challenging
M: It’s frustrating. It’s challenging. And then you end up 3 years down the line not having affected the change or reach the goals and clients looking at you going why haven’t we gotten there and it’s like because you never pull the trigger. Like you pay me to polish the gun, load the gun, clean the gun, all of things with the gun, line up the sights, put your hand on the trigger and then you go uhhhhhhh no I don’t think I’m ready yet and walk away and now you’re asking me why there’s not holes in the target.
J: Because we didn’t go bang. Today’s a great conversation to be having about what we’re seeing with the pulse changing. The pulse and the changing space with the business. You’re right more business owners are feeling more comfortable with risk.
J: And they have survived something major and they’re like what, why not.
M: Why not?
J: Why not?
M: Because we made it through that, what else could it possibly be? I mean it’s 2020 so you know. I really do think that there’s some circumstances that make it a very favorable environment for businesses to make change and businesses to re-invest in their own business.
J: For those. I want to be sensitive all of a sudden. For those that were able to survive the Covid-19.
M: For those that were able to survive and for those that had revenue.
M: Because not every businesses had revenue.
M: And even the ones that did some survived and some didn’t.
M: For those who didn’t, I’m incredibly sorry. And a lot of it had to do with the industry. This disproportionately affecting some industries and not others. It is in no way a reflection on anybody’s ability as a business owner. I really truly believe that.
J: And if there’s anything you can look back and learn from it please do. And then please start another business.
J: Please know that you were probably serving a particular market that is going to miss you and so forth but I also believe for a lot of businesses this is also the perfect time.
J: To step back and still make sure everything that they were doing, their processes, their procedures, those foundational things that their right. And that they’re serving them and that they’re serving their target market that they’ve got things in place.
M: Yeah. The conditions that make it favorable for business right now. For the businesses that can and for those with some resources to start a business because it does require resources. It requires support. It requires money. It requires time. And people have time that they never had before but some people don’t have the monetary resources that they did have before so there’s all kinds of factors at play and they’re very different for every person. But the two things that make it really favorable is cheap money. It’s incredibly inexpensive to do any sort of loan right now. And much larger, unfortunately, but a much larger labor force because there’s a lot of people not working.
J: If you tried to launch a lot of businesses back in January you would have been…
M: Stymied by the fact that you couldn’t hire employees.
J: What would have been available for you was like finding a needle in the haystack. Like you had to go through a lot.
M: Especially if it was any sort of skilled trade. Especially if it was any sort of skilled trade. So all of those things are actually easier now.
J: You’re right. Those are very much in our favor as business owners.
M: Yeah. And not necessarily because we want them to be because now it’s the pendulum, especially on the labor market has swung way wildly in the wrong direction, and you know ,JoyGenea was talking about and you’re right JoyGenea, you were talking about what happens when the extra unemployment boost ends. What happens? There’s a stimulus package that’s moving through the government. I had one of the staff people in my office say where are they getting all of this money and I was like well they’re borrowing from the future. So they’re borrowing it. So there’s nothing that says our federal budget has to be in balance. We’re going to have a massive debt load. State and local municipalities. Taxes are going to be bad. People who rent – there was a moratorium on evictions for a few months and that doesn’t mean that rent goes away it just means that people didn’t have the money to pay it and we didn’t want a huge influx of new homeless population in the middle of a pandemic. But that’s ending.
M: So are people going to have the cash to pay 3 months back rent? I wouldn’t.
J: No. I wouldn’t either.
M: Yeah. So, I think those are all of things that we’re nervous about because we don’t know what it’s going to turn into.
J: By the way, we’re just over a 100 days of official pandemic because you know I’m keeping track.
M: Uh huh.
J: And we passed over 100 days this last weekend. I have to admit at this point, you’re right, I have grown a little comfortable to the not knowing. Like I ask all these questions in my head or I write them on a piece of paper. Why would I do this pros cons and I kind of work through it and then I’m like ah hell I can’t even get the answers to most of these like ever. Like I’m not going to know.
M: And it’s just much more comfortable. The unknown is more comfortable.
J: It’s a lot more comfortable than it was.
M: Because, frankly, it has to be. I could not live in that level of anxiety for this long. It would have eaten me alive. And so your brain and your body assimilate to that anxiety and that risk and that unknown because that’s what we do. We adapt.
J: So really business owners that are able to come through this they’re going to be different business owners. Just like we are. Like we are going to be really different.
M: I’m making decisions differently.
J: I make all my decisions differently.
M: Yeah. I’m thinking differently. I weigh things out differently. I’m more committed to the role that business has in the community as a whole and it’s survival so that it can employee people unless you hate to say it but less committed to each individual. Like I still want the best for every single person on my staff but that push and pull between one person wants this but what’s best for the business is that. It’s gotten a lot easier because what’s best for the business is ultimately best for the everybody that’s employed by it. You know even if there’s a passing discomfort in that moment. And so, it’s just, it’s gotten a lot in some ways, it’s gotten a lot simpler.
J: You’re right, decision making has become easier for me too. You just look at quickly and my brain has figured out how to do that pretty quick and pro con and just be like ok oh I can’t even get those 3 answers so ok I have to make a choice today so I’m doing this.
M: Yeah. Decisions that would have frozen me three months ago…
J: They did kind of. They paused us. Oh my gosh at first I remember we would stare at each other and be like I got to decide about do I fill out for this loan or do I do this PPP? Like which one.
M: And I will say that those programs really helped.
J: Oh my gosh. They’re the reason we’re having a conversation about business coming back.
M: Both of us.
J: A 100%. If they had not, if our government had not stepped up.
M: For all of the challenges with them and there were. There were problems with both. There were challenges with both.
J: People must not have ever worked with government before. I’m sorry. I thought they did phenomenal.
M: That’s the thing you can’t shift a ship that big
J: And the government is giant.
M: And yes I didn’t say anything dirty in there. Shift a ship that big that fast perfectly. You just can’t do it. It needed to happen now.
J: I thought they did pretty darn good.
M: I thought they did pretty darn good.
J: I was impressed. I have worked with the government. I’ve had to try and get something fixed through the IRS before. I’ve had to dig.
M: I remember the IRS was still coming after me for my ex-husband’s taxes before we were married after we got divorced and I finally had to send them our divorce certificate because he had he owed back taxes from before we were married and because we had filed jointly one year they were coming after me for the back taxes from previous and so I finally had to send them my divorce certificate.
J: How many months or how many years did that take?
M: Well because I was kind of on it and super ticked about it, it took about 6 months.
M: Otherwise it would have taken years.
J: Ok. They moved a ship in about a month and a half.
J: To me that was golden.
M: Yeah. It’s not perfect. It’s not and I know it’s not and people who didn’t get it who applied for it I’m sorry. I really am. I wish that it had been better for you and I wish that it had happened better for everybody. I do wish that it had been better at the same time the fact that it was there at all saved at least some of us.
J: Having lived through that first in 2008.
M: And I might not be as sanguine about that had I had not received any help.
J: Absolutely. But having gone through ‘08 and there was nothing. I mean you just stood there and there was nothing.
J: So I didn’t actually trust it. So when they said they were doing these things.
M: Oh I remember. Because you had a lot of anxiety about it and I couldn’t ever figure out why you were so.
J: Because they stood by and just watched us die on the vine.
J: Like nobody and actually it wasn’t I’ve been updating myself. I didn’t realize that there were things that they attempted to do back then that politics got in the way of.
J: And they didn’t even allow to happen. So frustrating. As the person on the receiving end of their BS. It was like oh my lord. Like we were watching house after house neighbor after neighbor. It was horrific. So I really do say I have to remind myself this is a different bubble.
J: This is a different dip. Yes, I have been through one.
M: It’s a different reason.
J: It’s a very different dip. It’s a different reason and how it was handled was different and so in all reality I don’t have any idea how tomorrow is even going to work out.
M: No. I don’t know. All I know is tomorrow is Sunday and I’m going to sleep. Because it’s been a week.
J: And that’s because we’re all accelerating.
M: Yeah, we’re all accelerating and the other thing is and this is actually something that I work with my therapist on I don’t know that I want to go back to 150 miles an hour. I want to be more intentional about what I go back to. I want to be more intentional about what I say yes to. I want to be more intentional about the impact that the things I say yes to actually have on my business versus what I hope they’ll have and I want to say yes to things that are a little bit more sure.
J: I’m with you and I am seeing that from my business owners. You’re probably seeing it from your clients.
M: I’m seeing it.
J: I’m seeing it from myself and from other business owners. We’re all accessing. The opportunity to step back into what was our old way of being.
M: Oh my gosh.
J: It’s there but yet the environment around it isn’t quite there.
J: And then our mindset isn’t there.
M: Our mindset is different. That frantic energy I just I’ve really appreciated in the last few months the time to reflect and think. I’m reading a book called Deep Work right now. It’s about excellence in work coming from the time to really dig in uninterrupted into a particular something. And that’s not something that happens for a business owner during working hours. During operation hours when you are and you know this if you are a manager. You know this if you are a supervisor. Your entire job it seems like is to get interrupted. To field questions and never be able hold a thought in your head for a more than 15 minutes. But finding that deep work time and figuring out how to achieve that in that schedule because I also I want to stop sacrificing my family and my home time to the deep work time. That’s what I’ve been doing. And so how do I find it? What boundaries and rules can I set that people will actually follow and they’re pretty good. If I sit in my office with the door closed people don’t knock on the door.
M: So what’s stopping me from getting up and closing the door just a little bit more?
J: It’s more conversations about what our ego wants.
M: Yeah. That’s true.
J: That tends to be it.
M: Boy, did you nail that right away.
J: Sorry, sorry.
M: Holy crap. You’re an awesome coach, JoyGenea.
J: Thanks. Did I mention I’ve been talking to a few people this week. And that is really that’s the question.
M: Boy did you get right to the heart of that.
J: Sorry. We could have wandered around that.
M: We’ll do that another time because that was a little too on the money.
J: Welcome everybody to the conversations I’m having with a lot of business owners though.
M: These are the conversations that are happening. So if you were wondering if the things that are flying around in your head as a business owner or as somebody who is interested in starting a business. These are the closed door conversations that business owners are having. These are conversations about what’s next. How do I plan when I don’t know what’s going on? Well I guess you know what I never really knew what was going to happen and I planned then. I guess you just have to make your best assessment and plan around it and if something else happens frankly.
J: Figure it out.
M: I think I’ll be ok because I did it this time. With a little bit of help.
M: Absolutely. And a lot of wonderful support from my staff. Oh my gosh they’ve been unbelievable.
J: Yeah but see how much they’ve grown.
J: I have to say the staff within the spaces that I’m into they have grown so much. We had to pull them with us. It was like, listen, I need you to stretch.
M: I also think that there’s a renewed gratitude for a job that wasn’t there.
J: Just like students all of sudden who hated school have become like can I please go back.
M: Can I please go back to school. Yeah.
J: Yeah anything but this kitchen table.
M: Well and people who just maybe were sick of their job or like get me out of this house I will go anywhere.
J: And some people I found also learned they liked going to the office. Just like you were saying, a lot of people thought, oh I just want to work from home or I want my own space and boy within month they were like, you know what, nevermind.
M: Get me out of here.
J: People are good.
J: And it’s ok.
M: And some people discovered that it’s easier to focus and it’s better to focus. I do think and businesses have discovered and this is actually I think dangerous for the labor force overall because businesses have discovered that they can operate with you working from home, which means that they don’t have to provide you with an environment, a desk, a chair, extra technology and equipment. You’re willing to use your own wifi. You’re willing to use your own cellphone. You’re willing to use your own equipment to do your job. That’s dangerous. Watch out for that. If you’re an employee you need to be careful and if you’re an employer.
J: You need to think about that before you make that a.
J: A go-to type of culture for yourself and your business.
M: I don’t know of any other any of my other friends who’s staff were working from home through the whole pandemic. I don’t know anybody else personally who gave them money for their wifi. I did because I was like I’m borrowing this from you.
M: So, I really appreciate it. Here’s some cash and everybody got the same amount because I don’t need to know what their bills are.
J: Good job.
M: But the idea was a thank you. I’m acknowledging that this is something that you are paying for on your own and using for the business because I don’t want there to be any question.
J: And it’s what has helped to keep your business going.
J: That little tiny thing is a really big thing.
M: It wasn’t a lot. I mean it was more to them than it was to me.
J: But without wifi, where are we?
M: Right. Which I discovered painfully this week.
J: So it’s like wifi and satellite work. Like they’re a must.
M: They’re a must. Like really be careful those boundaries breaking down between work and home are a really big deal and for some people they can do it. For some people they can sit at a desk with their back to their bedroom it’s easier for them to focus but those people frankly are few and far between.
J: They are. That’s the reality of that.
M: It’s hard. It’s hard you know you can always throw a load of laundry in. You know you can get up and go to lunch in your kitchen in the middle of the day and it’s super easy for you to pop on a Netflix and oh no my half an hour lunch is now an hour and half long. I’ll just make up the time later tonight but when you live your life like that with those squiggly boundaries. Ugh.
J: It’s just not fun.
M: It’s just not fun. It’s right for people to take advantage in both directions.
J: I think this has been a nice look into what we’re hearing. A pulse. A pulse on the conversation that is out there right now about business growth. And what I really want to acknowledge what I’m taking away from this conversation is I think as business owners we all have a new much stronger level of risk.
M: Yeah. What I’m taking away from this conversation is I need to be really careful about what I say around you because you will nail me to the wall.
J: Sorry. I’ll work on that.
M: No, I’m just kidding. I actually find the same thing though a higher level of risk aversion. A lower level of anxiety about the unknown. A bigger sense of comfort with that which we cannot control because really we couldn’t control it before either. We just thought we could.
J: We had a false belief.
M: We had a false belief and now I think we’ve all been hit with a nice big dose of reality. We know that we’re going to be ok. That bad things can happen and it’s going to be ok. I think we’ve grown some thicker skin.
J: We have. Thanks for joining us today.
M: Thank you.
J: We hope you’ve gained some insight, got a little wisdom out of this and maybe been inspired to just keep rocking on.