May 11, 2020

Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, Phase 2: To Pivot or Not to Pivot

Authored by: Barbara Turley, CEO - The Virtual Hub

Running at full tilt but feel like you're moving through mud at the same time?

Yep! I’m right there with you on that one!

One day, everything was “normal,” and the next we were all at home, simultaneously trying to crisis manage our businesses and homeschool our children – or at least keep them busy enough to buy us some work time.

We’re all hustling to adjust quickly but our rate of progress seems totally out of whack with our rate of action. If that sounds like you, know that we’re all in the same boat. We all have unique challenges, depending upon factors like our business model and the ages of our children, but no one has been unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In part one of this crisis management series, I described how The Virtual Hub responded to the initial fallout and the shifts needed to respond to the pandemic. The very first steps we business owners needed to take were those to protect ourselves, our people, and our businesses, so we can continue to operate at the maximum capacity possible under these crazy circumstances.

By now, I’m hoping you have (mostly) stopped the bleeding and dealt with the immediate needs of your business. If not, reading my first article may help you. But if you’re ready to move on to the next step, you may find yourself asking,

“What now?”

strategic mindset

To Pivot Or Not To Pivot?

That seems to be the question dominating the business arena right now.

The “talking heads” seem to change as quickly as the rest of the situation.

Everywhere you look, I’m sure you’re seeing messages telling you to “Pivot now!” or declaring “There’s never been a better time to….[grow your business; start a business; learn to be a sous chef, speak a foreign language, and make your own scented soaps.]” 

Wait, what? 

You might think everyone else has got it all figured out and they’ve moved on to finding nirvana, but I sure as hell don’t know any of those people. Everyone I know is still pondering  what to do next.

The pumping adrenaline makes us want to react – and quickly. But that can be dangerous. We need to respond strategically – rather than to react – to the changing business landscape. And honestly, I know that is not easy right now, but I can share with you what we are doing.

strategic mindset

Mindset Shift

Like me, you’ve probably spent the past few weeks completely under the pump (“Aussie” for under extreme pressure!), dealing with the initial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maybe, like me, you’ve been running on adrenaline with not a lot of sleep and so much coffee, wine and sugar ’accidentally’ finding their way down your throat that the edginess feels tingly. 

You swore you would do yoga and meditation everyday but alas … here we all are!

“Survival mode,” a phrase being used ad nauseam right now, accurately describes how I have been operating since this crisis began. I’m sure the same is true for you (if you have kids that is!!). 

strategic mindset

When your body is drowning in stress hormones, strategic thinking and decision making are damn-near impossible. You can’t see the forest for the trees when you’re “wired and tired”.

So, the first thing I did this past couple of weeks has been to intentionally focus on “resetting” my state of mind. For some people, physical activity such as going for a run helps them shift into a better mindset. Others benefit from a more internally focused activity like meditation or journaling. Everyone needs to find their reset switch.

"Everyone needs to find their reset switch."

Finding The Right “Reset”

My key to resetting is probably different from most people. Jumping in the shower is what helps me to shift out of that high-stress, reactive mode! Giving up wine would also be a good idea admittedly!

Needless to say, many showers have been taken, sometimes several times a day and at all kinds of crazy times, over the last few weeks. I might find myself going full-steam in the morning after my shower, but then I hit a block by afternoon. So, there are a fair few afternoons right now where I get back into the shower. I simply stand there and let the water work its magic.

If you know your #1 destressing action already, make sure you schedule it into your days and to go to it at other times of high stress and overwhelm. 

Lean on it – hard.

If you’re struggling to dial down your stress level and shift into a more effective mindset, Valerie Friedlander, a life coach we know, developed a quiz do help people identify which of four stress-releasing styles works best for them.

The quiz results page includes suggestions for specific activities that will help you flip the switch and destress. It might give you a new, helpful insight to help you destress and reset.

Control What You Can

In this constant state of uncertainty, we’re all feeling almost totally out of control. But there are always things we can control. 

For example, I have taken control of what I’m feeding my brain. The endless updates from around the globe makes it all too easy to wind up glued to news feeds, taking in every latest detail about the pandemic. 

Do I think you should stay informed?

Yes, of course.

But constantly filling our minds with this information – which is nearly 100% negative – is going to keep you from performing at your best. And our businesses and our teams, not to mention our families, need us at our best right now to effectively lead in the crisis.

Instead, limit your consumption of pandemic-related media, simply accept the situation, and only focus on what you can control. You might have to start with something simple in your physical environment, like keeping your work area organized.

Gaining even a small sense of control will allow you to more easily see the next thing you can control. But figure out what you can control in your environment, in your behavior, and in your business – and then control the hell out of it.

strategic mindset

Deliberately Shift (Hint: It’s Hard Work)

Resetting yourself is absolutely critical right now, but I want to acknowledge that it’s not simple. In fact, making this mental shift is hard. It’s not going to happen on its own. It seldom does, even during a short-term challenge.

In this ongoing crisis, you’re going to have to work extra hard at it.

And not to beat a dead horse, but the additional circumstances around being at home – with everyone – is not helping matters. If you have kids, you’re not only leading your business, you’re homeschooling and entertaining your kids – and maybe wondering, “Have they always eaten this much?”

The only silver lining you might have right now is rocking your “Zoom meeting mullet” attire – business on the top, party on the bottom. 

So, you’re going to have to intentionally and deliberately force yourself to find “your fighting spirit,” that creative force, that entrepreneurial fire.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs are used to tapping into their fighting spirit – that’s how we got to where we are in the first place. But it’s not going to kick in on its own right now. 

You’re going to have to drag it out of you. (But at least you’re probably wearing comfy pants!)

Find your key to calming your mind (e.g., exercise, mediation, showers), schedule it into your day – and lean on it anytime you feel your stress level rising – stop feeding your mind an incessant stream of negative news, and intentionally scan your sphere of influence to home in on what you can control.

"Our businesses and our teams, not to mention our families, need us at our best right now to effectively lead in the crisis."

After the reset, now we're ready to think about the pivot.

Quick pause before we do that for one more tip: If you can, hand off any lingering tasks from the crisis plan to your operations team so that you can focus on what you’re going to do next.

strategic mindset

Picking A Pivot

Okay, now that the crisis plan maintenance is off your plate, and you’re deliberately managing your mindset, it’s time to figure out how to adapt. And one of the reasons a calm, strategic mindset will be key is that you’ll be entering new territory. 

It’s hard enough when we choose to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Being unceremoniously shoved outside our comfort zones will only amplify the fears and mental objections that come with that kind of growth. Plus, nobody knows for sure what we can expect even in the short-term, much less further down the line.

I’m not in a better position to make predictions or give you advice than anyone else out there. But I can share my thought process and what I’m working through right now.

I don’t know what’s coming, but I do know that there are always businesses and industries that will flourish in a crisis.  

It’s our job to figure out the likely places for growth and then sort out how we might serve those sectors.

I’ve been asking myself:

  • What’s going to sell right now? 
  • What is NOT going to sell right now?
  •  What kinds of businesses will work in this environment?

Well, I’m thinking that e-commerce is likely to continue to do well, although there’s definitely the danger of supply chains breaking down. Obviously, nearly all things digital media and marketing are either “business as usual” or growing.

Businesses that were already virtual are doing better than brick-and-mortars, but some location-based industries will be able to make shifts to at least put some of their business online.

There’s opportunity in these areas for us.

Have a good think on what’s working in the world right now and where your business can provide for those sectors. Brainstorm. Develop a bunch of ideas. Be honest with yourself about what might work for you but stretch yourself beyond the obvious solutions and ideas. And then start thinking about how you can find a way to find a way to make it happen.

strategic mindset

Implementing It

We are still in the middle of sorting out what our pivot is going to look like and how to package and deliver it. And to be perfectly honest, we do have one new plan that’s pretty much ready to go, but I haven’t quite had the nerve to pull the trigger just yet!

I’ve been doing all the internal work and planning I described above and trying to be super proactive in leading my team through this crisis. But the uncertainty still has me doubting whether or not it’s going to be worth doing!

What we do know we’re going to be putting extra focus on the skills our virtual assistants are most likely to need in this environment. We’re adding VA training for skills that apply to things like Shopify stores, podcast launches and production, membership sites and social media community management.

The good news/bad news is that we have “extra” people right now to learn new skills and assist our clients in other ways.

Yep, that’s right.

Even though our business is virtual, and therefore somewhat more resilient in this situation, we have had clients pull out or decrease the amount of work we’re doing for them.

Tune in next time for my update on how we intend to pivot, as well as how we’re launching and introducing it to the market.


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