In the early part of 2017, I finally took a leap I’d been thinking about for a long time: I launched my own company, Rise Up Strategies. Since the first day, it has been both challenging and exciting to be a business owner with a growing company. The global spread of COVID-19 has up-ended all our lives. I am so very grateful that my family and I have managed to avoid contracting the virus, and that we have not experienced too many of the other serious peripheral issues caused by the pandemic so far. Like most though, circumstances have required us to consciously re-think just about everything. In this re-thinking, some valuable insights have surfaced. Here are a few I personally plan to carry forward with me into my ‘new normal’.
- I knew it before, but this was reinforced in spades: flexibility is key. Being adaptable and open to the opportunities that change brings is a must for business owners. But more than that, a flexible outlook lets you see the world through the eyes of others. Clients, sub-contractors, employees and even family and friends can all either enable your success or detract from it. Practising flexibility is always a useful business skill, but it really shows benefits when you find yourself in difficult, unpredictable circumstances.
- I definitely feel I’ve been working harder during this time, as I am sure many are. In terms of work, earlier mornings and later nights have been required in order clear space to be a full-time caregiver and homeschool teacher during the day. Our children’s learning is important to us so our plan is to keep our routine and continue teaching the kids throughout this summer. It makes me grateful I have a partner with whom I can share the load.
- In that vein, within our family, our usual ‘division of labour’ required some revising and readjusting in the early days of isolation. It occurs to me that a periodic ‘check-in’ on expectations about who is doing what is probably just good practice whether you are at home or at work. Early on, we decided to set a “daily agenda” and initiated morning “kick-off meetings” that let everyone know what to expect. When the official school season ends, our daily agendas will become weekly ones where we look out further into the future. The point is, communicating and sharing responsibility for what needs to be done, regardless of who typically handles it is the foundation of all good teamwork.
- We are definitely getting up earlier and going to bed later these days. There are more things to do, more demands, more responsibilities, but over time they have become a habit and got easier. Taking care of what’s in my control, staying calm and keeping a routine have been essential. It has also reinforced for me yet again how important it is to take care of my physical and mental health. For me, carving out time every morning before the family wakes up for a workout has become a physical and mental saviour. We also haven’t missed an 8:15 am family walk every weekday, rain or shine. Making time for our mental and physical health lets us be more present for the things we care about and resilient to the inevitable ups and downs of business and life.
- In business, we tend to put a lot of our attention on getting the expected outcomes for clients. In some ways, making our way through this pandemic has made beginners of all of us at some point. It reminds me that as learners, we need to be okay about getting it wrong at first. We need to find our ‘baby steps’. Truthfully, it feels counterintuitive to adopt this mindset when people are paying you to be an expert – but the more you approach situations as a learner – the better you are able to draw in vital information and perspective. If you aspire to be effective and innovative, hold on to your learners’ mindset.
- Finally, the value of time has significantly changed since the start of the pandemic. Which brings me to this point: Don’t let the urgent derail the important. How many times have we heard this phrase repeated in business? In this current scenario, however, the need to extend this guidance to the totality of our life comes into sharp relief. Work and responsibilities don’t stop when the unexpected occurs but because time is ultimately finite, you really need to focus in on your priorities. For my wife and I, parenting and homeschooling our children come first. We started small – one day, sometimes one moment, at a time. But with experience we built everyone’s confidence and we all feel proud of what we have been able to accomplish.
While it is far from over yet, this crisis is a defining moment in our lives – a time we will all remember long into our future. A few years from now, I’d like to think I will look back on this as not only as a great crisis when the world was gripped with uncertainty and disruption, but also as a rare and distinct opportunity to peel away all the layers of our typically busy, complex lives to reveal what truly matters most.