Navigating upheaval: our last 7 days

By Anna Moegerlein

Like most small business and NFPs we only just began to comprehend the wholescale impact of the Coronavirus on our business and the Australian economy last week. Within 7 days it hit us hard. Travel restrictions meant that a large portion of our revenue was at risk overnight, and reduced social contact means no more face to face group workshops or accelerators for the foreseeable future.

Honestly, for most small business and NFPs right now the question is – how do we survive? What are our options? And how can we stay true to our values and stay sane through all of this?

Below we try to share how we’ve approached this crisis. We don’t have all the answers but we hope it helps. Even just a little bit. And we want to say: we’re in this sh*t with you. We are a small business too and we’ll help you in any way we can.

 

1. As leaders – Slow down to speed up

We took time as a leadership team last week. Honestly it couldn’t have come at a better time. It gave us the time to slow down, understand the changing context and identify how we wanted to respond. It’s given us confidence and clarity in our response. We asked ourselves these kinds of questions –

  • What is really unfolding?
  • What’s truth & what’s fiction?
  • What are our risks & how will we navigate?

Then we asked ourselves:

  • How will we succeed?
  • What is most important right now?
  • Who must do what?

We agreed that we would ‘charter a responsible course for our team and their families and communicate clearly and courageously about the world we believe in’. We agreed that we will not speak from a place of fear or scarcity. We’re scared – of course we are – but we agreed that it wouldn’t define our voice. We also agreed that from adversity comes great strength. But it’s not the rose-coloured glasses version. This is a confusing time and many sh*t things are coming from it. What we mean is that we’re open to the lessons that these times are teaching us, and we expect to be changed by them.

 

2. Analyse your numbers and make decisions early

We’ve looked at our forward cashflow and figured out where we can cut our expenses and what revenue lines are at risk. We have a situation where 50% of our business is international and face to face. We were carrying an extremely high risk in the current situation. We asked questions like

  • Can we think differently to secure our risks?
  • Can we deliver online?
  • How can we stay committed to our international partners without being physically present?
  • What new product could emerge as a response to the situation?

We are aiming for a break even in the next three months. We’re fully expecting that life won’t be back to normal (or maybe a new normal) until January 2021, so we don’t want to dip into our savings now. To do that would be equivalent to banking on future revenue which is highly uncertain. This is still unfolding as each announcement is made to tighten borders and social distancing becomes part of our day to day. The thing is we know where we stand and what levers we have to pull.

3. All washed hands on deck

On Monday we called a team meeting. Annie, our CEO, shared openly and honestly about how she was feeling and our plan. She talked about what we’re witnessing in the world and reminded us why TDi exists and what we stand for. She shared that our jobs could be at risk and we were doing everything to keep them. The team rallied. I’ve never been so proud of them.

We spent 2 hours mapping out our To Do List and dividing up the work.

 

4. How do you work around a design constraint?

One of things we’ve been focusing on is how to deliver our services digitally. No surprises there! What’s interesting is how quickly we’ve been able to figure out ways to work with our clients, ways that we previously would have not thought possible. We’ve really appreciated the good will of our customers, who want to continue to work with us and not postpone work.

 

5. Move as one

We’re having daily zoom calls to check in on our To Do List. It’s important that we move fast and keep focused as a team. We have to move as one to secure an immediate pathway through this.

 

6. Lean into the discomfort

Tonight I cried. I know that on the weekend Annie cried. It’s really sad and uncomfortable – whats happening right now. If we don’t stop and feel it, it’ll take us over. Brenė Brown has been saying, ‘it’s ok to be scared, just try not to be scary’. Honestly, being present to this fear, uncertainty and sense of responsibility, is what is keeping us sane right now. And helping each other to discern from Facts and Fake News… that’s been important too. And knowing our values and what we stand for, that’s been extremely important.

7. Move from crisis to something else

Crisis mode is not sustainable. Urgency is needed now but if we keep going like this, we will kill ourselves. The body can’t sustain our nervous system in overdrive, all the time. How do we shift gears from crisis to something else? We are trying some things, but we don’t have the answers yet. We suspect, across sector, we will figure it out together. If you have ideas, please share.

Flexible and responsive coaching is key to sustaining women’s economic empowerment during a crisis

While each business owner faces their own set of challenges in response to the uncertainty and upheaval of COVID-19, we are observing a series of consistent coaching requirements emerge.

When life gives you lemons… pivot your business model

Nemika Brunton is based in Alotau, Papua New Guinea.  We met her during the YuMi Tourism Partners Pilot program.  The program addressed starting small, testing and learning, and how to adapt and respond to market needs.  These lessons have certainly helped Nemika shift her business focus in response to COVID-19. Tourism is a key industry for the town and many of the local businesses were tourism based.  So, the impact of COVID-19 hit the town hard.  Many locals – including Nemika – have adapted quickly to totally new businesses and customers.

Supporting Social Enterprise during COVID-19

Following a tumultuous year of bushfires, COVID-19 and recent floods in Southern NSW, lots of small businesses and the families and communities they serve, are doing it tough.  One way we’ve seen people showing their support for these local businesses is through the #shoplocal #shopvictoria and #buyfromthebush movements.  We’ve been inspired by this and wanted to share a #shopsocialenterprise guide based on some of the businesses we’ve been working with over the last 18 months.

Resilience, at what cost?

Over the past six months we as a team have navigated our own business and helped hundreds of others to do the same. We went from having a clear business model and ready to write our best year ever to having nothing as certain and many parts of our own business model under threat.

Finding motivation to continue business during COVID-19

As the current economic climate evolves with COVID-19, we have been sharing some perspective from both our own work and the continual conversations and support we’re offering others. Initially, we shared a metaphor about what this first felt like – like our house was...

Pivoting during COVID: responses from Fiji

Recently, we caught up with Deb Sadranu at Essence of Fiji to see how things are going for her, her business, and Fiji in the face of COVID-19.  Tourism is a key industry for Fiji, and Essence of Fiji usually serves the tourists. As a result of COVID-19, Deb’s whole business model has pivoted from predominantly local, in-store sales, to predominantly international, online sales.

A letter to my daughter about Black Lives Matter and racial inequality

Dear Willow,  I’m writing to you because I want to share some rumblings in my gut that have troubled me.  You are at an age now, where it is time for you to step into a conversation that for us as Australians is long overdue. I have tried to teach you about love,...

Why mindset matters to women’s entrepreneurship and why we should invest in it, especially now

At The Difference Incubator (TDi) we’ve been supporting social entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses for over a decade. In 2019 we partnered with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre and Kate Wilson from Kamaji Tree Consulting and Coaching, with the support...

Customer Empathy Interviewing

When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought? We use Customer Empathy Interviews to help businesses deeply understand their customers and design competitive products and services. It’s also been one of our top coaching tips for business owners...

Pivoting your business model during a crisis

A conversation with Geert from FarmWallGeert Hendrix founded FarmWall in 2016. Farmwall is an agrifood-tech startup that designs urban farming technology and experiences to enhance fresh produce accessibility in the city. In our constantly developing world, the need...