How will you ensure that your small business survives both COVID-19 and the post COVID-19 economy?

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By Chris Higgins

Over the past few months I have watched many small farmers who were solely focused on servicing the food service and restaurant industry change simply to stay alive.  I have been amazed and impressed by their conviction and ability to create new opportunities to survive.  Their actions have inspired me to share these thoughts with all of you.

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“Turning a lemon into lemonade”.

Just so we are clear, no one actually knows how to navigate this ever-changing and new business world we are living in.  Anyone that tells you any differently is at worst flat out lying to you and at best providing you their well-intentioned insights based on struggles they have dealt with in the past.

Do not be afraid to fail.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.”
–Michael Jordan

Being able to draw on the experience of previous struggles can help us pave new paths forward. Learning from our past struggles can provide inspiration.  And most importantly, sharing our experiences will help others realize they are not struggling through this period alone. 

There is only one thing that will give small businesses a fighting chance to survive and hopefully thrive in this new economy.  LEADERSHIP

And while the key to surviving this pandemic is leadership (plus a little luck), leaders (business or otherwise) are not immune to the fear of failure and criticism.  But, their ability to be decisive is crucial in allowing organizations to move forward with confidence. Getting it wrong is part of the process but shouldn’t stop a leader from moving forward.

Do not be afraid of being different.

“If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.”
–General George Patton

Let’s start by understanding what makes a good leader.

1. Know your cause.  Leaders believe in something greater than themselves.  For great leaders it’s not about the money or the awards (even though at times they collect these things along the way).  It’s about fulfilling the goal or achieving the dream.

2. Know yourself.  Leaders understand their principles and know what they stand for.

3. Be the one.  Be the one willing to do whatever it takes.  Make sure the team knows that you would never ask them to do something that you would not do or already have done yourself.  Put the hours in.  Be prepared to be the first one there and the last one to leave.  

4. Show and have self-confidence. Believe in yourself which will allow others to believe in you as well. This does not mean that you have to have a huge ego.  In fact, the best leaders are often humble. They do not need to take credit for the wins, but always take the blame for the losses. Leaders that truly possess a strong self-worth will be able to withstand the criticism while not needing the admiration of others.

5. Elevate your ambitions. Continue to re-evaluate and set new goals.  Work with your team to do the same.  

6. Be prepared to make the hard choices. Your team will expect this from you. They need to know that they can rely on you when difficult choices need to be made. 

7. Be prepared to change, but don’t lose focus on your values.  Changing does not mean starting over. Changing means adapting.  If your cause is worthwhile, changing times will not make your cause vanish.  Changing times may help establish a new path to achieve your goals in.

8. Become the best communicator.  In order to be a great leader, you must be a great communicator.  While you may not be born with this skill, you can learn it.  If you believe in yourself, your cause and your message plus you take time to be knowledgeable and prepared, good communication becomes easier.

9. Demand the best. In order to find success, leaders need support. Your organization will struggle with motivation, energy and conviction. Focus on inspiring and motivating your team to be the best version of themselves as often as possible so that they can provide you with the support you need to succeed.  

10. Do not surround yourself with yes men.  Your team will now become more important than ever. In order to be your best, you need people willing to challenge you. Your ability to win them over by convincing them of your plans, your message and your goals will prove that you are a strong leader and that you have what it takes to lead your organization through these new and ever changing times.  

Finally, lets remember that change is not easy and it is often messy.  As small business owners, we know we are going to be forced to change, adapt, learn and then change, adapt and learn again. 

Personally, I want to wish all my small business owner friends the best of luck as they work the incredibly long and hard hours needed to keep their dreams and ambitions alive while at the same time working to support each of the families that count on them for employment and security.

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