The entire world seems to be staying inside and away from other people. Markets, if they are even open, are empty and devoid of people. What do I do now?
During this time of extreme stress it is important to remember that you are not alone. Everyone everywhere is in a similar situation. We are all limiting our contact with people and staying indoors. Having movie time with the family was fun… at first.
It is important that you have some semblance of a plan in place in order to keep moving forward. All of this confusion, stress and isolation can be paralyzing.
Focus on Health
First, it is important to focus on your health. This doesn’t stop at just washing your hands and cleaning surfaces, but also keeping your mental health in balance. Be aware of how you are feeling both physically and mentally and keep any minor issues from becoming major issues.
Monica and I frequently check in with each other to remind each other that we are not alone. Sometimes it feels that the entire world is crumbling all around me and having even a short conversation about it can massively lessen the feelings of doom and despair.
We also take time to get out of the house. With safety and social distancing in mind, we will hop in the car to take a drive, even we have no designated destination. We may drive up a street that we have never been on just to see where it goes.
Those walls that you see everyday can get old quick. Make sure you have some variety throughout the day to stay sane.
Focus on Routine
We are both working from home now. For me, it is my normal. For Monica, it is a new and strange experience. Together, it is a change for both of us.
When Monica works out of the house, I have the entire day to myself to work on business stuff. When she is on her way home from work, she calls me and I take that as my signal that my work day is ending.
With both of us working from home, I no longer get this call of her telling me that she is on her way home. My work hours and non-work hours are all mixed up and I don’t know what I should be working on.
To address this, instead of a call, we talk and tell each other that the work day is about to end. This gives me the time I need to transition from work to non-work time.
We also focus on dinner time. We still try to make dinner at dinner time and sit down together to eat. We spend an hour “checked out” of reality and watch one of our TV shows.
Make sure you keep the parts of your routine that are important to you. This starts with getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed to your evening routine as you lay down to sleep again at the right time.
Someone once told me that you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself. Having a routine is a key part of taking care of yourself.
Focus on Others
It is extremely important to remember that you are not alone in this. Other people are being affected too. They may be coping better than you or they may be breaking down. Roles may change and you may be the one in total break-down mode.
I called a friend of mine on the phone (yes, a real phone call, not a text) about something minor. Turns out she was in a paralytic breakdown state and didn’t know what to do. I had my headset on and she was on speaker phone and we talked for a few minutes as I tried to help her as much as I could.
Once she was calmed down, we talked about nothing for well over an hour. There were many times of extended silence as she was working on her stuff and I was working on mine. Just having a connection with someone over the phone helped her to break through the paralytic uncertainty she was having and she got a lot done. Turns out that this call helped me just as much as it helped her.
I often see that our postal person has her headset in her ear talking to someone as she makes her rounds. I often wondered how she can stay on the phone all day like that and why. Now I know.
So call people. Just check in with them. They may need help or you may need the help. Be honest and just ask to talk if you need to.
Focus on Finances
Nobody is buying from us. We have no in-person sales and no online sales. I don’t see this changing in the near future. In fact, I don’t expect or want them to buy from us if their priorities are someplace else. People today are focused on their primary needs. The vast majority of what we make and sell do not fall under the category of “primary needs”, but are instead “wants”.
Money and liquidity is an issue for everyone today. The reality is that there is only so much you can do. We have prioritized our bills to make sure that everything gets paid like it supposed to. We aren’t spending money on things that we don’t need and aren’t really going out. There aren’t many places to go anyways.
We also aren’t buying much for the business. This is the time of the year that would be ordering materials to get us through the summer. But with our business revenue at almost zero, there isn’t much that we will need right now.
For us, we sat down and talked about what this means for our business. For us we can stay liquid for months with the minimal recurring expenses that we have. We have no labor expense and no retail space. We consider our approach of low-risk growth to be a real blessing right now.
I pray that the majority of my readers are in a similar situation. You have some employment income that you can depend on and can cover any recurring business expenses, if any, with your work income. For those of you with higher expenses, there is some assistance out there that you may want to explore. Also work with your lenders to see what can be worked out.
Focus on the Future
As we emerge from this total mess that we are in right now (whenever that will be), things may be very different that they were before this virus started to spread. Don’t assume that it will be business as usual in 30, 60 or even 90 days. Social distancing may be here to stay for a long time (sorry huggers).
As we move through this extremely stressful time, our business is still connecting with people on social media instead of in-person. However, instead of focusing on sales, we are focusing more on relationships and letting people know that we are still here. We are attempting to offer some sense of normalcy and support amidst this chaos. Our social media focus is in letting people know that we are still making things and that we will be here when they are ready. It doesn’t cost us anything and can be a much needed distraction to our customers.
I don’t know what the future brings other than the economy will start again. It may be slower than before or it could be a sudden vindictive boom. I do know that people’s patterns in spending will change but I don’t know how just yet. This is why we must be adaptable and able to respond to these changes.
Lastly, don’t make any rash decisions. Take time to evaluate your important decisions because the facts today may be totally invalid tomorrow.
Until we get back to markets, stay safe and stay sane.