Nobody saw this coming.
Just two months ago, we were in our 11th year of an economic expansion; unemployment was at a 50-year old low; and March Madness was right around the corner. Then the bottom fell out. With roughly one-third of the world’s population in a lockdown (just think about that for a moment), things have never looked more dire. We haven’t just fallen; we have been pushed off a cliff. Everyone.
So, the way I view it, we have two paths we can take as we are all impacted by this over the next several months. We can sit idle and hope or we can use this unprecedented time to become productive and take control of your personal and professional outlook. Though it may not seem like it today, tomorrow will eventually come and with it, an abundance of opportunity. What you do today will position you to take advantage of those opportunities.
Get Your Finances in Order
Build yourself a budget — now. Go back the last 12 months and re-create your income and expenses to gain a true understanding on where you have spent your money. Find the easy items to lop off. Some of these decisions will already be made for you. Restaurants & Bars — they are closed, so you are already saving money. That DirectTV Sunday Ticket package? Cut the cord and save $200/month. There is nothing sexy here, just a line-by-line evaluation of every expense item to squeeze as much out of your budget as possible. This is financial triage. If not now, when?
Clear the To-Do List
Getting this list pared down not only will stimulate your head with something to do but will also clear your plate to take advantage of the opportunities that will be coming in the future. Be it personal or business — everyone has a “to-do” list that has been sitting idle for years. De-clutter your home of the many unnecessary items that you have and perhaps even help your finances by selling some. Use this time to update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Nobody likes to do that, but you have the time to get it right. Perhaps you have always said “someday I want to do that for a career.” Today is the day to put together the plan that gets you from here to that vision. Last week, I probably spent two full days re-creating a business speech that I have put off for a few years. Now, I have an up-to-date speech presentation that will generate revenue for me in the future. Be productive.
Build Your Network
Trust me, you aren’t the only one feeling pain. Use this time to proactively build your network of contacts. Everyone is adjusting to the new work-at-home mindset and you may be surprised how many potential networking contacts will welcome a break in their days to meet (via phone) a new professional. I am a strong believer in the “connection” — whether it turns into business or not. The more I can connect, the more engaged and motivated I become, which then positions me for opportunities that come my way. I try to give more than I get, but if you give a lot, you find you get a lot along the way as well. While there may not be an immediate benefit from making the contact today, it does solidify my ongoing belief that networking requires a long-term commitment and a direction toward tomorrow.
Read & Write
The next few months will provide you ample time to read and learn new skills; expand your expertise in your current or potentially new field; or just expand your overall knowledge, all in the comforts of your home. You may identify an emerging market that you want to enter — now is the time to do your homework and become more of an expert in that field. It is all about developing the skillsets required to take advantage of future opportunities.
In addition to updating one of my speeches, I took the time in the last two weeks to update and re-publish two of my books: “How to Stage a Killer Grand Opening!” and “Local Store Marketing For Retailers.” Both needed some updating, and I wanted to move them over to Amazon so I could have all three of my books available there. This time period afforded me the time to get these big projects off my to-do list.
Make no bones about it, this time in our history sucks. For everyone. While we have every right to be frustrated, scared and in some cases, quite candidly pissed, we need to get beyond those emotions and prepare for the future. We will all get through this — we always do. Spend your time over the next few months to build your future successes.
Please be safe and good luck to you and your families.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning, operations and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 25 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written Game-Changing Strategies For Retailers, which is available on Amazon. In addition, he has two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.