I’ve always been good at what I call “zoom in, zoom out”.
What I mean by that is… I can see both the 50,000-ft view and the detailed, up-close view, and zoom in and out to see how the pieces connect.
And as a result of that ability, early in my career I became the dreaded “office harbinger of doom”.
I could spot problems forming on the horizon, months in advance. And I took great pleasure at my predictions coming true… in being right about how things would fall apart.
And one day my Copy Chief challenged me with one of the biggest eye-openers of my career – delivered totally deadpan, over coffee.
He said, “Angie, I don’t want to hear any more problems unless you’re also bringing me solutions.”
As much as it hurts my ego to admit, he was 5000% right.
It helps no one to constantly be pointing out problems, even if it does alert folks to something that can be headed off at the pass before it becomes an issue.
I was taking delight in pointing out all the problems in a plan and then flouncing off to let other people figure out how to solve it (and worse – sometimes I even got pissy if no one actually stepped up to solve it… aye, younger me).
I’m immensely glad for that moment, because it shifted everything for me… how I think, strategize, and yes… solve problems.
In fact, finding creative solutions is now one of my favorite activities EVER.
So imagine my surprise and delight when, in the midst of so much chaos and fear… I started seeing lots of people doing the same thing.
Yes, the news is wigging out over job loss and economic slowing… and this is not to minimize that or downplay the very real loss of work and money.
But I am finding hope in the folks who seem to be flat-out refusing to let COVID-19 shut them down. And I wanted to share some of the stories I’ve found… maybe you’ll be inspired to make some interesting pivots in your own business.
We WILL get through this… and these guys are just proving me right (I do love being right):
The challenge here was several layers deep (pun totally intended for my Mexican food-loving friends). They had a ton of leftover perishable food that would go to waste after the sudden closure of all California bars and restaurants. They had a staff and vendors to pay. They also had a ridiculous amount of toilet paper that no one would be using since no one could come into the restaurant.
They put their heads together and came up with a kit – literally 10 pounds of meat, tortillas, two types of salsa, and all the taco fixins. PLUS – each kit comes with 4 rolls of TP and 30 eggs. Talk about creative problem solving… not only did they NOT have to throw away a ton of food and shut down, they helped local families who couldn’t get to the store or reached the store after it was picked clean. 10 pounds of meat (plus creative repurposing of leftovers with those eggs) can feed a family for awhile. Bravo!
I’m still not quite sure why everyone suddenly thought “hmmm… respiratory illness spreading like wildfire. I should make sure I have enough toilet paper to build myself a fortress, in case I suddenly start shitting 20 times a day, every day”.
By now you’ve probably also encountered the great TP run (pun also intended, and also disgusting) of 2020. Enter the next big thing… the bidet. Or as my godson calls it (at the top of his lungs): AUTOMATIC BUTT WASHER.
This one might seem like a bit of an obvious solution, but I wanted to share it to show how much opportunity is left behind when a new normal is created. Right now people can’t even go to a doctor – imagine the future for those folks who started creating apps where you can talk to a doctor, a therapist, a specialist… from the comfort of your home without worrying about insurance or social distancing.
When the old ways die, smart businesses find a way to fill the gaps (pun… oh lord I’ll stop it with the puns already).
I love everything about this business – they help families with “out of the box kids” – kids who are struggling with OCD, or ADHD, or ASD – communicate better and work together better. They were ramping up their latest paid workshop when everything started shutting down.
They could have sat back and grieved for the sudden hit… when things change overnight it makes sense that there’s a bit of grief over having worked so hard only to not be able to help people or grow your business the way you’d planned.
The owners of this company completely scrapped the promotion they’d been planning for months and pivoted to doing livestreams to support families who found themselves quarantined with schools shut down. They started offering activities, learning ideas, and tips for helping kids not touch their faces and reduce stress from the change in routine.
THIS is what it means to show up and serve… to do the work your people need, even if it means working some overtime and scrapping all your former plans.
I found so many awesome examples of businesses stepping up with creative solutions to problems we’re all facing right now…
If you’re trying to figure out your own pivot right now… here’s where I’d start:
- Think of what you offer, and what your customers need. Then think of the challenges you’re facing and the challenges your customers are facing. Is there something you can do to help them right now? Is there a service you can offer in your specialty (or adjacent to your specialty) that’s useful?
- Think of what you need to do to keep your business running for the foreseeable future – are there creative ways to move inventory, get rid of perishable food, or start offering online versions of in-person events?
- Ask yourself, “how can I help?” I’ve found I suffer the most when my world is small and focused entirely on me. That’s when I struggle the most with anxiety attacks. When I step outside myself and focus on others, it really helps put my problems in perspective… and it helps me see new possibilities that I might have missed had I stayed in my own head.
So I know right now it’s hard to NOT focus on the problems. But the sooner you can start thinking of solutions to the problems, the better it will be for you, your business, and the whole world.
Do what you need to do – grieve, rage, start a sing-along from your balcony. Feel that first wave of feelings, honor them… then let’s get to work.