We have been lucky. Our business has grown since the pandemic started in the UK. We set up in the last recession so are used to being agile and nimble. However, as a service business and a person who likes to say “yes” a lot, six months in, the lessons I have learnt have been more personal and powerful than I had anticipated.
Like a giant weight stopping us from getting going properly, the pandemic rumbles on. But my entrepreneurial ‘glass half-full’ mindset has led me to recognise that there are some positives too.
I run Padua Communications with my husband. We are still home-schooling, dividing childcare up between us and have little of the help we used to get from grandparents who are all in the ‘at risk’ category.
What this has meant is more flexible working, and we were very flexible before! All of our systems are cloud-based, but we have extended our working hours and are having our management meetings at crazy times. It was a few weeks in when I decided enough was enough. Consequently, one of the most useful sayings I have now stuck on my computer is, “I can’t do it now.”
Saying “no”, or “not yet” is a bit of a revelation for me, but the restrictions on our time have meant that we are literally not around on some days and even if we are, we are more than likely out with a small person.
I have found it liberating, as a female entrepreneur, to tell people I am doing childcare on that day, especially as getting the message right about going on maternity leave was a challenge. I mostly hid my pregnancy from the outside world as long as possible, as I wasn’t ready for labels and aspersions to be cast. I hope that the pandemic has made everyone recognise the need for a bit more understanding of juggling work with family commitments.
To every entrepreneur, I would recommend thinking before you say yes. More than ever, your time is precious and as we get busier, people will start asking you to do more. You are in control of your time and how available you are, so double check whether you really want to do an activity, or if you feel you are obliged to, as the temptation to start agreeing to everything and saying yes as a default is extremely strong.
Another massive learning was the amount of business that could be done online. We were doing our fair share beforehand, but as offices open, some people are asking for face-to-face meetings. Apart from the fact that there is still a pandemic happening and we should still be restricting our movements, the amount of time I have saved by not travelling to meetings and doing them virtually instead has been astonishing.
I have a renewed confidence in saying to those asking that I would prefer to do an online call in the first instance. I don’t think I’m alone in recognising how much more productive I am by not jumping in the car or on the train to head off to London and beyond.
I have also celebrated the reduction of emissions that has happened since lockdown. As a green-minded company, we want to travel less. Clearly you need to review each meeting individually, but as a business, there is great strength in stating that you are working virtually and that online meetings are your main modus operandi.
Maintaining a positive mindset
We are at the stage where the forecasts about the economy are fairly gloomy. Depending on what day of the week you get me, or whether I have had enough tea, I have mixed feelings about these. What lockdown has taught me is that I am extremely resilient, but to ensure my positive mindset, I need to escape and carve out my own time. It is only really when I do this that my inner energy recharges and a fortnightly trip to the supermarket with some loud tunes on the way there and back is all I really need.
We all know that entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at looking after themselves, but to remain resilient in what is probably going to be a challenging time over the long-haul, you need to be a bit selfish. As the captain of the ship, there is no point in running yourself down as you won’t have what you need in the tank to sustain you and your team. Make some time for yourself—whatever works for you in your situation.
Along with carrying my to-do list with me wherever I go, I have taken part in more webinars in the last six months than ever. Today’s subjects have been sustainability and AI, both topics that I am passionate about—and both were extremely inspiring. When we give ourselves time to take a look above the forest of trees so that we can see the wider world, with all its needs and possible future services, we can remain positive.
As we get busier, try and remain selfish for a bit longer and look around for what you can learn. Be inspired by others in your network and hold on to that passion for your work. Don’t be afraid to be up front if business is slow or you are struggling. There is always a network, colleague or great idea that can pull you through.
Lastly, as a marketer and content creator, be up front about what you stand for and talk about your journey, personally and professionally. In the future, the strongest stories that will be shared will be those that have integrity, credibility and are emotionally honest.