The pandemic made growth and success incredibly difficult. Here’s how 10 business leaders pivoted to new opportunities in the face of uncertainty.
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The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But many people saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
In a series called, “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, Authority Magazine interviewed hundreds of business leaders who were able to pivot and take their careers and lives in a new exciting direction as a result of the disruption of the pandemic. They shared how they pivoted to a new direction and discussed the five things they wished someone told them before they started.
Here are 10 highlights from successful women leaders of this series.
Judith Martinez, InHerShoes
Growth is not linear: There is no business strategy or five-year plan that can plan for the future. Taking a look at 2020 is a prime example. Whether it’s as you are starting up, trying to scale, or figuring out how to exit, realizing and accepting that not all plans will pan out as you envisioned is a reality of not just business, but life. Growth is not linear and that’s not a bad thing.
The power of delegation : Sometimes as founders we think we are the “only” ones who can get the job done or execute something in “just the right way.” But that’s simply not the case, and a lot of the time, we end up missing opportunities to work and create with folx who can actually elevate our visions. By delegating and learning to give up control, we not only grow as founders but as leaders. Creating a team is crucial to success and growth. Besides, it’s like the ancient Ubuntu African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
The value of mentorship : When I started my business I sought out every resource, person, and expert I could find. Looking back, however, I realize that also sometimes meant I overlooked my own expertise, knowledge, and experiences. It’s because of this I highly encourage having a mentor and being a mentor. Seeking input and guidance will undoubtedly support your own growth, but being a mentor will not only support the growth of others but remind you that you too already possess experience and growth that is of value.
Trish French, Trish French Therapy
Having credentials is not enough to build a successful career: Spend years mastering your field and find the one specific niche you are passionate about.
Everything you do in your business needs to be heart-centered: Cultivate and connect with the deep belief that what you’re doing in your business is making the world a better place.
The five people around you are determining your success: So, choose them wisely.
Know the value you provide, align your pricing around that value and outcome: It’s not just about an exchange of service or a product. Our company provides life-changing results by saving lives, marriages, and families, allowing survivors to feel confident and have a passion for life. Manifesting a life with purpose and self-worth is priceless.
Wake up every morning and start listing things you are grateful for: I make it a point to list at least three things that bring me joy. This is an easy way to maintain a positive mindset.
Dr. Uchenna Lizmay Umeh, Teen Alive
Self-belief is key: After graduating from residency at Howard University Hospital, I found myself in a predicament. I had a J-1 student exchange visa and no job. I tried everything in my power to get a job. We searched high and low and found nothing. No one was willing to hire a pediatrician with my visa type. So, I ended up opening a practice in a rural area of South Carolina with hardly any money for capital and no experience whatsoever. I was young, I was scared, I had a nine-month-old son in tow, and only my self-belief as my main tool. I went from one patient to 6,000 patients, from one location to two locations, from two employees to 13 employees! I simply believed in myself and did it despite being afraid. I showed up 100% each time, and it paid off!
Be consistent and show up 100%: Consistency is crucial. It is the meat of anything. When you do the work and become successful, no one sees the bottom of the iceberg. No one sees all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into the business daily. But you do. When I first quit my pediatrician job to speak, I doubted myself a lot, but I realized that if I showed up daily and worked on my belief system, and did the work that was required, I would succeed. So, I got to work and showed up with my game face daily, providing value and service in my niche space. I have now become the go-to gal for youth suicide prevention. I would not have gotten there without consistency and self-belief.
Practice self-compassion: Also known as self-love, I have discovered that most entrepreneurs struggle with self-love. The ability to have empathy for ones’ self and want to help. This is often lacking in most entrepreneurs who might want to work themselves to the bone. Working day in and day out. But at what cost? How much is your health worth? When I was in private practice in Lancaster South Carolina, I would pride myself on the fact that I could see 40 to 60 patients a day, and barely rest. Ultimately, that cost me my marriage and my relationship with my kids. Entrepreneurs struggle with allowing themselves to take a break or take a day off. We work all day and all night, sometimes getting consumed in the work and hardly coming up for air. I struggled with this. As a self-employed physician, with my own private practice, I worked day and night and barely took breaks. One day, my eldest son had a piano recital and was okay with me missing it because they were so used to me not being there most of the time. That hurt me so much that I decided I needed to start taking time off to do other things that were important in my life.
Time: I wish I knew how time-consuming each project would be. I vastly underestimated the amount of time that was required to take on the skill of DIY furniture making. I thought I could simply follow DIY tutorials, and that would be it, but I didn’t account for all the snafus that would come up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to completely start over on projects.
Have a system : Knowledge is power, and since I’ve been making these videos, I’ve done my best to work as efficiently as possible. However, due to my inexperience, there’s been a bit of a learning curve, and I’ve inadvertently wasted a lot of time by not being armed with action plans for problems as they come up.
Be organized : Even if I design and implement a system to maximize my efficiency, I still am going to face challenges in terms of maintenance. I’m consistently striving to grow my channel, and the number one way to sabotage myself is to fall behind on my upload schedule.
Reach out for help : Despite the name of my series being “All By Myself,” I’ve learned that I can’t literally do every single thing by myself. I have to be willing to collaborate with peers and get feedback from viewers. The easiest way for me to stagnate would be to isolate myself.
Try new things : Similarly to reaching out for help, it’s imperative for me to be brave enough to experiment as I move forward. Just because something is unfamiliar or uneasy doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying, and in fact, my best project so far (my nightstand) is a product of trying something I originally thought to be impossible.
Larissa Malcolm, Flourishing Focus
Ask for help. People from all over the world are helping me. My cup of gratitude is overflowing. Ankit in India; Eva in Norway; Sarah and Harriet, in England; Marta in Wisconsin; Jessica, who I just met, in Cleveland; and the list goes on and on. So many people are helping me learn new things and put this together. When I feel like giving up, I think of all this help, and keep trudging along. I don’t want to let them down. Their kindness holds me accountable. I never could have imagined all this help — from getting Search Engine Optimization together, to improving my LinkedIn views by 1490%, to videos of tips in Canva created just for me. Before this, I was someone who helped others but rarely asked for help myself. I haven’t even had to ask in most of the cases, I will have a problem and somehow an angel comes from far away to fix it or give me advice.
Beware of the shiny object. It’s expensive. There are more expenses than I guessed. Starting on a broken shoestring budget, all the little things add up fast. I never heard of shiny object syndrome before and have learned the hard way. I wish I started with a budget and a list of needs, wants, and things you can save for later or never get. I started without a basic knowledge of business finance. And no real plan other than a big idea. Being more thoughtful about expenses and learning basic business finance concepts earlier would have made this easier. Eventually someone told me about “shiny object syndrome”, unfortunately that was after I ordered frivolous products I might never need or use.
Start developing a thick skin. There will be negative comments you couldn’t possibly anticipate. Be ready. I am a highly sensitive person and when people make negative comments, my feelings get hurt. I spent hours creating a guide called “Thanksgiving in Trying Times”. It is full of pictures and quotes about Thanksgiving traditions, gratitude, and ways to be safer this year. I thought it would be a big hit. I put out a few Facebook ads for it and all of the comments were negative. Someone called me a “fear-monger” which was shocking because I thought the guide was great. A friend told me the title wasn’t good, but I didn’t listen because I loved it. Clearly, it didn’t resonate with the public. I am learning to take criticism as a learning experience — what can I learn from these comments? Where is the miss? The old me would curl up in a ball and go to sleep after the negative comments and now I am taking them as opportunities to readjust my message.
Charlene Tassinari and Carly Potock, Canvas+Co
Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. After working in corporate for many years, we had this mentality of needing to keep busy all day long in order to be productive. Your workday and productivity looks very different when you run your own business. We have less meetings, zero politics and we can just focus our time on what matters. We get more done in a few hours now than we would have in a few days before.
Building a new business takes time, so be patient. Even if you have the best idea and a strong market fit, it’s going to take six to twelve months to build a robust pipeline of new business. It’s all about planting seeds and then waiting until they are ready to grow.
Your positioning matters a lot. We found that you need a lot of practice and pitches with potential clients in order to refine your messaging before you get it right. The messaging we started with 10 months ago is very different from where we are today.
Get comfortable with change. There has not been two days that look the same since we started our business. That can really push you out of your comfort zone and is challenging at times. But the amount of growth we’ve both experienced this year has been so worth it!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Growing a business during the pandemic has required us to ask for a lot of help with introductions to potential clients. There are so many generous people, and we’ve really seen a theme emerge around women helping women. It’s been one of the bright spots of this year and we can’t wait to return the favor!
Liv Bowser, Liberate Studio
If you build it, they won’t come…right away. I fully believed that once I built the website and I offered classes on the schedule, then floodgates would open and interested participants would come rushing in. We offer a powerful purpose and an empowering experience…what else do we need? When we launched our beta in mid-May, a very supportive yet small community was consistently engaging with Liberate, but otherwise it was crickets. This isn’t meant to discourage anyone, it’s meant to encourage. Reaching that initial peak of building your company from the ground up is a huge milestone worth celebrating. That said, it’s only the beginning. You have to consistently show up and work hard every morning and then maybe, slowly, some people will come. There is always another mountain to climb, but I believe the view will be worth it.
Change is worth embracing. Be prepared to evolve, integrate, adjust, adapt, and tinker with your business every single day. The way to get through it all? Find joy in the process! Whether from customer data or a personal conversation, I let new information inspire me with fresh possibilities and directions instead of overwhelm me. The quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” by Anaïs Nin, holds true for me. We can’t let fear of the unknown hold us back from blossoming.
Organization is underrated. In my opinion, nothing bad can come from being organized. Creating streamlined processes and procedures can clear up valuable headspace and help you stay on track. As a society, we prioritize getting things done fast. For us entrepreneurs, it seems this pressure is only compounded further. But I’ve learned prioritizing speed can come at the expense of important details and connections. Putting off recording important information until later (sometimes forgetting entirely), it only ends up creating bottlenecks and confusion when I have to cross check email and DMs for status updates on important partnerships or even end up scheduling two meetings for the exact same time. So take a deep breath and remember what really matters when you feel yourself spinning out. Slow down so you can stay on top of it!
Dr. Hokehe Effiong, Kits of Hope
Ask for advice. I am not expected to know everything and it’s critical to get comfortable asking for help.
Trusted mentors are critical. Trusted people that you can reach out to that will help you handle your challenges and make the most of your opportunities.
Keep talking to your customers. It is important to ask the people you serve what their needs are so you can deliver value to them.
Consistency is key. It is hard to be a CEO but expecting the high’s and low’s and reminding yourself to stay focused on the vision will help you grow.
Take care of yourself. It is critical to take care of your mental and physical health so you serve from your highest place. Fill your cup so you can fill others from your overflow.
Leah Rockwell, Rockwell Wellness Counseling
Health Insurance: I was always so worried about how I would find health insurance on my own if self-employed. Newsflash — it’s not that complicated, and this should be the last thing that holds you back from starting your own company. Another therapist friend of mine connected me with an insurance marketplace broker who was used to finding healthcare for therapists, and they even completed all of the paperwork for me!
Bureaucracy is real: Filing for my LLC was a process that I had to do two times which means I had to pay the filing fee twice — ouch. Read the fine print and do it right the first time.
Join a coaching group specific to your field or type of business: It’s instrumentally helpful in getting you into the right headspace for designing a business that aligns with your vision of success. I have joined two coaching groups for therapists, and they already have me considering ways to grow my business in the future. They also are an excellent resource when I need to bounce ideas off others.
If you don’t love most of what you do, you probably should pivot: I remember going through the motions in my business during the first couple of years, thinking that if I just keep doing all the things, I would eventually see progress. But that isn’t always true. You can’t always trade time for money. And if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you definitely don’t want to waste your time.
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s end: So often we get trapped in the comparison game, especially on social media. Sometimes what you see is not what you get. When you look at some of these big social media accounts and businesses they have entire teams helping them. I am a team of one (growing to a team of two). Most of my clients are a team of one. Your wins will look different and that is OK. Lean on your community and focus on serving the people that are watching. It just takes helping one person to make a difference.
Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up: I remember when my twins were little, my day literally was packed and I would find myself scrolling the internet at night pretending I was “working” but really just feeling lost. Create down time so that when you do have “work time” you are able to do more. Slow down and really appreciate your current state. And when you do speed up you will have the energy and drive to keep going.