Small business owners pour themselves into their businesses. We often start our companies for very personal reasons. If we’re lucky enough to beat the odds and stay open for more than a few years, our own name becomes synonymous with what we do. What we contribute. Who we are to our community. Now, coronavirus is greatly affecting how we usually get to express ourselves. Maybe the things we’ve always done best, the services we’ve always had to offer, are the very things we temporarily cannot do. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t show up for others, and maybe it even means that we now have a chance to show up for ourselves. So if you’re having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment, here are some observations I’d like to share with you.

First, clients are human beings who are in the same boat as yourself right now. I emphasize this because anyone in the service industry has had their fair share of psychological bruises from trying to reason with difficult people. But in crises like this one, people become much more cooperative and forgiving. Your clients know you’ve taken a hit with all this. They understand and actually genuinely care that you’re affected too. So just with that knowledge, you can take a deep breath. [ And take one more deep breath. ] Now you can practice just showing up as a leader. Even if your business is temporarily closed or partially functioning, I’m confident you still have something valuable to offer to your clients and community. Your presence alone is powerful and it is appreciated.

So here’s a story that I’m sure sounds familiar. I just met with a marketing company whose projects have all been put on hold for the next few months because clients are understandably being very conservative with their spending right now. My clients went from facing multiple deadlines to having little if anything to do. But, they put a plan together for how they can still show up for their clients. They’re launching a social media campaign around their favorite free platforms that business owners can use to maintain their brand awareness and engage with their customers. This isn’t an effort that they’ll be paid for, but it is an opportunity to step up and lead their clients in a way that’s consistent with their experience. In situations like this, when all is said and done, people remember who showed up for them. Yes, it would be great to be making money right now. But if you are among those whose sales pipeline is on hiatus at the moment, what you share and how you lead still very much matters.

That’s all on the business side. Personally, I hope you are taking good care of yourselves. Believe me, I’ve had to remind myself of the following repeatedly in the last few weeks. Entrepreneurs are usually in motion. We fix problems. We meet challenges. But at this unprecedented time, it’s okay to just be in the moment. Give yourself some grace that this is one thing you cannot fix. Take care of yourself and your families. Use this chance to put some gas back in your tank. This time will pass, and when it does we’ll be able to draw from this down time to energize the recovery ahead.

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Small Business, Big Voices: Episode 16