Rethink, Retool, Relaunch
This article contains the discussion with John Witt, during the second episode of Marketing Trail Guide’s Podcast Season 1: Opportunities in Crisis
Today, everything is uncertain, and no one knows how long this pandemic will last. This is an interesting time to be launching something, to be in business, in this economy. In my conversation with John, we talked about the reality of COVID-19 and how to rethink, retool and relaunch in this challenging business environment.
Get down to zero
Kevin: We’re in the middle of a crisis, a crisis that has changed the business scenario drastically. As a coach who works with a lot of businesses, what’s your sense right now? What have your clients been doing? How have they been shifting and how are you working with them to help them during this shift?
John: It’s hard to say whether we’re halfway through. I think we’re a good way through the hardest part and the recovery time is going to extend depending on the type of industry and the business you’re in. We’ve got “essential businesses” and we have “non-essential businesses”. And the “non-essential businesses” have been hit harder. When you’re a “non-essential business”, you’ve got more to face, and you have to minimize your expenses. This is what I’m teaching my clients: minimize your expenses, get down to zero and find out what’s the absolute minimum you have to be operating on. What’s important right now, is focusing on keeping the business running.
Business development is still key
Kevin: You talked about finding what zero is, but is business development anywhere on the horizon right now? I have a lot of respect for your business development efforts and the content that you put out. Is that even a conversation right now for how do we acquire new customers or more business from existing customers? Or is it just hunker down, ride it out mode?
John: Business development absolutely has to be a part of the conversation. Keep in mind that at some point, businesses will emerge from the crisis, and they need to keep building strong relationships with their customers for a better, stronger journey ahead. Connecting, networking, and relationship-building strategies today are online. So engaging with your target audience is still available, which makes business development a part of the current picture. What you need to focus on is how do you build a relationship so that when we move out of this, those opportunities exist.
See the opportunities in crisis
Kevin: There’s potentially a whole generation of business owners that may have been late adopters to online technology. You had a corporate career and you’re now at the point where you’re doing your own thing. And yet, you’re very active online and creating all kinds of content. How did you get yourself in a position where you made the decision to jump into something that was novel, new, scary, unknown when you didn’t know how to do it?
John: There is opportunity in crisis. There’s an opportunity to do things that you maybe couldn’t have done before because of a massive shift. Going back 10 years to the last crisis, during what we called the Great Recession, the company I worked for elected to move to Dallas and I’m from Southern California. I didn’t want to move to Dallas, so I had to question myself, where do I want to go? Do I want to jump back into the corporate world or do I want to do something else? I decided to learn how to run my own practice and that was an opportunity for me to grow and create a more secure scenario for myself. Call it the accidental or the reluctant entrepreneur. I think a lot of people are dealing with that today, but they should see this as an opportunity, not a setback.
Take the leap
Kevin: Many people are thinking of making a shift, either by necessity or because they see an opportunity. Do you see that happening? Do you see a lot of people trying to start businesses after all of this?
John: There will be people that say, “I want to go start a business or I want to move into a new area.” And there are industries that are burgeoning and growing today. The real challenge in any of this decision-making process is determining if it’s right for them and whether or not they believe in themselves. Do they believe they can actually do it? This is where coaching plays a huge role. The reality is that people are capable of a lot more than they think they are. So, it helps to have somebody giving you the encouragement and guidance you need to take the leap.
Expand your possibilities
Kevin: I was watching a video this morning about a coach who was talking about how we can often get stuck in these binary sorts of black and white scenarios where we ask, “Are we going to do A, or are we going to do B?” And he was encouraging to ask the question, what are we missing? What are we not seeing? – How does coaching help bring some of that objectivity and expand the possibilities?
John: There’s always one option, that stays the same and has consequences. And then there’s the option that we think would work. But as a coach, I would ask, “What are the other options?” And if you don’t know, then we have to turn the question and say, “Who can we ask?” It might not be me. Maybe it’s somebody outside of that. Maybe it’s another expert who we should reach out to and talk to. Where can we do some research? Because there is rarely a binary solution, there is rarely an A or a B. And the question is how well we navigate that gray space and how well do we correct course while we’re in that space. We have to figure out how to navigate that.
Gear Yourself Up Mentally
Kevin: How do you get your mind and heart engaged in the direction that you want to go? Do you have disciplines for that? Is there a process you go through to keep positive and make sure that you’re moving forward and not stuck?
John: Follow a good morning routine. This helps you be prepared in the most productive way. I have coffee and then I journal. I write down all the things that pop into my head, the things that I want to do today and new ideas that come up. This is about getting my head in the right place for the rest of the day. There is nothing more important than getting your head in the right place for performance on a daily basis. The other thing that I would recommend is that, late in the day, you do a prioritization process for what’s coming up tomorrow.
Kevin: I read a quote that reads: “Dreams only work if you work” and, there’s a whole personal element to being a leader. We have to bring our best mindset and we have to show up in a certain way. You were just beginning to share with me about how you’re beginning to face some rethinking, retooling and relaunching for you personally. I wonder if you’d be willing to dive into that?
John: It’s interesting because I don’t coach anything that I haven’t already learned, tested, believed in and am doing. And if you step back to crisis, this isn’t the first crisis we’ve all been through and it won’t be the last one. I told you earlier that the last crisis, the great recession pushed me into creating this business. And many people today, they’re dealing with COVID-19. Now me, I’m actually going through an additional crisis that started before COVID-19 – a divorce. I never thought I was going to be single at 60. And that’s kind of an interesting place. I knew in 2019 what my future was going to look like and here I am, at 2020, and I don’t have a lot of clarity in that particular space. What does that look like? Where do I really want to go? What do I really want to do? I’m talking about opportunities in crisis. How do I turn around and leverage this thing? I know I have pain and I’m not belittling that or saying that’s not important, but at the same time, if you’re an optimist like me, when one door closes another one opens and I’m trying to figure out what that door is, that’s going to open.
Don’t let comfort kill you
Kevin: I saw a Ted talk about how comfort will kill you. The Ted speaker was talking about the circles of complexity and how that’s where growth happens. And that when we stay in our comfort zones, the status quo and nothing really changes. And that’s actually a risk. There’s actually a risk in just sitting comfortable in that status quo because your competitor is going to be innovating at that very moment.
John: One of the things that’s really important to understand in this model and being in the comfort zone is that you’ve got competitors that are going to be potentially coming up with new innovation and stealing your lunch. And that comfort zone also has this propensity to have us live life at a level far below our potential. I’m a big fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When we move above security and food, clothing, and shelter into achievement, self-esteem, fulfillment and actualization. How do I fulfill why I’m really here? How do I make the biggest impact and not just survive? Not be comfortable, but how do I make this thing really work? We’re not going to get there in the comfort zone.