I have had three careers in my life. Each time I had the opportunity to change, I took it. I moved from classroom teacher to business entrepreneur to personal planner. Now I admit that each career had aspects that were very similar, but they were still changes that I decided to embrace. In each and every case, though there was risk involved, the end result moved my families well being forward. In 2017, I retired, sort of. It was not long before I found myself volunteering for an organization that allowed me to mentor other entrepreneurs as they tried to change their business ideas into functioning businesses.
Then in March of 2020, COVID-19 entered our lives and caused some of the greatest change we have had to face in recent times. From my perspective as a business mentor, I had a front row seat to observing businesses as they were forced to adapt to a new way of delivering their products and service. They not only had to change once, in some cases they had to make multiple adaptations as the pandemic held on, let up, and roared back. The pandemic we thought would last three months, now sits poised to enter its third year.
What the pandemic has reaffirmed is not only our ability to adapt, but also our perseverance and yes, our stubbornness. We, as a collective, have a great capacity for making and accepting change. As a country, we also have a tendency to be stubborn. Too often, when change is thrust upon us, some would choose to dig in their heels and refuse to accept it, or at the very least, take the responsibility to do their part to facilitate the necessary change.
I could go down the rabbit hole here and talk about some of the divisive issues that have come out of or because of the pandemic, but I would be trying to change the minds of the stubborn element of our society. I would rather point out the great ability of businesses to adapt to what we all now refer to as our new normal. I would point out how restaurants, who by the way were forced to make the greatest adaptations, overnight switched from in service dining to takeout. But it wasn’t just takeout, it had to be done curb side or by contactless delivery. Others added outside dining to their service and even found ways to continue that well into the fall and in some cases, through the winter. No small task. And then there were the retail sellers who, suddenly finding their indoor capacity reduced or even eliminated as they were forced to close their doors, either created or greatly increased their on-line services. The list goes on as doctors found ways to offer telemedical appointments and virtually every business went to some form of virtual meetings, appointments, and conferences. In short, they adapted the resources available to adjust to new business systems.
Unless you were in hibernation during the last two years, I haven’t told you anything you didn’t likely already observe for yourself. So let me tell you about three businesses I was mentoring and the changes they made to survive and to actually thrive. The first was a retail store. When the pandemic first struck, they were forced to close their doors to the public. Overnight, they rapidly increased their on-line store and added additional products to their website catalogue. But their adaptation didn’t stop there. When they were allowed to reopen to their customers, albeit in very limited store capacity, they went to a boutique model and began scheduling shopping appointments. When last I checked, they were having a record year in sales.
My second business was a real estate agency, who was, prior to the pandemic, in the process of forming her own real estate team. When the pandemic made it obvious that business could not be done in the usual way, she adapted overnight to virtual showings and closings and not only went ahead with her plan to build a team, but thanks to her ability to be adaptive, has realized great success and can now facilitate even more clients in more creative ways.
My final business story, amazed me the most, in that I worried about her business more than any other. She had just started her business assisting clients in decluttering their homes. Her model was to go to the clients home and through a methodical process, categorize their possessions, identify those that needed to go, and then reorganize what remained. When COVID struck, I worried about how her business would survive. When I contacted her, she told me how worried she was at first and then decided she would try a virtual appointment. The client would pile up the clutter from a particular room and my business owner would, on screen, sort the clutter into multiple piles and gradually eliminate the unnecessary from the possible next to go and eventually the pile that would stay but be reorganized. It turns out that doing the process online was less threatening to the client than having the business owner actually come into their home. She received more referrals going forward and her business survived and thrived.
The point of this whole blog is that change is inevitable. It was a pandemic this time, but what will it be next time. Businesses adapt or die. Because they know this, the promising businesses plan ahead. In every case, businesses that want to survive, have found ways to continue in manners that keep the public safe. It is individuals that struggle far more. We resist change until there is no other choice than to accept it. It is obvious that the pandemic has changed our life styles over the last two years. The reality, is that many of the ways we did things will not return. We simply must adapt. Many have done their part. Others, have not. I felt that there was no better time to press my point than on New Year’s Day when every year we are offered a reset. I intend to not only accept change, but to embrace it and do what I can to facilitate it. I will do what I need to keep people around me safe by being conscious of their well being, even when that requires a little sacrifice on my part. And finally, by doing my part, I will look forward to 2022 being a little better than 2021 and a lot better than 2020.