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Thriving in Uncertainty: An Entrepreneur’s Playbook to Succeed While Others Fail

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Words that are more relevant than ever right now because as business leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and marketers, it’s times like these that define us and separate those who make strategic decisions - and act on them - from those who don’t.

I’ve spoken about this a lot recently, about what you can do now to stand out, to prepare yourself for when things get better, to expand your influence, to improve your positioning in the market, and to get more clients. 

However, this week I want to get specific with some techniques shared by business consultant, Richard Medcalf of Xquadrant SASU, who recently presented these ideas in our Marketing Lab mastermind group for our Connect 365 members.

The Marketing Lab is where our members meet for bi-weekly workshops featuring experts on my team and other heavy hitters who are making real waves in marketing, business, leadership sales, and more. It’s essentially an unfiltered look at what experts from all over the world are doing to get more clients, increase revenue, and build massive brand awareness.

Richard presented with flying colors and truly gave a lot of insightful and helpful ways businesses can not just survive, but THRIVE in times of uncertainty. Richard is the founder of the consultancy firm, XQuadrant, where they’re focus is to help the world’s top leaders thrive in complex and volatile periods like the one we’re in now.

Common Struggles Business Leaders Are Facing Now

First, I want to start by sharing some of the struggles that the business leaders and marketers in the Marketing Lab (a private training community for members of Connect 365) shared. I’m betting you can relate to some or many of these issues. Things like… (not all are directly business-related, but 100% affect your performance)

  • Getting clients to take action
  • Getting facetime with prospects, contacting customers
  • Creating immediate opportunities to capitalize on now
  • Overcoming delays due to uncertainty,
  • Dealing with prospects and clients who need to “hold off”
  • Disconnect from the “BS” out there and focusing
  • Showing compassion for current issues while still trying to market and engage with my prospects
  • Confirming (closing) new clients
  • Dealing with customers and potential customers’ reactions to today’s issues
  • Staying focused and productive when so much is changing
  • Deliver immediate cash flow AND position yourself for a more successful future
  • Stay motivated and move forward despite stress and uncertainty
  • How to grow your influence and relevance at this pivotal moment - with both customers and your team (how to get them to take action when they’re in that panic zone)

These are some pretty common, but MAJOR problems that leaders, entrepreneurs, and marketers are dealing with now.

How can we stay focused when so much is changing? How can we know what is the best place to stay focused on during uncertainty?

Richard weighs in with some profound words…

“One of the hardest things that I have to learn all the time is to slow down to speed up.”

In other words, he suggests that we stop rushing and reacting and instead take a step back and think strategically. Here are three of the strategies and frameworks he shared that I’d like to share my thoughts on...

#1. Energy - Be Intentional About Your Communication

He asks, what is the energy you want to bring as a business owner or marketer right now?

I love the story he shared to explain that question - the “Chips Are Down Party.”

He shared that there was one year growing up that was particularly difficult for his family because his sister, who has a mental disability, now was struck with a physical disability as well. And what was interesting were the people who showed their support in this time of need.

His dad, after the family had healed somewhat, decided to host a “Chips are down party” and invited only those people who showed up when the chips were down. 2020 is a year when the “Chips are down” and right now is an opportunity for you to show up when you’re needed most. 

It starts with the energy you share. ANd he explains two ways to think about energy…

Volume and Tone

He suggests you be very specific about the tone of your leadership and to write down three words of who you want to be right now (and how you want to come out of this) - and what your clients need from you right now.

So, for example, you could write bold, positive, and daring, or understanding, compassionate, and reflective.

And a quick note about knowing what your clients NEED vs what they want. Richard explains this in a great way…

He explains that when you take the initiative to  lead your team and lead your customers, daring to tell them what they need from us, (and it may not necessarily be what they want), we take a true leadership role.

My thoughts:

Richard is spot on about stepping up to be a leader, especially in times of crisis when people are looking for news on what’s happening and asking the question… what can I do? Knowing the difference between what your clients want and what they need is essential to help them during these times - and it augments the authority and expertise you have in your area and in your market, positioning you in a better place when you come out of this.

Also, I think it’s extremely important to be conscious of the type of energy you bring to the table and I love that he suggests keeping the words you choose somewhere visible so that they stay top of mind. Otherwise, it’s too easy for them to get lost and forgotten.

#2 Shock Waves

React - This is where people want to go into protective mode, fight or flight mode and adrenaline is high. They feel the need to stabilize business, protect their family and their health, and maybe even feel panic. 

This shock wave tends to magnify people’s reactions. So if they go into isolation mode, that’s magnified. If they go into micromanaging mode, that’s also typically magnified.

In this mode, and I think at some point or another we all felt this to different degrees, Richard says we need to focus on immediate customer protection, leading your team with empathy, and focus on short term action (not innovation or long term thinking). What will get you results now?

Reconfigure - You might have felt this stage as well recently. Here you might feel a big energy drop, adrenaline is gone, you might not be as productive (and you might feel guilt around that). It’s a decision we all need to make…

Ask yourself, Am I going to thrive in this setup or stay low energy?

Richard explains that this is a phase where less is more. Ask the right questions… How do we simplify? How do we do fewer things better? How do we build a sustainable rhythm to prepare for the third phase?

Recommit - Here everything kinda goes crazy again. Again, you might have felt this with more things opening back up since we’re learning to live with  Coronavirus as a part of our lives. Companies are more desperate than ever to grow and catch  up, mergers, and acquisitions start up again, and even a lot of the drama comes back again. Here you have a new hope, but a lot of new stress as well. 

Your challenge will be scaling, innovating, and bringing those innovations to market. Ask yourself, Have you got the energy to ride the curve and lead with urgency? Here you  want to lead your team and your customers or clients… and again, think about what your clients  need vs what they want.

My thoughts:  It’s essential to understand that in times of uncertainty and crisis, there are phases. This I don't think is debatable. It helps to understand where you might be so that you know how to react and what to focus on. I think the phases are very fluid, and with Coronavirus for example, even though it’s been a while, the latest news can put you back in the react mode, or maybe you’re ready to recommit and reconfigure and jump in with both feet. 

Either way, it’s managing expectations and being very clear and where you should put your focus and again, what your clients need from you.

#3 Efficiency and Effectiveness

Especially in times of uncertainty, the main question to ask is this: 

What do we do to simplify? 

Richard suggests you think about business in these two areas - efficiency and effectiveness. 

Ask yourself, “What are your 3 or 4 key performance habits that drive today’s cash flow?”

So the answer to that could be...

You use the Connect 365 approach to generate new conversations and sales calls.

You need to reconnect with existing customers

You need to sell a higher, more specific,   version of your product

Write new content for audience

In other words… 

What actions will make the most impact on your cash flow right now?

This is the “flywheel.” 

What’s the flywheel in your business? 

Once you have those down, Richard suggests that you identify and write down 1-3 strategic projects that will make everything else easier tomorrow.

So ask, What’s the problem I need to resolve? 

For example, getting facetime is difficult right now? 

So how do I sell that? How do I sell just meeting me? (Not selling the product but selling the meeting?)

So your strategic project is how can you position your meetings so your prospects can’t say no?

Other examples that would make things easier in a few months time could be…

  • Launch new website,
  • set up a sales funnel,
  • establish a new medium to meet with clients virtually
  • Create a well defined prospect communication plan (and a way to automate that)
  • etc

My Thoughts: I like how specific Richard is about diving deep into what’s working now and what you can do that will make an immediate impact. Too often we stay in reactive mode and don’t  plan. SIMPLIFYING has been a huge part of my business the past couple years and it  helped us during the first part of this year when everything went into lockdown. We knew where to focus that would give us the most impact for the growth of our business.

So the question about the flywheel is great… As the heart of your business model, what are the 3 or 4 things that need to happen if you want to drive business in the next quarter? 

I also agree that in crisis and uncertainty, it’s not so much about the long term model, but more about what you can do now. That will probably mean making decisions about cutting some things that aren’t giving you the results that would most impact your business now.

Final Thoughts

It’s about asking the right questions, and Richard shared some  key questions to ask that will not only address your stress level, your productivity, and your motivation during times of uncertainty, but  diving into the answers…

Focusing on simplifying.

On getting clear about what your clients actually need right now

And on being clear about your flywheel and your strategic projects.

Richard suggests writing these things down and use them as a dashboard you look at everyday to stay focused. It’s a simple way to know exactly where to focus your time everyday. 

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