Updated: Apr 15, 2020
I don't know about you, but I've spent the last month doing two things every day!
ONE: Raising baby ducks! As the smart CEO-homeschooling-mom, I thought the thing to during social-isolation was to get my kids 1-week old ducklings. Don't try this at home people - I'll explain why below - and explain what happened in my bathroom.
TWO: Working with clients and non-clients to figure out what messaging they need to be sending out right now during this crisis. The economic crisis we all face has created many questions when it comes to driving your business/brand.
Now back to raising baby ducks... here are the 5 big lessons they can teach us about surviving a business crisis:
Ducklings almost double in size every 3-4 days
Ducklings will consume up to 75lbs in feed in 12 weeks
Ducklings will eat dry food but prefer their food soaked in water
Duck houses have to have extra-wide door openings otherwise they get stuck since they try and enter all together
And finally, I discovered that yellow baby ducks don't ever grow up to be yellow ducks - truly this was like a total shock to me!
So, what does this teach us about our business during a time of crisis?
1. Fear, confusion, revenue problems, and bleak outlooks can double in size every 3-4 days during a crisis period. Any business owner going through Covid-19 can relate. The problems we're all facing seem to get bigger, scarier, and closer to damaging our business every few days. Do the ducks really double in size every 3-4 days? Some weeks, yes. Other weeks, they just look bigger - and they chirp and waddle more so it also feels bigger. Sound familiar to what we're going through now?
2. A stall in new leads, cancellation of contracts, a dip in sales, and repeat business dropping off can eat through huge cash reserves in 12 weeks. We're all feeling it right? The cash reserves we had in January look very different going into April - not different in a good way. We're worried about feeding out employees while planning for A, B, C scenarios. And if ducklings eat that much feed in just 3 months, how much will they eat once they're grown? The more they eat the bigger they get. Are you keeping up with the cash needs of your business by trimming down or by selling your way through this period? If you can't sell your way through then have you considered diversifying your product offering? While every business owner must be prudent and strategic during this crisis, we also have to reinvent how we create our "food supply" - this may mean a brand make-over, new products, or collaborations.
3. Consumers will consume (breeze through) dry content but they're doing a deep dive for content that addresses their hunger for connected solutions during this crisis. When talking with clients and partners, the focus has been on how to feed their customers in ways that they find more desirable right now. For some, it has been creating targeted webinars, or developing philanthropic projects, or breaking apart product offerings. For others, it's as simple as refreshing all the messaging around their brand to connect with clients in new and meaningful ways. Finding ways to "feed our customers underwater" is how we all make it through this crisis.
4. During a crisis, our initial reaction can be to think smaller, play smaller, and stay smaller to avoid unknown hits to our bottom line. But this can get us stuck in crisis mode - think about the ducks - in order to thrive, they need a bigger doorway. Looking at our business and personal brand during a time of crisis requires us to think bigger and plan for the short and long term at the same time. This means broadening our product offerings, increasing our customer touchpoints and, just like ducklings, embracing the pack mentality when it comes to creating community with our customers. We need to create bigger doorways for new customers to flock into - not thnk so narrow or nihilistic that we keep potential customers out.
5. And finally, I need to remind you that I did not know that ducklings didn't grow up to be yellow ducks; I just thought our ducklings were special until my 17-year-old asked me if I had ever seen a yellow duck in real life. I can't think of a more important time for business owners to engage in learning new things and letting go of things they always knew to be true. We are never going back to the way things were nor should we - getting through this current crisis simply means evolving the way we think about our business, brand, messaging, and product offerings. It's about finding the right sounding boards to help us think through how to see the "yellow-duck" problems.
Now, the biggest lesson I learned - BONUS #6 - those things we hold sacred (like our private bathroom) we must let go of, allow nature to take its course, and be adaptable to our current situation. And during this crisis time and social-distancing, it's important to remember that no idea is sacred - not even believing that your bathroom is private!