Contributed by Tui Cordemans, an entrepreneur based in Melbourne, Australia. Tui is the cofounder and creative director at Koh Living.
When I ponder over the concept of uncertainty and how uncertain we are feeling about 2021, I realise that in reality, the future is never certain. So why do we worry about it now?
Think about your years as an adolescent or young adult. Did you focus on the future and its certainty or uncertainty? Probably not. The young can often live in the moment more easily.
I practice yoga regularly, and when I am doing my yoga poses, I consciously bring myself to the present moment; when I achieve that moment, I feel much stronger in my poses. If professional athletes took their minds off the present moment, they could compromise their balance and the game.
Life is always uncertain, but now it seems to be more so. Who would have ever thought that a government would cause businesses to shut down? Schools to go remote? These possibilities are causing significant uncertainty.
Does this uncertainty have an end? Happily, we can prepare for this possibility and have our businesses ready to navigate a crisis. Remember, a business should always be crisis-proofed—prepared for the unexpected.
Prepare for the unexpected by preparing like a warrior.
Focus on the present moment
As leaders, we must have goals and a clear picture of our future. But, the truth is that there is nothing more real than the NOW.
You can save your ideal future for a visualisation exercise. However, when you are in business, living in the present moment is when you will be most powerful. What is more, just watch how your stress levels drop.
When you are with your customers, be present with them. The more you know your customers, the more you will be able to satisfy their needs. When you give your customers what they want, you will become important to them and they will remember you when there is a crisis.
Be a creative and perceptive warrior
There were times during the pandemic when I felt I was slipping into victimhood: Why did I not do more?
Chastising oneself is not the way of a warrior; neither is pitying oneself an effective way of dealing with a crisis. In November, I had a couple of bad days, so I took some time out to analyse the year and what had led to this state of affairs. What part had I played?
I visualised a Viking riding a magnificent horse and leading his people into battle. What were the qualities that made him a stellar leader?
The qualities I imagined a warrior would need to get through a crisis were: focus, strength (good health), caring for the needs of others (your customers/staff), standing up for beliefs (purpose), foresight (strategy), faith and determination.
Warriors have a purpose and a belief. They are courageous and they instill in their followers a winning spirit. They do not wallow in pity or expect others to make them feel better; they push forward, leading the way through adversity.
We can adapt the qualities of a warrior to our respective circumstances. Using our creativity, we can navigate our way through the crisis. Now, imagine yourself as a creative warrior on a horse and work out which qualities you need to get yourself and your people through a crisis.
In 2020, I discovered that we could not always predict where our money was going to come from, but we could predict what we will spend. Last week, I admitted to my 80-year-old neighbour that my generation had been spoiled, and she agreed. She went on to say that as a child, she owned only one pair of shoes and that during the war and the recession, her mum had tightened her belt and kept expenses to an absolute minimum. In other words, business owners need to buckle up!
Know your purpose
In the same way that a warrior in battle is clear about his purpose and why he will win, we need to be just as clear as to why we are in business and why our business will excel. When our goal is infinite, we do not need to worry about finite goals not being reached. It is about believing in something bigger than ourselves.
At Koh Living, our purpose is to make people feel important and loved through the creation of unique art-inspired gifts. What big goal are you working toward that will have an impact on this world or the people in it? Is it infinite and are your staff connected to this big vision?
During a meeting with members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organizaton this year, I realised that one’s purpose can begin in one’s own backyard. Do not be deterred by bigger businesses that devote part of their profit to grandiose philanthropic activities. What you can achieve is relative to the size of your business. As you grow, you can do more; the more people you impact, the more it will benefit you and your business.
“NEVER LET A GOOD CRISIS GO TO WASTE.” – WINSTON CHURCHILL
Learn from the lessons
Many people have noted how weird or difficult 2020 has been, and we agree. However, our generation has had a fairly easy ride. Past generations have suffered more.
But suffering can be beneficial as it can make us more empathetic, stronger and resilient. Successfully navigating a crisis can prepare us for confronting the next crisis.
Winston Churchill said, never waste a crisis. This will mean something different for each person. For myself, suffering is only beneficial if I am open to the message it is sending. What is that one lesson I have to learn?
When we failed to reach our finite goals in 2020, I was hard on myself—until I realised that what mattered was our infinite goal. I also realised that it’s not even about the goal, it’s about reflecting on the journey. If it’s about the journey, then I need to understand that journeys will always have ups and downs.
I asked myself, “What had I done over the last few years that was stifling our growth?” At that point, I knew what it was that I needed to stop doing and what I needed to start doing. This gave me 3 strategies for 2021 that I could use to feel confident in navigating an uncertain environment.
As business owners, we are often too ‘busy’ to stop, slow down, reflect, (be receptive) or meditate. This is usually to the detriment of our business and our personal lives. We should always start our days in meditation, reflection and visualisation to ‘create’ the environment in our minds that will allow us to live our most purposeful, authentic and sovereign lives.
Ask yourself: How has your market and customer changed?
To keep your business going forward, you have to understand what your customers need. This is not something new. However, during a crisis, people’s needs change temporarily and it is important to understand what these changes are so you can give your customers solutions. People are creatures of habit, and their basic needs will not change.
After the great wars, people eventually returned to their previous way of life, but initially, they tightened their belts and their spending. So, adapting your prices according to customers’ ability to spend would be something to take into account. People’s shopping habits were already changing before the pandemic, but now, this change has shot forward by at least five years.
There is a multitude of strategies you can implement during a crisis, and I have chosen some of the most useful. Crucial to success is creating the right state of mind. From a holistic perspective, it’s important to have a healthy mind and body to keep 10 steps ahead. It is often hard to keep up with our personal or work routines when a crisis strikes, but this is exactly what we need to do.
Routine in a baby’s life ensures stability for both mom and baby; routine keeps things ticking along nicely and this is no different to anything else in life. When life is rocky, we need that stability. Routine and discipline support us along our path of purpose, towards our infinite goal. Applying the lessons we have learnt will make that journey even more stable.
Tui Cordemans is the cofounder and creative director at Koh Living. She is also a member of EO Melbourne.