Will my dreams die? Or will I seize my leadership moment…..

Many small business owners are grappling with the uncertainty surrounding them as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. I wrote this article was written to give owners a point of reference so that they can navigate through this moment. #GS10KSB #smallbusinessowners #womenownedbusiness #emergingleaders #GoldmanSachs #smallbusiness #businesswomen #buinesswomenlinkup #businesswomenontherise #businesswomeninthemaking #businesswomenday

It has been four grueling weeks. My peers and I within this diverse and wonderful small business community have laughed together and in the same conversation shared our fears and anxieties, not about the distant future, but about what will tomorrow bring. Often the question arises, “What should my next steps be to return to where I was?” Each day we are bombarded with ceaseless opinions from what seems to be hundreds of subject matter experts on how to recover from what has been a devastating worldwide event. However, these opinions are aspirational at best or speak to an audience that is much bigger and better positioned financially. An audience possessing the capabilities and financial reserves to weather this storm and market their way to a successful outcome. So I thought to myself, “But, what about us? What is our way forward?”

Then, a saw a powerful and thoughtful commercial by Go Daddy that I believe speaks to all of us who operate in an intimate entrepreneurial space. The marketing campaign is entitled Open. I believe the campaign reflects our passions, drives, and realities as small business owners. The ways we engage our customers, suppliers, and employees have changed and we must now develop new protocols. We deliver to our customers not only products and services but our very essence! Our employees are family to us and we seek to protect them because we understand that we not only elevate them but we support their families as well. Our sales transactions are not just figures recorded in a bookkeeper’s registry but represent the benefits of well-forged relationships earned by human sacrifice and personal efforts.   

Through a simple, but meaningful messaging, the Open promotion by Go Daddy shares an insight that will help all of us navigate the days ahead. Our businesses are not just, what we do nor are they just daily routines such as unlocking the door, turning on the lights or checking inventory. They are a product of a choice, our choice to act on a dream and to give it life. Do you remember your first day? Maybe you had a couple of prospects or no customers at all. You had a belief that what you had to offer stood alone in the marketplace and many would eventually see the value.  

When I started in my first entrepreneurial venture in real estate many of my associates questioned my decision. My partners and I had to build an identity for our business among established real estate franchises. Often, we received cold shoulders from colleagues in the business. Through persistence and countless hours, our name became known despite the economic upheaval caused by 9-11. We carved out a niche because we made the internal decision to open and face the unknown challenges before us. Failure was never considered an option; we were committed to building a reputation with our own hands. If we did not succeed, we could still stand before the mirror and our families proudly knowing we tried. We took our dreams and created something that did not exist before, and you know, that is what it is all about!

Understandably, the uncertainty that surrounds us now can feel paralyzing. Nevertheless, you have to tap into that inner spirit that first motivated you to step out into the market place with your concept and be open to that internal voice. Let that voice nurture you and inform you. Over the past ten (10) years, I have had the honor to meet hundreds of business owners and I have been impressed by what they have been able to develop from a small kernel in their mind. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, spoke to these moments like the one we are now in with the COVID-19 emergency. He described these moments when there is a clear mismatch between the past business model and the changing world around you. He said, “You [business owner] must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal acts of your current reality, whatever it may be.” He went on to say, “Leading from good to great doesn’t mean coming up with all the answers …it means having the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.”

In my network, many of you are alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and US Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program. Remember, this is an unprecedented time. All industries are impacted equally. We all have to reboot. Communicate with the networks you have created within these fine programs. Create virtual advisory councils and not just problem solve, but opportunity find! Ask the questions you need to stabilize and sustain your business.  Be open to new strategies and business models. I am a person of faith and I know we will make it through this moment because I have been here before when my business was just a momentary thought.

In closing, may I leave the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Lives of great men all remind us … We can make our lives sublime [inspiring] …And, Departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time.” Be inspiring, be open to change, and seek support from your network. Be open to understanding you are not here because of a wrong action you have taken, but you are experiencing a worldwide event that has occurred outside of your control. We all share the same desire to rise above this moment. I love to hear from you. Please comment and share.