Evolution Power Yoga has been in business since 2001, and in the last nearly 20-year period since our opening, we’ve seen a number of huge challenges, including the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2008 financial disaster.
I’ve learned a lot over these years, both personally and professionally. Twelve years ago when the global financial crisis hit full force, I was first amazed that everything seemed to be going well…and then surprised by a delayed reaction and revenue drop. I ended up having to do a price drop that lasted two years until I rebuilt. I was not prepared with the experience I now have; I operated from fear and reactivity. In doing so, I did not communicate well when it mattered and with the right people. I felt like I was failing and was ashamed. I did not want to ask for help.
What I know now is I am a leader first, a business owner second. Who I am is someone who lives for the health and well-being of others and knows to act from that space.
Mine is a yoga studio and our purpose is to create transformations on mats. To do that I cannot react from fear and still be the kind of leader I aspire to be. I have learned to take these steps:
- Identify my fears, all of them. I force myself to think of all fears that cross the back of my mind, both personal and for my business.
- Acknowledge the fears of each type of stakeholder in my community: staff, instructors, volunteers, students, the other businesses that my business impacts.
- Get clear about what is happening right now: Don’t let yourself be afraid over the imagined future, or end result. Rather than imagining the worst possible outcome and failure, simply start by taking stock of where things stand now.
- Throughout this process, I have been aware of and clear on the stages of how I will respond to my stakeholders (landlord, clients, etc.) and when. What is required of me and of my business at the present moment has been different than a full scale fear-based reaction.
- Has my attendance changed? This is the baseline indicator of everything. If so, how can I serve my people in a different way than I am now?
- Ask this question: What is there to do right now? This is often quite different than the fear-based, blind reaction. Though simple, it is often exactly the right question to ask when you’re overwhelmed. Here are some ideas:
- Make a list of five things you can do right now to evolve your business in a different direction.
- What are the three things you need to do right now to communicate with your team and clients?
- What are two things in my control right now and how can I action on them?
Mr. Rogers famously shared his mother’s advice to him when he was afraid: “Look for the helpers”.
I tend to isolate when I’m afraid or feel out of control. In this space, I’m unable to see who is right there, ready to offer me assistance and have historically viewed receiving help as a weakness. I have learned to listen and hear the need of the giver to give. From the challenges of 2008, I know no one ever really does anything alone, and in the context of today’s Covid-19 crisis, those helpers might be a friend who has connections and can give me a heads up when Small Business Loans are being offered, my accounting company who is offering webinars, friends in the industry…
Communicate with specificity. Vagueness gets vague results. This is the big one. When you get past the fear and get a clear list of what resources you have and what you need, people can help you. I never asked my landlord to help me in 2008. I never even revealed I was having difficulty. This time is different: I have a plan and I will reach out to my landlord (asking, for example, to amortize the coming month’s rent into the life of the lease so I can stay in business), and to my creditors and any other bill collectors, to ask for some relief. I know now that not only is this ok, but it’s the experienced business woman in me asking, not the fearful or isolated woman. Somehow, that gives me the confidence and courage to act with purpose.
When I need to, I adjust my attitude. I do it as often as needed, anytime I slip into a disempowering space. It can be easy to get stuck inside of “this should not be.” Any time spent in this space is in effect a blame game, and, to be honest, a total waste of resources.
Instead, Work with what is. This is where you are powerful and can shape results. Stay in the place of clarity and creation. If you stay in a negative, woe-is-me headspace, you won’t see or hear the opportunities and the help around you from this space.
Hardship is real, it happens…and most importantly, it does not define you, or your business. Be responsible for the energy you are generating and sharing. Be the supportive space, the grounded space, the place where people know they are safe.
Leaders are defined in the face of challenges.