Fear is a powerful motivator.
That’s a commonly shared saying that struck close to home for me a few springs ago in March of 2020. We rebranded our marketing and advertising firm. We moved offices, and we prepared for the shifts that would come. In less than a week, the former Governor of Virginia did what so many leaders across the country chose to do: he locked down the state. Most everyone retreated to their homes, and we all adjusted to a situation that a few months before not many could have imagined.
Throughout my business career, I have led teams through hard times, but nothing like this. And frankly I was afraid.
Like a lot of business owners, I got out my pen and paper and started doing the calculations. I fielded calls from some clients who wanted to freeze their spending or end their agreements. It was a scary week or so, and the outlook in March of 2020 did not look good for many of us. We support around 50 clients who are mostly small or mid-sized businesses as well as some local franchisees. Most of us felt like we could hang in there for a few weeks to maybe a few months.
I did my best to lean in to the circumstances. My company was founded during the Great Recession, and I’d sold local advertising to businesses during some really tough economic times over the previous 20 years. I believed, based on that experience, that if our company could simply do what we had been doing, we could come out okay. It was advice I had shared with plenty of other business owners through the years. Now I had to embrace this approach in the middle of my own uncertainty.
Over two years have gone by, and like many of you, I have learned a lot about my team and myself. Some of our clients floundered and others flourished. It was a daily struggle for many of us, but the leaders who leaned in and faced their fears generally did so much better. It’s okay to be afraid; it’s part of business (and of life, really). Find a trusted advisor, get some time alone to think and process, bounce an idea or solution off key co-workers, and do what you need to do in order to charge through that sticky situation.
It's not likely fear and challenging circumstances are going anywhere. That’s okay. Great leaders like you aren’t either. You can always do more than you think you can. Fear not.
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