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April 3, 2020 —

Overcoming small business challenges during the pandemic

During one of the most difficult times in living memory, Anna Dunleavy talks about how we can overcome some of the challenges that small businesses are facing...
Anna Dunleavy
Business coach,
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In the last few weeks, life as we know it has changed beyond recognition. It happened quickly, almost frantically, and threw all aspects of our lives into chaos. We have had little time to adjust, with many who run small businesses having to make big decisions literally within hours. Creative business coach Anna Dunleavy is identifying some of the challenges businesses owners are facing right now – particularly women – and discusses how we can use creativity, compassion and positivity to overcome them.

Running a small business during an pandemic

When I first dreamed of running my business full time, I imagined hours spent photographing, editing, creating. I imagined fun collaborations, trying out new ideas, days spent working on projects that feed my soul.

Although I knew that running a business would involve so much more, I didn’t realise that being creative would probably amount to around ten percent of my entire working day. From answering emails, accounting, figuring out what to post on social media, not to mention managing your own schedule and prioritising your workload, it’s all just one big juggling act. It’s no wonder that it’s often likened to a roller coaster ride.

And yet, all of this feels manageable somehow, when faced with a worldwide crisis. Life, as we know it, is changing at lightning speed, and we, as the business owners, need to call upon our creativity to adapt, be nimble and look for ways in which we can change our roles to fit in.

The challenges we face, particularly as female business owners, are plentiful. Our roles as mothers, partners, daughters and friends require us to continuously give our time and attention. It’s no wonder, then, that most of us don’t feel like we’ve achieved that elusive work life balance.

With schools closing, so many of us have found ourselves having to add home schooling to our to do list. You, too, may have fallen into the comparison trap of perfectly planned timetables and inventive play time ideas. It’s so easy, at times like these, to fall into a cycle of trying to be everything to everyone. Because of course we want to help, and be of service, and offer our services for free. Yet, now more than ever, we have to pause to reflect on what truly matters. What are the priorities right now?

Running a small business during a pandemic

Finding your own version of success

I think you’ll agree when I say that if ever there was a good time to reflect on what our version of success is, it’s now. Our roles may be changing and adapting to this new lifestyle. How do you want to be spending your days? What does success really look like for you? As a coach, I often walk alongside my clients as they unpick all of the expectations they have gathered over time. Perhaps having a six figure business isn’t actually all that appealing, if you’d rather spend most of your time tending to your garden or connecting with nature? Maybe creating an effective funnel for your products or services isn’t a priority right now, and instead, connecting with your community in an authentic way feels more true to you?

Find space to explore the different possibilities that have opened up to you. Hit pause if you can, even if it’s for ten minutes with your morning coffee, before the kids wake up.

Challenges for small business during a pandemic

Filling your own cup

When I first started running my own business, I ignored any advice that talked about putting yourself first. I didn’t understand the importance of making sure that I was looking after myself, both mentally and physically. I didn’t understand the notion that if I didn’t fill my own cup, so to speak, I wouldn’t have anything to pour from. As a result, my creativity suffered, I stopped enjoying my work, and ultimately, I got dangerously close to burnout.

I’ve spent the past year learning to really put myself first. It doesn’t come easily to most of us, but now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to fill our own cup so that we can show up as our full selves for others. That means our clients or customers, of course, but also our close ones, and the wider community, too. The next few months are going to be challenging, but if we can spend some time cultivating those practices, we will be much better equipped to deal with the changing landscape we find ourselves in.

My favourite ways of practicing feeling grounded and centred are through journaling and meditation, but I know that finding time for these practices may be hard right now. If your kids are old enough, they may want to join you in some journaling. A simple gratitude list may work. Just five minutes of quiet can be enough to bring you back to centre. Gentle movement and walks in nature have a soothing effect on our bodies, and we don’t have to enjoy those in solitude.


Finding compassion during the toughest of times

It’s easy to worry that we’re not doing enough in our business. There are always tens of things we could be doing – new projects to introduce, staying visible on multiple social media channels, reaching out to potential clients or simply keeping up to date with all of the bookkeeping. We’ve become very good at always finding new things to add to our to-do lists.

As the world is entering a new life, instead of letting feelings of guilt in, consider holding yourself with compassion. It’s okay if all of the to-do’s on your list don’t get crossed off. It’s okay if all you find the time for, is making sure that everyone has a healthy meal at the end of the day. It’s okay if your working day doesn’t actually involve much work at all.

We are all adapting and finding ways that work for us, individually. Comparing your business to others will only set off a negative response, and our time would be much better spent focusing on how we can make the most of this situation.

facing business challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

What you focus on expands

One of the common concepts in coaching, is that our mind focuses on what we pay attention to. In other words, what we choose to focus on, becomes our reality. Have you ever noticed that shortly after you thought about going to a yoga class, you suddenly start to see yoga classes being advertised everywhere? That’s because our brain filters the information it lets through to our conscious brain.

We can use this to our advantage – particularly as business owners during these uncertain times. It’d be easy, and completely natural, to focus on the jobs lost, the lack of time to actually do any work, and all of the negatives that our current circumstances have brought.

We can choose to focus on the positives, instead – the opportunities that may come out of this, the time spent with family, new hobbies developed, or perhaps an opportunity to pivot your business in the direction you’ve wanted to go in for so long, but didn’t quite feel ready to just yet.

When challenges present themselves, which inevitably they will, ask yourself – how can I turn this into an opportunity? Right after having a mini panic, that is. It’s important to process feelings as they come up, but once we’ve done that, and we feel ready to, we can begin to find ways to deal with those challenges. Isn’t that what running a business has always been about anyway?

If you could do with some more help with overcoming challenges in your business, do check out Anna’s coaching options on her website:

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