There’s no denying that COVID-19 is changing the way we do business. Offices are closed, employees are working from home, and entire industries are being shut down.
The week of March 21, 3.3 million Americans claimed unemployment. The week of March 28, 6.9 million, and the week of April 4, 6.6. million more. As of the time of writing this, the total number of unemployment applications is at almost 17 million in just a matter of weeks.
In fact, it’s estimated by the International Labour Organization that more than 80 percent of the global workforce has been affected by full or partial business closure due to COVID-19, and along with their jobs, millions of Americans have also lost their healthcare, right in the middle of a pandemic.
COVID-19 is a fatal blow to the traditional work economy; the time for entrepreneurship is now.
While deeply tragic, COVID-19 presents opportunity for those who are able to elevate their side gigs or startup dreams, whether it’s creating a company, launching a freelance career, or diving into the gig economy.
It seems counterintuitive that any business would succeed in a slow economy. However, a study released by the Kaufman Foundation in 2009 found that over 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies started either in a bear market or a recession. This includes household names like Microsoft, Uber, WhatsApp, Venmo and Instagram.
Some say there’s never a “right time” to start a business, but I disagree. I say burn the boats.
Making that leap from full-time employee to entrepreneur isn’t easy. It’s a leap of faith in your own abilities—a leap I made for myself more than four years ago, and one I witness every day working with startups.
I’ve learned a thing or two along the way and feel that now, more than ever, there may be a few nuggets I can pass on to those embarking on the same journey.
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Perseverance always wins
One of my biggest early wakeup calls was realizing how so much of the entrepreneurial success I saw around me was not due to innate talents, particular expertise, or luck. The biggest factor was perseverance.
As Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame football player and former quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, said: “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
Doing just that little bit more than anyone else, aiming for that next peak when things are tough, and instilling learnable traits of entrepreneurial mental strength. That’s what leads to success.
You’re (almost) never reinventing the wheel
While everything is new to you, the chances are that there are many others who have been exactly where you are and experienced precisely the same challenges. Find them. Learn from them.
Creating business processes, managing difficult customers, running your first payroll, dealing with supply chain partners, building pricing models… it’s all been done many, many times before.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you simply need to piggyback on the experience of those who have traveled this path already.
Nobody knows what they’re doing
I have a piece of paper up on my wall with a quote by the comedian, Ricky Gervais: “The best advice I’ve ever received is, ‘No one else knows what they’re doing, either.’”
Remember that everyone running a business, from a part-time freelancer to a Fortune 500 CEO, is simply making educated guesses based on the information and experience available to them.
Never in modern history is that truer than it is right now, in the midst of an international pandemic that no one was prepared for. As borders have shut, companies have been forced to close, and employees are scrambling to adapt to remote work, it’s often OK not to know. Just do.
The world around you is malleable
Nothing is set in stone, fixed or permanent. The world is malleable and you, me, anyone and everyone, has the power to affect it. This has been a fascinating insight that led me to discard years of instruction on how things “should” be or how life is “supposed” to work. Just look at what’s transpired over the past couple of months—as an entrepreneur, you need to be adaptable.
As Steve Jobs once said: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
If you have the same problem with everyone, the problem is you
When I first started hiring, I found myself experiencing similar challenges time and again with different team members and vendors. I broached the topic with my mentor and she didn’t hold back in her response: the problem was me.
It wasn’t nice to hear, but it helped. My mindset shifted, and I started to look at myself first when business problems arose. While the problem wasn’t always me or even always solved, the perspective of looking at my work, rather than someone else’s, was a valuable step.
It helped me to avoid the blame game, instead focusing on what new process or action I could implement to minimize the particular problem down the road.
COVID-19 will change the world of work. With companies and long-standing industries scrambling for government bailouts, it’s a new dawn for the millions that now find themselves unemployed and seeking new ways to provide for themselves and their families.
Clearly, our hand has been forced. Finding a way to generate income outside of a traditional 9-to-5 is a situation many have not chosen for themselves, but extraordinary circumstances have now dictated it. If there was ever a time to take that entrepreneurial leap, to burn the boats, that time is now.