It’s here.

The global pandemic has arrived and my inbox is filled with updates about new health measures, cancelled events, and people working from home.

COVID-19 has us panicked. Many people are frightened of catching the virus or losing someone close to them as a result of it. Doctors are scared about seeing the health system melt down. Business owners are worried about the impact on their business and their staff. And there are those of us (myself included) who have grave concerns about the longer term economic impact of shut-downs and mass hysteria.

On a day-to-day basis, many people are wondering what to do with themselves while business is slow, or they’re confined to home for a fortnight because they shook hands with someone who met someone who had coronavirus.

What’s the solution? How do we operate when everything seems so uncertain? I believe keeping your hair on is the first step. Here’s my list of 25 things (in no particular order) that you can do during a global pandemic to stay sane and make the most of the slow times.

1. Get out the red pen

Businesses that didn’t see the pandemic coming have been blindsided as travel bans, restrictions on movement and social distancing cut customer numbers, drive down sales and slash revenue.

While you might not be able to increase turnover in the next few weeks, you can definitely control costs. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get out the red pen and go through your P&L line by line, looking at where you can save money. Cut expenses that don’t help you get more clients, make more money or maintain a positive mindset. Keep line items that do those things: marketing, sales, good advice. You might be surprised how much fat you can take out of your business, especially if you haven’t run this exercise in a while (or ever).

2. Identify opportunities disguised as threats

As you look at the threats that COVID-19 appears to pose to your business, try to identify which ones are actually opportunities in disguise.

This week I ran a workshop for clients whose main form of marketing is trade shows. They’ve had to cancel all plans to exhibit at shows across the globe, but rather than panic, they identified an opportunity to rework their entire marketing strategy and develop a targeted digital plan. This is something my clients have been meaning to tackle for a long time and never gotten around to, because they’re always travelling. With six exhibitions off the table and $250,000 that would have been spent on exhibiting in the bank, this company has more than enough resources to put together a kick-ass digital strategy. If done the right way, this strategy will enable them to reach many more people than they could ever hope to reach at trade shows.

3. Investigate a potential pivot
While demand is plunging in some sectors of the economy, it’s surging in others (like the health sector). There may be an opportunity for you to take advantage of a trend or short-term demand. For example, I’m working with a company which has an Internet of Things device that records temperature. To date, it’s been used to track temperatures inside refrigerated units, but the founders have spotted an opportunity to pivot the application of the device so that it monitors the temperatures of human beings in public places – something that is hugely relevant just now. Smart thinking, right?

4. Change channels …

… and I don’t just mean switching off the hysterical garbage that’s swamping our screens. Some company leaders are freaking out about demand in their traditional channels going off a cliff, but haven’t investigated what mileage they can get from other channels.

This week, I spoke to a beverage producer who was worried that demand would drop in physical venues, as restrictions on gatherings came into force. The company has the ability to sell their beverage online, but hasn’t focussed on that channel and or considered the potential of online sales. Sales of online wine, such as through the good folks at Vinomofo, are going gangbusters right now, and there might be opportunity in other beverage segments too. How could you change channels within your industry?

5. Work on your international strategy

I often hear CEOS say “I’d like to create an international strategy, but I don’t have time”. There is no better way to add value to your business than by expanding its international footprint, and as the pace of business slows and there’s less operational work to take care of, there is a window of opportunity for executives to focus on their ‘big picture’ international strategy.

While some will resist because they believe that there is too much uncertainty to plan, smart cookies will realise that it’s the planning process that creates the real value. Just having a strategy in place is a much better place to be than having a bunch of half thought-out concepts. You can always adjust your strategy as circumstances evolve. If you’re keen to get started to your strategy and want help getting started, you can book a time to chat with me here – I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

6. Be a good corporate citizen

Yes, the prospect of a global slowdown means a worrying time for everyone, but you can do your bit to make things a little better. Rather than hoarding toilet paper and money, keep things moving. Pay your suppliers on time, so they can pay their suppliers on time, so they can pay their suppliers on time … and only buy what you need.

7. Create magic marketing

Awesome marketing often falls victim to busyness, so if you find yourself in a lull, use the extra bandwidth to upgrade your marketing plan and collateral. That way, you’ll be ready to roll and capitalise on pent-up demand when things pick up again.

8. Reach out to your network

It’s tempting to go to your cave during a tough time, but I don’t believe that’s a good solution. Instead, reach out to your network and do what you can to a) see whether people are ok, a) encourage and inspire and c) be encouraged and inspired.

9. Write your book

A book is a powerful piece of personal branding and adds a lot to your credibility. Most of us never get around to writing one, as we claim we don’t have the time and focus required. If that’s you, perhaps now is the time to start. If you need help, reach out to Jaqui Lane at The Book Advisor – she’s a guru in this space and can guide you through the process from A to Z.

10. Get some sleep

You can’t fight off infection or deal effectively with stress if you’re exhausted, so clock up the zzzzzs while you’re able.

11. Establish KPIs for your team

Nothing helps keep your team’s performance on track like a solid set of KPIs that everyone reviews as a group each week. If you’re not already doing this, use this quiet stretch to create to the KPIs and perfect the rhythm of meetings that you’ll need if you’re going to keep to the program.

12. Build budgets

I’m amazed by how many companies suffer from cost blowouts because they’ve never created proper budgets. Now is a bad time to be flying blind on expenditure, so get stuck in and work out what you’ll need to spend where, to keep the show on the road. If you combine it with the red pen exercise, you’ll be in a better position to weather the storm.

13. Start a podcast

See #9. Brett Jarman over at Experts On Air can steer you through the process, or do it for you if the tech seems like a challenge.

14. Go on a date …. Or a virtual date?

Time for dates is in short supply in my life, so pandemic or no, I’m going to try and sneak in as many of these as possible with my other half, even if all we do is have a picnic in the back garden.

15. Tighten your feedback loops

When performance is under pressure, tightening up feedback loops is a simple way to improve outcomes. Put simply, in times of crisis, you should be communicating more frequently than usual, using a structured set of meetings. Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting is a great resource on this topic.

16. Redesign your funnel

You’ll want to generate as many leads as possible and maximise your conversion rate over the next few months, so take the opportunity to review and refresh your sales funnel …. Or design it from scratch. You want to come out of the exercise with a clear one-page document that everyone in the team can understand and use.

17. Acquire deep insights

If you’re planning on going global, you want to know what you’re getting into. That means you need deep insights on the international markets you want to sell to. And that means you need to either commission research, or do it yourself. While you’re waiting for the phone to ring, you could be using your free time to acquire key insights, or if that’s not your idea of a good time, feel free to set up a call with my team and they’ll let you know how we can help you create market modelling and analysis.

18. Get back in shape …

… to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy and sane. If you can’t use a gym, hit the streets or the park for a run, or do some yoga to get the blood pumping and lift your spirits.

19. Spend time with your family

It looks like a lot of us will be in close quarters with the family for the next little while. I’m planning to make the most of limitations on what I can do by having quality time with my tribe, and slowing down enough to really appreciate how special they are.

20. Look out for those who are doing it tough

Many people are going to suffer as a result of the pandemic, and not just by getting sick. Especially hard hit will be the elderly, the poor, those who live alone or don’t have good support networks and those going through financial hardship as a knock-on effect of shutdowns and economic stress. Please keep an eye out for these people and help them however you can – they need you.

21. Become culturally competent

Becoming familiar with the culture of another country takes time. It’s also crucial if you want to sell internationally. If you have to stay home for a while, stock up on books, documentaries and podcasts about whichever international market you’re planning to target and get stuck in. If you want something a little more formal, like training for your team, reach out to my team – we’ve done loads of work in this space and we can provide services virtually, so you don’t need to worry about those pesky germs.

22. See your acupuncturist

Another natural solution to boosting your immunity and general well-being is to see an acupuncturist. While I’m scared of pins, I swear by acupuncture and will happily recommend it to anyone who will listen. For Sydneysiders, my favourite person in this space is Siegrid Delaney over at West Street Wellbeing.

23. Discover a new podcast

You might be confined to quarters but podcasts bring the world to your Airpods. I’m currently bingeing on all 700 episodes of This American Life and I can also recommend the Business Beyond Borders podcast, where you can hear from founders who have taken on the world. 😉

24. Catch up on your reading list

It’s an endless and virtually free activity.

25. Remember …

… you were never really in control anyway 🙂


Cynthia Dearin

Cynthia Dearin is an international business strategist, advisor, keynote speaker and author of Amazon best-seller Camels, Sheikhs and Billionaires: Your Guide to Business Culture in the Middle East and North Africa. With 18 years of international experience, as an Australian diplomat and management consultant, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Dearin Associates and the International Business Accelerator that helps clients to access opportunities in fast-growing international markets around the world.

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