My Epic Pandemic Business Mistake
I hate learning painful business lessons when I’ve been around the block this long. But here we are.
It’s almost two years to the date. I was in Ottawa giving a workshop to a room full of very distracted Canadians. Their phones were buzzing with emails about mandates to work from home, starting pretty much immediately. Their childcare was closing, come pick up your kid.
In retrospect, we should have cancelled the workshop but you know how it was back then – everything was changing hour by hour.
I flew home through the quietest I’ve ever seen DTW, chatting up my verycloseneighbor about how weird life had gotten, as we bathed our seats in Purell, maskless.
There was just so much we didn’t know.
Like, what’s this going to do to my business?
Uncertainty is every entrepreneur’s enemy.
I used to spend at least a week a month jet setting from city to city, racking up Delta miles and teaching my heart out. If you wanted to get into my speaking schedule you had to book about six months in advance.
So in March 2020 I was looking at half a year of work that needed a Plan B, ASAP. Nearly every client was happy to shift to virtual work and I’m grateful. My online workshops are totally rock-n-roll, I knew we’d be ok.
But everyone else was at a standstill. I spent afternoons completing puzzles with my teenager instead of negotiating new contracts.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, as I was finding the corner pieces, anxiety about my future was on the rise.
So when the Are You Available emails started rolling back in, I made a rookie mistake.
I said yes to everyone.
Uncertainty breeds desperation.
When I launched my first business, I was definitely desperate to make it work so I said HELL YES to anyone, no questions asked.
You don’t realize it til later but the trouble with the Yes to All Approach is that you lose your focus. You don’t have a clear audience. Your marketing gets murky. And you backbend your offer to make it fit what each client wants, even if you aren’t actually flexible.
In other words, it hurts.
It took me years to finally trust that the work would come and that I could be choosy about my projects (just like I’d always wanted when I was dreaming about working for myself).
I thought I knew better. After all, this is the counsel I had given to the students in my business mentoring course for years.
Find your niche! Have self respect! Set boundaries!
But there I was, in late 2020, giving four talks in one day.
I was quickly back to booking six months in advance. Which meant that even in early 2021, when I realized I’d made a rookie mistake, it was too late. I already had dozens of workshops on the books.
Literally, dozens. In December 2021 I posted this on LinkedIn and then laid on the green shag rug in my office for 20 minutes.
Beyond the risk of losing your niche, saying yes to everyone is taxing to your soul.
Your girl was tired.
If I could rewind to the plane ride home from Canada, I would have (1) put on a mask and (2) assured myself that even if things appear uncertain, the best play is to honor the natural limit of my working capacity.
I 100% respect that this is easier said than done.
Too much business is definitely better than too little.
I’m profoundly grateful that things weren’t worse.
I need, like, just two days where no one emails me or wants anything from me.
^ All of these thoughts ^ co-exist, side by side, in my head.
Here’s to calendar caps and regular naps.
What about you? What was your pandemic mistake? Write back and confess.