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Covid 19 & Breathing Life into a Stressful Solopreneur Business:
Coping with a Pandemic
We have all been bombarded with emails, social media posts and messages about Covid-19 and tips on how to “do business” at this time. How to act on social media during corona; how to market during corona; how to manage customer relationships during corona; how to finance during corona, ad infinitum.
The fact is, that we don’t really know how, because it is the first pandemic of the active working generation. We all use some common sense and adapt some practices from other crisis management strategies.
In the meantime, members of our community and our clients: all female microbusiness owners or solopreneurs are heavily impacted by this situation. Not only do we have to deal with slowing demand or cancellations for our businesses but also, we face childcare issues, elderly care issues and more.
Without knowing the truth of HOW TO, I have decided to share some strategic thinking, business expertise and human kindness around what we can do to EMPOWER our businesses and ourselves as female entrepreneurs during this unprecedented experience.
Here is a guide for thought and for the purpose to solve this challenge.
You – the solopreneur: Self-Care:
What is the most important thing for a micro-business or a business with only one employee (the owner)? YOU. Unless you have set up some fantastic systems, your business is too small to survive without you. That means you have to take care of yourself. I don’t just mean increasing your hand sanitization and vitamin intake, but maintaining your mental wellbeing and positive morale. We are all impacted, and we all worry. Regardless of this, as an entrepreneur, we know that worry and negativity blurs the brightest mind, kills focus, brings doubt; all of which are the breeding ground for business failure. As a business owner, we need to engage our creative and strategic mind and find out-of-the-box ways to stabilize activity and growth. This, in itself, requires a steady mind and strong positivity.
Here are some personal tips:
1. Meditate: According to a study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego, under Roger Bon, “people are every day inundated with the equivalent amount of 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information, a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop within a week.” I believe it’s safe to say that we may have doubled this currently (as my own WhatsApp is receiving hundreds of messages per hour about Covid-19). So, I have returned to my meditative practice even more. Giving my brain even 10 minutes of space from this overload of stimuli helps me organize my thoughts.
2. Physical activity: I won’t quote all the benefits of physical activity on mental health due to change in the hormones and neurotransmitters. My personal relationship with physical activity is more than that. When I do my little workout in the morning, I feel like I have accomplished something. And that feeling boosts my energy to accomplish more tasks throughout the day.
3. Surround yourself with like-minded peers and mentors (virtually):
We might be in full or partial lock-down, so what. We can still keep in touch, create our communities. I belong to more than 15 online communities (including family and friend’s WhatsApp groups) and being in touch with them helps me feel empowered.
PLAN – Your strategic approach for your business and its sustainable growth This is one of the most important hubs of any business during a crisis management period. Good news, it looks like we will all have more time to think than usual. A motto for the next few months of business strategy for any micro business or solopreneur: Be brave enough to change, shift and act. Don’t wait. Things are moving fast, and you must be able to plan, take measures and make changes upfront. To do that you need to observe what the economy, other small businesses, and the high street is doing. Most importantly, communicate with your current customers. Pick up the phone and ask them “how are things?” We are in the business of supporting female solopreneurs, micro business owners. Social contact is in our DNA and our mission is to empower women business owners. We will do this in a corona-proof way. We believe it is essential that we provide guidance and support and create opportunities to collaborate during this time of uncertainty.
PROMOTION – All your marketing and sales activities to grow your activity Experts are predicting that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be far beyond than what we are currently experiencing. We will be in it for a while, maybe 3, maybe 6 months, maybe more. No business sector will stay untouched and SMEs (mostly cash poor and in the service sectors) will have to plan to cope with this situation and the customers’ changing behavior. According to Ang, Leong, & Kotler (2000); people change their buying patterns during financial crises and under stress. They start to worry about their jobs and no longer demonstrate usual spending habits. As your customers change their buying behavior, you have to change your way of operating, reaching out and communicating in line with your customers’ new expectations and needs. In order to do that, you must develop a road-map of different scenarios and action plans.
The most important to remember is DO NOT CUT YOUR MARKETING BUDGET, TIME AND ENERGY.
But manage them in a planned, strategic and measured way.
1. Communicate constantly with your customers and your active audience. They are the ones who will hear you better.
2. Choose channels that are measurable, cheap or no cost.
3. Choose activities that are directly linked to ROI.
4. Don’t be reactive: plan different scenarios and plan your communication strategy accordingly.
5. Make sure that you do not talk about yourself but your customers. Be interested in their worries and find real solutions that might help them.
I believe honesty, kindness and respect are the most important values to carry and act upon in times of stress and worry. If you are a micro-business owner and need to take HR measures, then maintain these values. Let people know in an honest way as early as you think you might have to lay them off or end contracts with your freelancers. Respect their situation and the fact that your decision will impact their lives. And whatever you do, practice kindness - if you can allow them to work half-time, it could help them through these hard times; if you can, propose unpaid leave; if you can, provide a small amount of work to your freelancers. On the other hand, let’s use the same values when communicating with our clients or prospects. This is not the time to sell, but to bring value. We will all have to work harder and earn less for the next 3 - 6 months (unless you sell toilet rolls for a living). That is a given. Finding ways to provide real value to our clients is the way to go, in order to stabilize business activity. More importantly, I believe nurturing relationships is almost a daily activity: check-in, update, bring knowledge and expertise and offer help.
Stay in cash unless what you spend means you will be able to earn and keep business activity going.
1. Cut all unnecessary costs – time to go through your accounts and find all those subscriptions that you are no longer using.
2. Cut immeasurable investments – Every investment that you are making right now should be able to at least pay itself.
3. A little bit of earning is better than nothing. You have to adapt your services to “big value/ small cost” models. Here are some other suggestions to put life back into one’s solopreneur work:
Brainstorm Opportunities for Your Business
The pandemic created new challenges for everyone, including customers. If you’ve experienced declining sales of existing products and services, think creatively about generating revenue by satisfying customers’ emerging needs. As you consider possible new revenue streams for your business, try talking with existing customers. Ask them for their thoughts about how you might adapt your services or products to help them solve their issues and satisfy their needs. There may be untapped potential that you haven’t yet thought of on your own.
Last But Not Least – Talk It Out! "Stay Strong and Carry On,"
It's important to realize it's OK not to be strong all the time. Although you may feel you've done well throughout these tumultuous times, there still are sometimes to need others’ support to work through things that are bothering you. Fortunately, having a support system of caring individuals with whom you can openly discuss frustrations helps. When feeling weighed down, others can lighten the load just by listening and offering their perspective. If you’re struggling with the changes and challenges of the pandemic, find trusted friends, colleagues, or a mental health professional you can confide in and talk candidly about your feelings and fears.
H. James Hulton III
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Having Solopreneur Work Overload?
Shrink Your to-do List, Change Habits to Have More Time for YOU!
Overworked and beginning to have physical signs of pain slowing down your productivity? These physical symptoms can include:
• Muscular tension.
• Heart palpitations.
Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia.
• Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea or constipation.
• Dermatological disorders.
Here are a few key simple techniques for your business to cope with solopreneur- ship work overload so that you can bring your to-do list down to a manageable level.
1. Manage your time. ...
2. Wipe out bad work habits. ...
3. Make a list of everything you have to do. ...
4. Don't try to do it all. ...
5. Learn to say 'no' ...
6. Don't let it overwhelm you.
1. Manage your time When your workload increases, it's more important than ever to practice effective time management. One of your time management main goals should be to recognize your priorities and focus on them, so that the most important jobs get finished before their deadlines. That could mean you'll have to put jobs that aren't high priority to one side, or even drop them altogether.
2. Wipe out bad work habits Lots of little things you do during the day may add up to a major waste of your time, such as reading junk email, surfing the internet and chatting with other business associates. You may also think you're using your time wisely by doing lots of preparation and research for a writing project. But in reality, what you may be doing is putting off starting the work itself. Identify all your time-wasting habits by writing down everything you do during your working day for a week. You'll soon see how much more time you could devote to realizing your deadlines if you cut out or changed those small habits.
3. Make a list of everything you have to do If you tend to work on several things at the same time, a to-do list is essential. So, write down all the tasks you have to do and rate them 0-5, where 0 is the least important and 5 is top priority. Once you've done that, work through the tasks on your list one by one, concentrating on the higher-priority tasks first. Making a list can also help you recognize that you have too much to do in too short a time. If that's the case, concentrate on the next steps.
4. Don't try to do it all at once You're not a super hero, so don't try to achieve everything on your own. Lighten your workload by learning to delegate to outside partners (if you have them) who may not be as swamped with deadlines as you are.
5. Learn to say 'NO!' This is the biggest problem most solopreneurs have. If your workload is already sky high, taking on even more tasks could mean you won't be able to complete any of them to a high enough standard. Stop and think before you agree to take on any new deadlines - only commit to those that are essential. If you decline politely, your prospects and clients will understand.
6. Don't let it overwhelm you When things feel like they are getting on top of you, find a quiet space or even at your desk, shut your eyes, clear your mind and just focus on your breathing. Aim for four seconds breathing in and four seconds breathing out. Do this for a minute or more and just keep focusing on your breath and your body as you inhale and exhale. You should feel the stress begin to wash away; this should prevent you from being too frantic and will not only help productivity - which is reduced by stress - but is also good for your health in the long run.
Once you get into a pattern of using the most-simple of techniques, here are some other suggestions to strengthen your efforts:
A. Establish strong work-life boundaries Leaky boundaries between work and personal life leave you disoriented in the long haul. You can only hustle for a limited time. Once in a while, you’ll need a break to sit back and relax. Think closely though – can your business breathe on its own if you take a few days of break just to alleviate stress? Unless your venture has taken off already and is enjoying a stable flight in the air, your work needs your time and attention. However, if you establish thick boundaries between your work and personal hours, you can better charge your batteries and keep up with your work with the same energy as day one of starting your business.
B. Read your stress out Research conducted at the University of Sussex applauds reading for minimizing stress for up to 68%. In fact, it’s a champion at stress management in contrast with sipping tea or listening to music. Therefore, dive into a fictional book. The key here is to read non-business-y books. This is because by reading a business book, you may end up working again. Eventually, this pursuit for new ideas or work problems leaves you with less of personal time, which only aggravates your stress. This is why you need to read something that is not work-related to refresh yourself.
C. Limit multi-tasking to de-stress While most of us pride at our multi-tasking skills, science frowns upon us for damaging our brain and adding to the stress. Although there is something supremely satisfying about multiple open tabs and a wide collection of sticky notes on your desk, they really are terrifying. Talk about a sheep in a lamb’s clothing. Mounting evidence indicates that our performance takes a tumble when we focus on several tasks on one time. David Meyer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan explains this further. He points out “The brain is not equipped to do heavy-duty multitasking… People are being asked to do multiple things, but they would need superhuman abilities.” Put simply, you’ve one brain that can only concentrate on one task at one point. As you push your brain’s capabilities, stress is bound to follow. In addition to the stress, working on multiple tasks simultaneously can take a toll on your learning, attentiveness, and mindfulness.
D. Divide and conquer – schedule your work with breaks If you lock your hands with work cuffs, your brain is only going to scream for breaks. Most of these pleas, however, fall on deaf ears. The consistent dip into the work muck can slowly poison your health, both mentally as well as physically. Since solopreneurs are fueled by passion, they may rarely note the negative imprints of excess workload. To prevent the stress reserve from over-flowing, punctuate your work schedule with breaks. This works, specifically, well for those who work from home. Adding breaks to your schedule takes your productivity up by several notches. Investigations conclude that the 52-minute work and 17-minute break protocol works effectively. In other words, you give 52 minutes of your undivided attention to your work minus any distractions. You follow this up with a small break – take a walk, squeeze out some fresh orange juice, or attend to any household chores on your plate. These breaks help to keep work-induced boredom, bad moods, and stress at bay.
E. Eliminate the extra workload by automating or outsourcing There’s a 100% chance that you pride yourself in being a ‘solopreneur,’ one that handles all the tasks himself. At the end of the day, however, you’re a human. If you squeeze in excess workload on yourself, you are only going to get stressed. Two simple ways to prevent your turbojets from dying down include automating and outsourcing some of your work. For instance, use tools to schedule your social media posts so that you don’t have to be logging in on and off between work to show your online presence. You can hire a virtual assistant to take some work off your heavily-loaded plate. Likewise, outsource other work that may be taking up more of your time such as preparing content for your business.
F. Walk your stress out the door If you consistently sit on your desk, working the hours away, you’ll end up paving paths for stress to barge in. However, if you walk, you can pop the stress bubble. In fact, walking is a friendly supporter of your work. Do you feel that your creative bulbs are suffering from a short-circuit? Is stress sabotaging your focus? Or, do you want to prevent workload from nearly suffocating you? In all three cases, go for a walk. If you’re not cheating on pairing your work hours with breaks, then going for a short walk won’t be a problem for you. Recent research points out that taking a walk can shift your mind’s gears into the calmer zone. So much for poor stress. G. Dedicate a day to digital detox Stress comes in bits and bursts. It survives throughout the work days. However, as you take a sigh of relief and hit the weekend, it may strike again in a larger explosion that works behind your back. That sort of stress is the weekend special version that nags you about pending work, new work to start, and more, all tied in with the guilty feeling of not attending to your work. For one, it’s the weekend. If you are somewhere in the early stages of your business-hood, then it’s possible that you’re working on the weekend too. Regardless of the stage or workload, a weekend or at the very least, an off on Sunday is crucial to your well-being and stress disposal. So, one of these days, when you take an off, dedicate it to a digital detox. It denotes disconnecting from your devices. Now, that’s understandably hard. However, the move is critical for your well-being. It boosts your memory and encourages better sleep, which are both paramount for preventing stress take over the limelight. What’s more Facebook depression is real. So, dedicate your Sundays to unplugging, self-care, and family time.
H. Get some sleep As an entrepreneur, it is common to work late into the night. This naturally sacrifices sleep. Not to mention, you think more work-related thoughts if you head to bed straight from work. Nights when you’re entirely exhausted, and you land straight into the land of Nod are a blessing. However, exhausted, sleepless nights with a dash of work thoughts are all too common. Moreover, sleepless nights can chip in stress or aggravate it further. Evidence confirms that slumbering well can lessen stress. The takeaway is simple – don’t compromise with your sleep hours. The ideal number of hours suitable for sleep varies from person to person. Figure out the time that you need for recharging your batteries with sleep and forget about work during those hours. In conclusion: Stress over work in an entrepreneur’s life is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to set up a defensive parameter around yourself though.
Remember that health is wealth and stress is not a minor player, it can grow into deeper cognitive problems if ignored. Therefore, smash it to smithereens before it engulfs you.
H. James Hulton III
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Read on the see what it means to serve this great country in the US military.
So, What Does ""Being a Veteran” mean to me?
When I was in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, selfless service was an ethics my leaders continually emphasized. When it was my turn to lead, I, too, emphasized selfless service. I served for six and 1/2 years as a commissioned officer, and was proud to do so. Being a veteran has left me with a sense of having invested in my country where I was born and raised. It means extreme sacrifice by myself and my family. It means that families sacrifice as much if not more along this journey and many times are shunned in the communities for which we live and work. It means families never get the recognition for their support and many times don’t receive the same assistance that the veteran receives. It means that I still to this day get major goose bumps on opening day at sports games when the military fly-over by takes place and the national anthem is sung. It means I take it seriously when I fly the American flag outside of my home on the 4th of July and Memorial Day. It means even though my body is riddled with multiple problems, aches, and pains, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Why, because I deeply love this country of ours and I am damn proud of it.
Our past, present, and future military members and all the sacrifices that have been made by them and their families share in this great country. The freedoms for which all of us who are privileged enough to have and for which so many have made the ultimate sacrifice will live on in their honor.
It means Honor, Sacrifice,
As I further reflect on what being a Veteran means to me, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and pride. I am grateful for the men and women that came before me, those that came after, and those that are still serving today. This gratitude extends not only to fellow Veterans, but also to the friends and family who sacrificed, endured, and patiently waited while their loved ones served. I am also proud of the fact that I am one of so many that answered our country’s call and put on the uniform of the greatest military on earth.
I was taught pride in my country and our nation’s flag. Being a Veteran is an investment into personal character. It helped to develop who I am and what I wanted to strive for in the military and civilian life. Being a Veteran taught me the value of service. There is no better title than that of “Veteran.” It means the world to me and has helped me to share my soldier ethics in the civilian workforce and society at-large.
Being a Veteran is the true embodiment of sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of time with one’s family, missed birthdays with family, spending holidays in remote and dangerous locations, suffering the mental and physical pains that come with that sacrifice, but still being willing to do it all over again.
It is an honor to serve. Veterans serve in honor of our country, those who served with us and before us, those who didn’t come home, and those haunted by the memories of fierce battle. The word “Veteran” is the past tense of having served in the United States of America. The title comes only after a proactive commitment to enduring courage. Before one becomes a Veteran, one must first have to step up to the plate, knowing one may fight and die in the service of this great country.
That’s what it means to be a Veteran!
H. James Hulton III USAF Veteran Officer, Vietnam War Era
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Nelson R. “Nick” Charles, who retired with the rank of Captain in the United States Navy, died on August 12, 2020 at the age of 101. Charles served in the Navy with a long career that began not long before the American entry into World War II.
He was enrolled in flight school when the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in 1941, and spent most of the war flying combat missions in the South Pacific Theatre. Among his many decorations, Charles received the Silver Star, the Navy’s third highest personal award, for valor during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where he helped to sink a Japanese cruiser. He flew the TBF Avenger, a torpedo-bomber, with multi-caliber machine guns that became known as the “world’s deadliest aircraft” during the war. Prior to the Avenger, Japan had air superiority in early stages of the war. The Avenger took that away.
Charles continued to serve during the Korean War as commanding officer of a carrier-based squadron known as “Hunter-Killers AF,” (initial stages of anti-submarine warfare), later as a test pilot at Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, PA, as squadron and Air Group Commander aboard the USS Wright based in Norfolk, VA, and finally as Commanding Officer of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Horsham, PA.
“He never thought that he would live long after four years in the South Pacific and in two wars,” his daughter Nancy Charles-Columbia said. “So, every day was a gift to him.” While he was often out at sea for months during his career, Charles made the most of his time with his family when he was home. “He certainly did things the way he wanted to, that’s for sure,” said Jim Charles, Nelson’s son. “He always wanted to contribute. And he was a pretty dynamic individual. At home, he was a good dad, really put out the effort to take care of the family and the kids. He barbecued on the beach with us, swam, and hung around with us day and evening. When I was 12 and legal to hunt with a parent in Virginia, he took me deer hunting. Later, while at Willow Grove and legal at 16, we would go to Perry County to hunt deer with cousins or hunt birds around Horsham.” Jim added his dad was a Boy Scout leader and helped him when he was an Eagle Scout. “He always got heavily involved in everything he did, work related or organizations. He was president of this and district governor of that. The same when they moved into Brittany Pointe. He ran the golf club and created the Memorial Veterans Wall. He was a fantastic dad and a role model all my life. I always strived to make him proud like I was proud of him.” Nancy said that, like many of his generation, World War II would forever change the course of her father’s life - not only in his career with the Navy, but with his outlook. “He was not a tough person,” she said, “as men appear to be after many years in the military. As a disciplinary father, he gave me and my brother a talking to instead of spanking us.”
As a young boy, Nancy further explained, he was raised by his paternal grandparents after his mother died of the Spanish flu in the Pandemic of 1918-1920. He touched lives right and left. He was always available to people who had life’s problems, to give them a leg up on life. His attitude was, ‘How can I help you?” Nancy said that even towards the end of his life, her dad was an active leader and organizer, helping to arrange a Veteran’s Memorial at Brittany Pointe Estates, the retirement community where he and his wife spent their last 18 years together. “He wanted to make sure that Veterans were not forgotten to honor people who served” she said. He was very quiet and unassuming, He had great leadership and organizational skills. He knew how to get things done. He was kind in the way he spoke to people.” The Veterans Memorial Wall- CAPT Charles created at Brittany Pointe Estates in Lansdale, PA Captain Gordon Bell, USCG-Ret. MOAA Willow Grove board member and knew “Nick” for over 15 years, indicated that Nick was a soft-spoken officer, subtle, but firm and determined in conversation to get his point across, get the job done. This was always reflected in people who talked about him.
Nick was very proud of the Willow Grove MOAA chapter, to see it flourish, and complimented Gordon to “keep up the good work with the newsletter “Stack Arms.” Gordon further noted that “Nick’s best accomplishment in retirement was bringing together his Veteran friends for the Veterans Memorial Wall at Brittany Pointe Estates.” Upon his own full retirement, Charles remained active in his local community. He became Horsham Township Manager for four years, worked as Vice President of Marketing for Martin Associates in King of Prussia, an environmental engineering firm, was founding member of the Horsham Rotary International Club, subsequent president and its District Governor of SEPA, became a member of the Military Officers Association of America (became its 1st Chapter President in Willow Grove in 1976) and Navy League, and served as president of the board of governors for the Old York Road Country Club. In addition to Jim and Nancy, Nelson Charles is survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Cynthia, died in 2017.They were happily married for 72 years. A daughter, Cynthia Anne, died in 1968.
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