What now for small businesses

As Coronavirus (COVID-19) works its way in every aspect of our lives and businesses, we starting to adjust to the temporary new normal of isolation but what happens when this all ends?

In this panel of the Elevate Series, I jumped on a Facebook Live with Amber McCue, business mentor and brick and mortar business owner, Elise Darma, Instagram marketer and agency owner and Gemma Went, business coach, to find out how they think the face of entrepreneurship could and should change as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

You can watch a recording of the panel discussion here or read the summary which has been cleaned up for ease of reading below.


DM: Hey everyone. Welcome to the second panel for the day. This is one I'm super excited about. Our panel today is Amber McCue, business consultant and brick and mortar business founder. Elise Darma who's an IG marketing expert and agency business owner, and Gemma Went, who is an award-winning online business mentor and growth strategist.

And I have asked them all to come today to talk to me about what now. So we've seen this dramatic change globally, but also in the business environment, and we're all kind of wondering, is this the new normal? And if it is, what do I need to be doing? How do I need to be thinking? How do I need to be pivoting?


So ladies, my first question to you is, what are you seeing that's changed already? With your clients, you're all exposed to a lot of different businesses. You each have unique businesses of your own. What are you seeing that's happened already in the crisis that's changed things. Jump on in. 

AM: Well, you know, very rapidly you don't, some businesses are at a total standstill, so I don't think that's a part of our new normal, what will be, I think that's a part of our current state. And as we think about the new normal, I think we're going to define it. We're still defining it. We don't know what it will be.

But current state, I'm seeing businesses at standstill. But people pivoting, asking questions, asking more questions than ever before, and leaning in and supporting each other in such a beautiful way. So that's really, that's one of the most beautiful things that I'm seeing amongst all of the challenges.

GW: Yeah, no, I've seen that too. And I also, I think people at that, and this isn't the new normal, this is kind of the phase that we're having to go through at the moment. But I think people, a lot of people are still stuck in the fear they're like. Oh, what am I going to do next? And what if this completely breaks me?

And I think people will get through that. There's some people, it's interesting. Some have already come out of the fear and these are the guys that I think are pivoting or doubling down on what's already working and looking for the solutions. And then there's another group that is still kind of stuck in the fear that I think will come through that as well.

I think it just takes some people a little bit longer. To get through that and, and yeah. You know, for the what next, we are still working that out. You know, I think we are really well placed because we have already online business owners. and biopsy, you have a business that's offline as well. we're really well placed for this.

I think we're going to see a lot more. Online stuff from corporates and brands that weren't particularly online yet, but you know, who knows what that's gonna look like. Yeah. I think we're still finding our feet.

ED: Yeah, and I've seen the same thing with my students and clients. I feel like most people are frozen in fear.

It's the flight or freeze. And I know I was frozen for a good week. Diane and I were, we chatted that first Friday. I was just like taking it all in so I've been really encouraging my clients and students to talk to their market, talk to their customers. Talk to their clients, get a sense of where their heads are at because I still see them operating as if this isn't going on, they're still continuing to develop packages for their brick and mortar services or their brick and mortar clients, and I'm like you realize that your clients are possibly shutting down, if not already, so you can't come out with that same package offer. You have to adjust. So that's been my focus, is just trying to get my clients a little unfrozen so that at least they're speaking to their customers so that they can then make informed decisions versus making major assumptions.

Granted, none of us really know what's going on, but we have to make our best guess at this point. 

AM: I love that. Elise mentioned that talking to our customers. I was speaking with someone who had just gone through their launch and it's very relevant. It's very timely for their business, their market. Their market is not directly impacted by what's happening right now. they're in the farming space, so they still have animals and things that need to be nurtured and cared for. But they shifted, they could feel the energy, right, of everything that was happening and shifted their approach and the launch didn't go as it usually goes and like, well, what's happening here?

We don't know. Like there is so much unknown. It could be this, it could be that. People, it was a big news week. I know I was distracted by the news, like how many times can I slip my thumb for an update and like over and over. So, and I talked to many people who, it was not last week, but the week. No, it was last week, time warp, last week for, they were stateside businesses who were just, they were tough weeks and it could have been just the timing. So we don't know, which is why I think it's so important like just pick up the phone if they're not replying, you know if you're not getting your typical engagement.

So going back to some of those practices that we like, you know, we like to automate and we like to send an email and can you fill out this form? But I think some of that personal connection is so necessary right now,

DM: And I think it's, it's people are getting impacted at different times. This kind of feels like never-ending. I used to live in Hong Kong, so I have a lot of friends who were in China when everything was shutting down in January. So I feel like I've been living with this for like three months and then it's just escalated for me in the last two weeks. And now the US and the client base are all experiencing it.

So it's this kind of like knock-on energetic feeling. One of the first live streams I did on preparing your business. Autumn, who's a lawyer. She said something that's so interesting. She said most of the law is based on precedents. And we have no precedence for this, but I still see people being like, well, normally on this knowledge I would make XYZ.

No, you have no idea. You want to be in this moment in time. Yeah. It's like you're right back at the beginning of business and you have no data. You have to think differently about your business. And I like Amber, what you said about the high touch and like communication people, here we go, reach out, ask people how they're doing.

It's such a simple thing, but we've kind of all forgotten about it in the automated funnel. 

AM: I've heard people say like, I don't actually want to go back to any of that. Like I don't want to do that work. Like we've got, some people who have gotten their businesses to. We really like where we are. So there's a morning and a grieving that I totally went through.

Like Elise, you mentioned a week. I took a solid five days. Not so much business-related, but personal. I was in Ethiopia, as you know, Diane. I don't want to go back. I like my life too. I went through a little five day grieving before.

ED: Yeah. I think that's a great point is like that frozenness for me was actually mourning what was my life and my business and I'm not afraid of what the future is going to be. I just know it's going to be different. And knowing my personality, I like to feel like I have a sense of control and I don't like the unknown. So it was really coming to grips with me releasing the past, mourning the way life, society, my, I live in Toronto. I live in downtown, like being able to go out. I rarely cook for myself. Stupid things like that. I was just saying goodbye to, and I was sad about it because when I looked at the reality of my day-to-day, I am very unaffected by this. My business is fully online. I have a house full of food. My health is intact.

Like. By all rights, I'm well set up basically, and I don't, it's been a struggle for me internally because I'm struggling with anxiety and stress, but I know when I look rationally, I'm fine. And then there's this guilt because you see people struggling with other, other challenges. So I've had to kinda come to terms with the emotional side of my reality and find ways to make myself feel better. And I've just been donating like crazy to places that I feel like could need the support, like local food banks and stuff like that. 

GW: I think that's a really good point. I think that's such a good point, is that if that internal journey that we all go on. And for me, I was the same and I think I had a good five days of struggling to come to terms. And I wasn't really very visible because I didn't know how to show up yet. I was like, I don't know how I feel about showing up. And as part of that, one of the things I think was really, I was really struggling with was exactly what you just said, Elise.

It was like letting go of control and releasing and just allowing, and I'm not used to doing that. That was really unheard of for me. And just getting used to that has been a real kind of a real struggle. But now, now I'm kind of getting used to that now, and I'm fine. But yeah, it's just that internal journey that you go on.

DM: For me, on the personal front, it was, even though I didn't have any travel booked, like my number one reason for leaving corporate and for being in business was not having somebody else tell me where I had to be at any point in time. Like I wouldn't do something that requires me to show up once a month in a physical location.

Whereas now I've been in isolation for seven full days, complete isolation because we thought I had a mild case of the virus. So I've like literally not stepped outside in seven days, which for me, there’ve been times where if I hadn't gotten on a plane for seven days ugh, so for me it's almost like an anger emotion and there's a part of me that's like, Oh, it needs like five stages of grief thing, and I'm still just sitting there like, I hate you virus, but I'm the same as Elise where I then have immense guilt and then I only have to look after myself. I'm not homeschooling children. I'm not worrying about who else I have to feed.

I'm not worrying about the roof over my head. I have friends just down the road. Like, so it's this part of like having to acknowledge your feelings, but at the same time feeling like you're not, you almost aren't entitled to acknowledge your feelings because your normal hasn't changed that much.

It's contracted a little bit, but it hasn't really changed. Whereas other people's lives have been turned upside down.

GW: Oh God. Yeah. And we have our health, and that's like in, we're in the middle of the health pandemics. So that alone, you should be like you're, you're ahead of, you know, majority of people who have either lost their jobs, they might have preconceived preexisting health conditions.

I was at the grocery store the other day, we were stocking up and the lady in front of us had a $300 order and her card wasn't going through and she was stressing out, calling her husband, saying, did you transfer the cash? And I was looking at the cashier who's always so pleasant with a nice smile on his face, and I just wanted to hand him an envelope of money because, I just, it's, I don't know what that feeling is.

Is it empathy or is it guilt? Is it? I don't know. But that's truly, that's truly the internal stuff that's going on right now is seeing that and trying to help, but also knowing you can't help everyone. So what can you do that will be impactful.


DM: I think that's a business conflict as well. You know, the last panel I was just speaking to three sales mindset gurus about this, like people feeling like, should we be selling?

Should we just be giving stuff? Like how do we work in that environment? What are you seeing around that? Are you still seeing people kind of doing business as usual and selling? Are you seeing people contracting? How are you navigating that in this crisis?

GW: I think most people are contracting. They're still really scared, and my feeling with this, it's probably because I've been through a recession before and I understand the economics of it. and I know that by stopping selling, we're adding to the recession. We'll make it go deeper. We have to keep that flow of money going. so my stance right from the start, ha, it has been, we have to keep selling, but you know, we need to do it in a more compassionate, empathetic way.

And you may need to shift your positioning and your offer and all of those things right. But there are, even with me going out with that message, and I have been selling and I've been selling this week and we've done okay and what I've done is kind of create both. I've got my high end that's still the same as it is, but I've created something low end to support.

So I've pivoted a little bit there, but the people that are in my audience are still really struggling. They're really struggling with how they show up and how they actually sell and how they position it because I think they're scared of getting a backlash.

DM: I think with the level of online attention at the moment, not even just from our communities, but from, people may be slipping into your community being like, Ooh, maybe I no longer want to go work in an office. Let me, let me look at that. Exposure to that kind of trolling or saying something that's just slightly tone-deaf accidentally, or, you know, being on a zoom call and accidentally going to the bathroom without turning off your camera like that poor lady on the viral video. It's just exponentially grown, right? So every time you show up, there's that added kind of pressure. Are you seeing that in your communities as well?

AM: Yeah, we're definitely seeing it and something that we've done in and I'm doing in both businesses myself and I'm encouraging my clients to do also is in the photography business.

We've added messaging even though we are still selling the photography shoot. We can't shoot right now, obviously, but we've got a special so that when we can shoot and when we can see you again, which we are so excited to see everybody, people each other again, and be in community person to person again we're going to be here for you. 

But take advantage, we're not using that specific word, because people feel a little bit uncomfortable. But I don't want to take advantage. I'm all about as a business or take advantage, but take advantage of this special now so that when we can meet like we're going to be ready to go and that's what we're sharing with our teams.

But we're checking our messaging internally. Like, Hey, I wrote this. Am I missing anything? Like does this feel off to anyone or, you know, checking emails and inviting clients to do the same in our communities because we've all got extra layers of stress? What it looks like, right? To me, when I'm writing, it may just be a little bit off.

There may be one word, like, Ooh, I read this over here. That might be off for some audiences. Okay, cool. Quick shit. But I think we're also inviting, and I'm gifting to myself over and over, grace and compassion, grace and compassion and trying to stay in that space, the sale, and it is a little bit easier online for us to keep selling strategy overall for the next quarter.

We're changing things up. Right now because some things just didn't feel right. So we're still settling. But changing the strategy, I'm still selling photography. I can’t fully sell and inviting others to do the same, but it's a different level. And it, the tone is a little bit different all around.

DM: Elise, how are things different on Instagram cause I'm noticing a lot more deeper conversations but in my DMS, like people not wanting to publicly chat.

ED: Yeah, well, Instagram’s always been such a great place for connecting with your audience and connecting with industry peers. And once this happened, like how many lives did you see going on in Instagram? You and I were, were live right away because we are looking for that connection.

So, I help people get visible through Instagram and I also have programs that help people get started with online business. And I'm just seeing like a surge of traffic because. I've been putting out organic content for years, YouTube blogs, and yes, I have paid products, so I feel like. because of the result of the years of that effort, you know, people are finding that now more than ever, and, and really ready to, they're ready to jump into online business, whether they're a brick and mortar and they've had to shut down, sorry for the sirens.

Whether they're brick and mortar and they’re closed, and now they have the push to get the online shop going. To get on Uber eats. One of my friends runs a brunch restaurant in the city. They've run for 20 years. They've had to shut down and they're not sure how they're going to make rent like next month's rent.

So they've gotten on Uber eats, they've created a dinner menu like they've just had to adjust to make it work. So I'm seeing a lot of creativity and seeing restaurants who haven't gotten digital again finally really embrace it. And unfortunately, because they, they have to, but at least now they're doing it.

And on the online side, I'm seeing people, you know, I have a variety of offers, low ticket, high ticket. I'm seeing the low tickets just there hasn't been a slow down in sales, so that's kind of what I've been also recommending to my students and clients. Like if you're still trying to sell a $2,000 to $5,000 service package, can we look at creating more of an appetizer version, a smaller version.

That's more budget-friendly because it's not to say that people don't have the revenue or they don't have the cash. I think people are just being very gun shy about their spending because they're wanting to make sure they have a three or six-month runway. So we need to be cognizant of those, those mentalities.

DM: And I think when you're doing that high ticket, often you'd have to think like payment plan and somebody is thinking if I'm going to be paying you X in 12 months’ time. We're going to have food in 12 months’ time. Will I have rent? Do I need your course? It makes it that much harder to, versus like a one-off small payment that gets them a win that maybe gets them a bit more confidence to go into something bigger with you.


So I want a future cast with all of you. Cause I know you guys are all good at this in regular day to day life, but what do you think is going to change? So once we're at the end of this, what are the things that you're looking at now in business where you're going like, that will never be the same again?

You know, I don't think anybody who's living through this will ever take getting on an airplane for granted. They will never take being able to drop everything and run to a family member for granted. Kind of in our personal lives, it's very easy to see the things that are already changing. I think we're gonna see a whole lot of people stop in their corporate jobs because they're suddenly gonna wake up to our reality of like, Ooh, pajamas.

But from a business perspective, what do you think is going to change for us? Or that you can already see changing?

This is, this is probably the toughest question I have asked of any of the panels. So by all means, take a second. 

Thinking about it from my perspective, what I think is going to change is I think the passive income industry where we're talking completely passive, like, Hey, you bought my product. It's a 12-month thing. Here's the coaching. Nice to see you, I’m out. I think that's going to vanish. I think people are going to want to know you. I think your know like and trust is going to have to be so high for them to believe they'll get a return with you to really want to go deep with you. I don't mean like one-off smaller products.

I mean like, you know, the bigger high ticket items. For me, I think high touch is going to be very big for people who have been no touch for so long. 

And also I think a lot more people have just gotten really comfortable or will have gotten really comfortable being online. So I think people are gonna come around to kind of my way of living, of like, here are all my virtual friendships all over the world.

GW: That's definitely going to happen. I also think though, I think, I know there's two things for me. There's the people that are already online. So us guys, right, with the digital natives. We live this life already. And then there's the guys that aren't, and there will be a surge to move online cause they're gonna see the possibilities.

But I think for the people online, I don't know. I have a feeling. That we all started to take it for granted and we all, well, not all of us, but there's this feeling of success is inevitable and it's really easy and we're going to make all this money. And I think this has actually been a real slap of reality for people that don't have a buffer, don't have a runway.

And they're seeing people really, really struggle. And it's like. Oh, actually I, I should have got myself in order. I should have got my house in order. I should have built the runway. I should have done this. I should've done that when they took it for granted because it was all flowing before. Right? Like we, we didn't think anything like this could happen.

So I think there's, there's an element of that, and I think people will be less trusting. Which I think is a good thing actually. and I think, you know, they will only invest in things that, that really feel like they're going to get the ROI on. And I think for the people that, and we might see some people fall away as part of that, and maybe also that is needed.

And I think for the people offline, I think we're going to see a really light and really nice change in. Are the types of companies bringing more stuff online, more traditional companies and corporates and things like that. And I think that's only a good thing. They're going to see what's actually possible now and how quickly they've been able to actually make it happen and what that brings to them as a business, as a company.

So I think that that can really be a good thing, but you know what, it's really going to be like, we don't, we don't know, just guessing right.

DM: No, I'm holding you to this. 

AM: What Gemma said. I think too, there is this ecosystem of online what has been sort of the golden business opportunity is teaching people how to monetize and how to sell. And those are the flashy things. And those are the things that are easier to sell, right? Make six figures overnight. And here's my flashy car, and look at me working on the beach.

But I think we're going to go back down to some of the fundamentals and an ecosystem around those fundamentals will be built to support more. A stronger foundations in businesses. Right, and you were, you were exactly talking about all of this, Gemma and Diane, this is totally in your wheelhouse. This is it.

And you know, I look at what you're doing, Diane. I'm like, this is like the moment that Diane has been readying for, to serve so many people because the foundations are so often overlooked because the shiny objects at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs are the things that we've taught people to aspire to while overlooking some of the fundamentals.

And I think this situation has forced us to now go back to basics, ensure that our businesses and our lives, quite frankly, are taken care of on a fundamental basis. And then we can start to move up that hierarchy of needs, so to speak. And then on the flip side. From a life perspective. I'm just really hopeful that this brings, you know, some of I talk about ease a lot one, a little bit of ease that grace, and it's just really the pace that I'm moving now.

I like to move a little slower. And being an Africa, I really embrace that. People asked, I'm not in Africa now, I'm in Chicago now, but people ask like, have you lived here before? Cause I really embraced that, that mindset and that pace of living very quickly and easily, but seeing each other and just being with each other.

And even the kids, like they're popping in and before like I'm on a call, I gotta lock the door. I can't do that right now. There's, you know, there's less support. So I hope that some of those things stay because I think that's just a great opportunity for humanity.

GW: Yeah, I agree.

ED: I have a few predictions. I think the corporate world is not going to be the same after this because so many massive companies have been forced into remote work, and I think once we get through this, they're going to see perhaps the perks of remote work.

They're going to see that maybe they don't need that expensive office building or that crazy huge office layout space. I think teams right now are honing in on their online skills, how they communicate, how they have their meetings. So I think the corporate world is probably going to be embracing remote work way more after this.

In the tech industry, cause my boyfriend works in tech and he runs a software company. We're seeing an interesting change there. Lots of layoffs. So a lot of companies are leaning down because they're needing to lengthen their runway for a longer period of time. But I mean, this happened in the 2008 recession, 2009 period with so much tech talent.

Laid off or available on the market. We actually saw a lot of innovation during that time too. A lot of the apps of the programs that we use today and are massive companies started around that period. So again, I think once we get through it, it'll be interesting to see what apps or what programs or what software comes of this because of what happened here.

And then my last prediction is, is with the online space, I think it's going to only grow inevitably. I think I hope, I hope we have a little bit of a filtering, you know, of just people who are, what's the word? I don't know what the word is, but I just feel like I just, I want more of the realness in the online space, if that makes sense.

More of the real people versus those who are here to use tactics to make a quick buck that aren't genuine. You know, I'm in the digital product space. Every now and then there might be a copycat of the product, or someone might be trying to resell it online. I don't believe in that kind of business, but I do hope that we may see a filtering of that and we see a growth of people like us. I mean, most of us probably came from the corporate or the day job world, and we applied our skills to the online space and now we have the freedom to run our own business. So I think that will grow and hopefully in a positive way.

AM: As Elise was talking and she'd mentioned filtering. I thought of something I said, and I wanted to clarify. I mentioned people working on the beach. I'm very much a fan of working on the beach. I hope that continues but supported by foundations like the aspirational there are things to work towards. We need those things, but without the foundational elements. When we move into a difficult time, if we don't have the foundation, which is what we're seeing in so many instances now, then it becomes a real challenge. So I think all those elements are important.

ED: No, that's fair. And my business for many years was me working from the beach. But to be honest, when I look back on those years. I didn't have much savings. I didn't have any preparation. I was like almost living month to month. So I was not running my business in a smart way.

And so to that point, I hope that we get a little bit more prepared in that sense.

DM: I think having people in corporates like we've always been a little like semi-shamed for having, you know, you're not a true entrepreneur unless you've always been an entrepreneur. Like, I did bad at school, therefore I'm an entrepreneur.

Like we all know the bros and when I came out of corporate, that's what I felt in a big way. But actually I think people really need those corporate skills now because we've been in an environment of like, I'm going to teach you to do it exactly the way I did it. There's a lot of that kind of business going on here buy my ready-made funnel.

All of that kind of like cookie-cutter stuff is now no longer applicable. Yeah. It all has to be tested again from scratch and no one's going to hand over 10 grand because you can guarantee them a hundred grand. You can no longer guarantee them that. No evidence. So I think people who have seen business from multiple angles and or who aren't like I'm going to teach you to follow the 10 steps that I took that somehow got me here. That I'm not really sure why. Cause I don't actually understand the business principle behind it. Those people I think we're going to see go away or I'm sure they'll resurface in some way with a new “recession-proof funnel” or whatever.

I mean, we all know who I'm talking about, but I think letting people come out of corporate who have had to learn to look at business in different ways and learn to think strategically about every decision, I think can only benefit us as an entrepreneurial community. 

AM: I think right there, the entrepreneurial side of it, entrepreneur being key right now, us as leaders and business owners, that nimbleness and adaptability is key.

And then also putting in, stepping into the entrepreneurship role, like we've all got our areas of subject matter expertise, but are we being entrepreneurial and looking, okay, where do I need to pivot? Where am I going to innovate? Yeah. Out of this, and I think we're going to see entrepreneurship emerge wonderfully.


DM: So ladies, we'll finish it up and wrap it up with one question. So if you could only give the entrepreneurial community, let's be specific, one piece of advice right now, what would it be?  Not coming with the easy questions for you

GW: Yeah, I think, I think mine is listen to your people and don't stop because the message you're going to get from them is going to keep on changing day by day, week by week, month by month.

So that constant listening is going to ensure you've got the right connection. You are responding with the right things, the right product services, messaging, whatever, to keep on listening. .

DM: [00:31:29] Yeah,

ED: I agree. Mine would be something like, don't assume, ask when we're talking about your customers. We can't make decisions off of previous data and we can't make assumptions right now.

Another thing that I read from my friend Rebecca Tracy, she's been a business coach for many years, she wrote this in an email as her own personal mantra, and I thought it was really great. She said, “a lot of people need a lot of help, and a lot of people have money to spend. My own experience is not everyone's experience. Other people's wallets are none of my business.”

So that was an interesting reminder for herself and for us too. When we start making assumptions like, Oh, no one in my audience is buying anything, or no one has money. That's a big sweeping statement and a big assumption. So let's just keep in mind that we don't know other people's business and there are still people with money making investments because there are still businesses growing through all of this.

AM: And mine is definitely stay nimble, pick up the phone if you need to, rest if you need to. Take the action steps but be nimble and remain agile in all of this because things are moving fast. And if you are in business right now. You have to be ready to adapt.

DM: And I think I'll throw mine into the mix.

I think mine is to find the thing that your business needs to focus on. So like we were talking about with Amber, the foundational level, where has your business got a gap? And make that the one thing, like if you have all your kids at home and you're homeschooling and you only have half an hour a day, make sure you know where that half an hour a day should be going in your business.

And I think that's a priority for all of us at this moment in time where we're energetically and time short. 

Awesome. Thank you so much, ladies. Thank you for making me or allowing me to put you on the spot with all the difficult questions. I'll be back in a few months’ time with what your answers were, so we can, we can have like the competition. But I appreciate you opening your calendars so quickly, I know this is a super short turnaround, and for sharing so openly. and I will make sure that everybody's links are in the description for the videos that people can find you, stalk you, ask you questions, et cetera.

And I appreciate you all. Thank you so much.

Watch the other panel discussions and grab all the COVID19 resources HERE.


The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.