Keep a Cool Head and Your Feet Beneath You: 3 Applicable Tips for Small-Business Owners in the Post-COVID world

There’s been a lot of very specific topics that I’ve been discussing in the blog recently, so I wanted to take a moment, step back, and look at the big picture. It’s easy to miss the forest but for all the trees in a normal year, so it’s completely understandable how it can feel like some things are slipping through your hands with all the changes having occurred in the past 15 months.

Never Say Die: Take a Deep Breath and Continue Rolling With the Punches

It may seem like there’s too much to manage, but the challenges you’re facing as a business owner aren’t any greater than when you opened up shop the first year.

Remember when you started your business? It probably seemed like every single day posed a new challenge that was completely foreign, unfamiliar, or otherwise the frosting on a cake of frustration. Time passed, you felt the ground under your feet, and what were once strange challenges became routine, it just became another day at work.

Then, 2020 hit and unleashed a torrent of changes to our social, legal, and economic systems that would usually take years or decades to unfold if allowed to do so naturally. Not this year! We’re taking it to ludicrous speed!

It’s probably felt like you’ve returned to your first year in business and attempted to open three storefronts at once. We get it!

I’m not trying to make this a meditation session, I’m trying to point out some of the primary lessons that we seem to learn over and over again in life, only to forget the next time we need to put them into practice. They’re still there, they’re still applicable, and they’re probably a lot simpler than you’re imagining.

Here are three tips you can put into action today to clear the clutter in your head and your business:

1.  Don’t Carry the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders: Ask for Insight When You Need It

Don’t be so proud that you’re unwilling to ask for help. Reaching out to the proper professionals and your colleagues can be the difference between confusion and certainty. If you don’t understand the mountain of changes to tax laws and stimulus programs, you’re not alone.

You might be surprised how helpful a quick call or email to a colleague can be. There are likely to be things you can shine a light on for them, just as they’ll be able to do for you. The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts when it comes to information gathering, and this is exactly why people rely on each other to fill in their blind spots.

Understand, your colleagues won’t be able to paint a complete picture by calling around to all, nor is it their job to do so. I’m speaking casually, and I encourage you not to become “that guy” (or that girl) who always wants something from their friends. I trust if you’re put together enough to own and operate a business, you have an idea of where that line lies. Where the question is too big for a casual conversation, we’re here waiting here to help you.

Our business IS to help you answer your questions, so don’t be shy about letting us know you’re in the weeds regarding this topic or that.

Being completely straightforward, there’s things that we’re waiting for guidance on. There are topics that New Jersey State Offices are still waiting on guidance from the federal government on, so it’s a bit of a cluster-muck at the moment.

That said, we keep a cool head at Sharp by following the next two tips I’m about to give you. So far, it’s worked pretty darn well and we’re proud of how we’ve been able to provide guidance to our clients.

2.  Clear Your Brain and Stop Duplicating Efforts: Communal Contact Logs For Continued Peace of Mind

Give yourself and your employees a break by creating a shared spreadsheet that details all contact with government agencies and businesses (like Sharp) that you speak with in regards to all the new laws. This allows you to know what was done, by who, when, and what the result was.

A lot of the stress that’s emerged in the last 15 months comes from a sense that something has fallen through the cracks, been misplaced, or forgotten. Knowing and proving to yourself that you’ve done everything you can do is the difference between peace of mind and pure rage.

Each time you call, email, text, or otherwise contact someone, you’ll know it happened. It may seem like this is an extra step to an already difficult task but the difficulty usually stems from the fact that you don’t have the records or understanding of where you are in the process. You can’t remember it all, I know you think that you’re good, but no one is that good. Creating solid systems is a smart way to take work off your plate and streamline the process of solving problems for your business at the same time. If it were only those things, it would be worth it, but it can end up saving or finding you money when less time is spent trying to put the pieces together as to what happened, with this system you’ll already know.

There’s also the added fear that deadlines will be missed for (insert filing category here) and you’ll have no proof that you tried. This is that proof! Every time you make contact with someone, ask for a name, an employee ID numbers, whatever information you can get; record application numbers you’ve filed, confirmation numbers from payments; log all the times you called and got hung up on. As long as it’s accurate, there’s no information that you’re going to regret having access to.

I can’t promise that this will make all your dreams come true, but I absolutely can promise that you’ll feel a huge weight off your shoulders if you do this. Imagine knowing that you could respond to any questions from State or Federal Agencies, Banks, or your personal financial professionals with absolute certainty as you gave your answers.

Make this something as much a part of your record keeping as saving your receipts for write offs at tax times and you’re going to have an entirely different attitude regarding this process.

3.  Get Proactive With Your Fact Finding and Stop Letting the News Rattle You

Act, don’t react. Get ahead of the information curve by checking the state, federal, and professional websites that release updates on laws and the guidance surrounding them. Doing this daily only takes minutes and puts you in the driver’s seat of your company’s future.

It’s really easy to act as though you’re experiencing information overload while never having looked in the first place. I understand it may seem like you don’t have the time to do more reading, but there’s really not much reading to do if you commit to looking every day.

You know what this looks like on most days? *click* *pause* “Nope, nothing new.” When I said it takes only minutes, that’s an average. Most days it will take about 45 seconds to go through and see that they haven’t posted anything that pertains to you.

If you’re not sure where to look, here are a couple suggestions:

When you do this regularly, it’s immediately apparent if there’s something new that you need to read about. Being painfully frank with you for a moment, you already do this, maybe just not with topics of stimulus or taxation.

Tell me there isn’t a sports website, podcast channel, or instagram account that you couldn’t instantly recognize as being updated or not? I remember as a child being able to look at the team stats for the 1999 New York Rangers and whoever they were playing and tell you exactly what happened in the game last night.

I guarantee that there’s something in your life that you still know this well, so add the information that your business depends on to that list. Doing so will make you wonder why you haven’t been doing this since day one.

I’m not saying that you’ll instantly understand everything that’s going on in the state and country that affects your business. That’s a level of brain power that I’m not sure anyone has. What I am saying is that you’ll always know when it’s time to ask a question and the number of topics that will put you on your heels will drop to nearly zero.

Organization is the New Instinct

Try putting these practices into practice on a micro-level if you’re not sold. You’ll quickly see that they pay dividends in more ways than you might have imagined. Anything else you need, we’ll always be here for you.