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Every business at some point in time will experience a challenging time, and planning ahead for those times can make the difference. It may be an injury to yourself, or a local fire or flood affecting your clients, or something more global like the current COVID19 virus pandemic as we’re experiencing right now.

Each presents a separate set of challenges, but the one thing they have in common is that if you plan ahead and learn to ‘roll with the punches’ quickly, you will get through those times easier than if you are totally unprepared and unable to change as things change around you.

Today as I write this, there is a lot of fear and worry on a large scale, and it’s affecting everyone. Fear of loss of income, fear of getting sick, fear of losing loved ones, even fear of running out of toilet paper… (my sarcastic sense of humor wants to add after that ‘I sh&t you not – excuse the pun’ but I’m totally [not really] above toilet jokes…)

What I can’t do right now is reassure you that everything is going to be peachy, because I am far from an expert on the matter and I don’t know any more that what you have probably read on the health and news sites yourself. But what I can do is remind you of a few really important things;

  • You can spend your days worrying about things you can’t control OR you can think about the things you CAN control.
  • You’ll get through whatever lays ahead for you, it may not be how you thought the next six months was going to go, but allow yourself to be flexible and let plan B come into action.
  • You aren’t alone and you aren’t a victim, so don’t act like either of those things are true because they aren’t, and that won’t help you at all. Everyone is affected by the current situation, or will be, in one form or another.

As far as virus things go, it’s going to be a case of making sure you read the CREDIBLE reports (please, stay away from bloggers and unqualified ‘experts’ and their opinions right now) such as your local government and health department information. Every area is different and the landscape changes too fast.

I am NOT an expert on the virus so I am not going to enter into the ‘you should be ok as long as you do xyz’ because that is not my place, and to be honest, I am a bit horrified to see other business coaches and consultants and even clubs giving out this kind of advice. Do your research and decide what is right for you.

For local service based businesses, the one thing you might want to consider is to be lenient on cancellation fees, and ask clients to let you know in advance if they themselves are sick if you need to come into contact with them in the process of your business dealings. If people are likely to need to pay a cancellation fee, they are more likely to ‘still go’ to an appointment even if they feel unwell, and if you are concerned about that putting you at risk, then you may not want to be around sick clients at the moment.

But how do we ‘survive’ in business if there is suddenly a lock down, or the schools close and you suddenly have three bored kids to care for and entertain? Or you (or someone you live with) gets sick and have to self-isolate for some time?

‘If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space’
I had this statement (by the No Fear brand) on a poster in my corporate-land office with a picture of an extreme snow skier doing a crazy wild stunt. At the time, my intention was all about getting out there and living, and I still believe in that, but not ‘on the edge’ means something different to me, and isn’t as positive. I see so many entrepreneurs with no backup money, no insurance, no savings, and loans to pay back other loans. That kind of living on the edge is not ideal.

It’s a good time to remind people that ‘living on the edge’ both financially and time management-wise is not going to work well for you in times like these. That is probably a ‘horse that has already bolted’ right now, but if you are in a position to cut a little spending, and put some money away for ‘a rainy day’ then now is the perfect time to do that. Not knowing exactly what lays ahead for you being able to serve as many clients as usual, or attend trade events, or present workshops, means that you can’t predict your income like you can (to a degree) usually. So having a buffer of money to pay for the essentials will be very handy and will reduce your stress considerably.

Think outside the box

What can you do that you can deliver online, so if you are ‘stuck in one place’ your business doesn’t disintegrate? Could you offer remote coaching, create a course, sell some products online, do consults and workshops by skype calls or zoom webinars? This will change depending on what you do and how much of a want vs a need your business offers. For example, people are still likely to ‘need’ vets and farriers and trimmers, but will they want to still buy lots of saddlepads and have riding lessons? It will differ for everyone, and I’m not suggesting you change career or anything, but rather, look at the overall picture and see if you can work out where you fit into it.

Here’s a list of a few ideas;

  • Create a series of ebooks you can sell as a low cost item
  • Create an online training course for something you can teach people to do
  • Come up with some package deals that will save people money and still bring you sales
  • Create a paid membership where people can access your expertise remotely from anywhere in the world
  • Offer consulting sessions or lessons over skype instead of in person
  • Write a book and self-publish it

Also, if you have one element of your business that you can ‘ramp up’ or ‘try something different’ with? This might be a good time to think about those options. Try and think about what people might need or want right now, and see how you can fill those gaps for your clients/audience.

Use the time to plan

If you aren’t able to adjust the business and things do go super quiet, then think of that as the PERFECT opportunity to get things done that you don’t usually have time for! You can do some serious business planning, prepare social media content in advance, learn your new accounting software, rearrange your workspace, do some online networking, prepare surveys, there are so many things you probably don’t get time to do that are on your ‘I should really get to this one day’ list.

Finish the online course you never have time for, create the sales funnel you never have headspace for, write the email sequence you think you need but haven’t done, and you know what, go ride or play with your horse in the daytime, in working hours even! You’ve earned it.

There’s just no magical fairy wand to make things like this go away, we can’t control it, but what we CAN control is our response to challenges, and how we make the best of a shitty situation (no toilet paper pun intended) and keep moving forward.

To help you keep the main points in mind, click the thumbnail image to download a copy of the one-page tips we’ve created.

I’m a huge advocate for staying positive and coming together as a horse business community and supporting each other, so why don’t you reach out to another horse business owner and have a chat to them, because they might be feeling the same as you, and you won’t feel so alone.

And last, but not least (of course), come hang out in my Horse Business Advice group on Facebook for more tips and support!

Melody Semmler
Author: Melody Semmler

Melody Semmler is a business coach for people with horse businesses around the world. Also known as 'the crazy unicorn lady' she brings her sense of humour and down-to-earth nature to her work, resulting in a thriving online community and a following that continues to grow, extending internationally. With corporate branding and marketing expertise, and first hand experience launching and running her own successful small business for just over a decade, she has a wealth of knowledge to share with her audience. She lives in Gidgegannup, Western Australia with her husband, son, 2 dogs, lizard, and 2 horses, one of whom has an instagram account twice the size of hers (@jdtheirishhorse)

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