Overcoming Hard Times as EntrepreneursBy Enrique Rodríguez Aréchiga | Fri, 02/26/2021 - 13:01
2020 is a year that entrepreneurs will never forget. I personally learned that having an innovative and resilient mindset are imperative to reacting well in any situation. I also came to realize that allowing yourself to be vulnerable and sharing your ideas with others can help you overcome complex situations along the way.
In our company, Someone Somewhere, an innovative mindset enabled us to produce face masks in two weeks. These became the bestselling face mask for more than six months, generating more income than our entire line of backpacks. Further, these face masks were made with artisanal fabrics and techniques from Oaxaca, so the artisans were able to continue working during the most difficult economic times of the pandemic.
The resilient mindset also was crucial during the pandemic, especially when the government established the protocol to close all retail stores for more than three months. At this point, many startups and local companies had to lay off and let go of their workforces to make it through the crisis. For us, that was not an option and we wanted to keep all our employees active so we could continue with our ambitious plans for the year. To ensure our retail staff were productively contributing, we decided to upskill them to become sales account agents, so they could generate sales opportunities. This was the start of a new sales channel, Business Solutions, that enabled us to sell our products to B2B clients. Although not initially part of our strategic plan, we found an important niche that allowed us to close many sales opportunities and to compensate sales lost in the retail channel.
Strength in Vulnerability
In normal times, when people talk about their business, they tend to share the good news, the opportunities and the growth they are achieving. Some might exaggerate to show strength and success, trying to avoid the tough issues and problems. When the pandemic started, we were all shocked, so I really turned to my network. I started chatting with my entrepreneur friends, sharing ideas, challenges and goals so that we could support each other and stay on track. In this new context, being honest and demonstrating your vulnerability was the key to letting others help us, at least with different perspectives and ideas about how to overcome our issues in the short term.
As entrepreneurs, we must understand that we are not always the experts of all disciplines. We are always learning and showing vulnerability is important to make stronger connections in a humble way.
Share Your Ideas
Last year, five entrepreneurs contacted me because they wanted advice on how to start a new project or because they had some innovative ideas for their businesses and needed some advice around that. In some cases, I noticed that the individuals were nervous to share their ideas for fear of someone stealing it. However, in my experience, sharing your ideas is one of the most important things you must do as an entrepreneur. Here’s the how and why:
1. Clarify yourself. When you are conceptualizing your ideas, you have many thoughts swirling around in your head. It’s like a puzzle that you have to organize in your mind. So, every time you talk about your idea, you verbalize those thoughts, which allows you to present them in a pitch, concisely and clearly.
2. Get feedback. Sharing your idea allows others with different backgrounds to ask questions, point out risks and provide lessons learned. Getting other perspectives minimizes risks. Those perspectives always help you to see your initiative through a holistic lens. These chats shouldn’t be missed.
3. Always ask for help. During conversations with anyone, try to always ask questions about their businesses and areas of expertise, so they can share their own tactics and strategies. I have experienced that senior mentors always love helping young entrepreneurs when they see you transforming an idea into an innovative business. Don´t miss out on an opportunity by being shy.
4. Connect. Even if you’re out of your element at a social event where you don’t know anyone, there is an opportunity to connect. In these cases, you sometimes have to step out of your comfort zone. This gives you the opportunity to talk to people who seem extremely far from your context and can generate great conversations, even if they don’t have any relation to your sector or industry. At the end of the day, they may know someone who can be a great client, supplier or ally to you.
5. Never walk alone. Even if you are a solo entrepreneur and you love that, it is important that you get in touch with others through associations, industry groups or any club that could give you value and support. There are many organizations or groups of people that get together to share knowledge and support. They are great forums to keep you updated on what’s going on outside your cave.
2021 is a very uncertain year. The pandemic is still taking a lot of lives and our efforts to contain the impact are being challenged. Some sectors and industries will suffer more than others, some businesses will finally desist, but some others will resist, innovate and take advantage of the new opportunities thanks to that resilient mindset. I am sure that if you put in practice these mindsets, you will learn a great deal, you will create stronger relationships, you will meet great people willing to help and you will be able to succeed in the complex times