Don’t Panic! Keep Calm and Pivot

A month ago, I wrote a piece about optimism at work and how you get over the feeling of stress. You can look at that article here.


A month ago, feels like a year. My problems then, seem insignificant now.


Like many small business owners across the country I am worried. In fact, more than worried, I feel a deep sense of panic down in my gut that I am struggling to control.  Last week on Monday, my team were prepping for three conferences to run that week, by Tuesday we had cancelled and deferred them all. By Wednesday, I had called every creditor we had telling them we had no revenue and no capacity to pay. By Friday we had to plan for the reduction of our workforce – including valued staff who volunteered to take leave without pay. People that I care about, people who have mortgages and families. Our accounts receivable on Monday was a healthy 6-figure sum. By Friday it was zero.


I look back now and I cannot believe that was only 7 days ago.


COVID-19 has everyone worried about their health and the health of those they love, but for most small businesses they’re now worried about their livelihoods as well as their health.


Over the last week, I’ve spoken to many the SME owners who I usually support with my custom and they are all scared. Adam owns the bar we drink at, his business was down 50% last week, yesterday he closed indefinitely. David, who owns the coffee shop under our building has closed one of his three stores and can’t get his landlord to budge on a rent hiatus, his takings are down 70% and he doesn’t know if he will make it. My gym closed indefinitely yesterday, effectively putting 30+ people out of work. Everyone is hurting. Most of us are scared.


The feeling of going from healthy revenue and solid revenue forecasts for the next six months to nothing in a week is overwhelming. I wanted to reach out and share my tips for getting through the next week(s):


  1. Breathe.


Sit at your desk or behind your counter and take some deep breaths. The term “fight or flight” or the stress response will help us rise to many challenges, but it is ineffective if provoked for a long period of time, such as during financial and health woes. Breathing deeply helps oxygenate the body and focus the mind, allowing you to think clearly rather than staring out in panic.


  1. Get on the phone and start emailing.


This is an unprecedented time and big companies do not want to force small companies into administration by being hard-nosed and inflexible. Explain your situation and your inability to pay. Use one of my favourite authors, Chris Voss’ (Never Spilt the Difference) techniques and say, “How am I supposed to do that?”. This statement is Voss’ reverse empathy technique which takes the problem from your hands and places it into theirs. If you’ve never asked for leniency on rent, bank fees, invoices or credit before, now is not the time to be proud, now is the time to ask for things you don’t think you’ll get.



  1. Defer all your loan payments.


All the major financial institutions are being flexible with pausing loan repayments and adding them to the end of your term. Worried about the end of your term? Don’t be. Get through the now, worry about the later, later. You don’t know how buoyant your company, or the economy, maybe on the other side of this crisis.


  1. Call the bank.


The banks are inundated right now with panicked customers, but they are being heavily incentivised by the Government with cheap and secure money dedicated to lending to SMEs. No one wants the small business economy to collapse. Borrow what you need to get through. The repayments on the other side may mean tightening the belt but they will be better than collapse now.



  1. Think about what else you can do to make money.


Who is in your contact list, who are you connected with on LinkedIn? Is there a way you can rally the community, your champions to support you enough to get through this? If you sell coffee, can you sell take-home beans to your clients for their lock-in? If you are a pub, can you make enough money from take-away or home delivery? Everyone whose ability to trade has been cut off by social distancing constraints is in the same boat.



  1. Talk to someone who understands.


We’re all in this together, if you feel afraid and scared and paralysed with fear, there are a bunch of other small businesses out there who feel the same. Talk to one of them. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to me – I’ve been running this company for 7 years and I’ve poured my life into it. It’s like my third child. So, I know how you feel.


  1. Remember what it felt like to be a start-up.


When it was just you and the great unknown, did you have what it would take to make it? Would you fail? It was lonely and terrifying. Remember that fear because it wasn’t that long ago, and this time is the same as that time except you are much more skilled. You’ve made it this far; you can make it to the end.


I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m certainly not an economist. But for a lot of people, this will be a tough time for a long time. For my own business, it is already a tough time and I am worried. But I have the support of my business partner and the backing of my family and I have the skills I learned over the last 7 years to be agile and adaptive to a new way of doing business. For those of you who feel alone, please email me at and I will email/call you back. We need to support each other as an SME community.


For anyone who works for a large corporation that is doing OK, I implore you to not stop spending your training and external L&D budgets. We are moving everything online so that we can guarantee our clients will get the events they pay for, no matter what the social and health restrictions are. Spend with us because we need your support.


On that note, continue to buy your latte, even if you’re working from home, go out and get a sandwich if you usually buy your lunch. It may not be the small business you usually support but is a small business and we need you.


If you love us, support us now and we will still be here when this is over.


Announcing The SME Success Summit 2020

Leaders are coming together for an intensive business summit to boost the SMEs’ chances for sustainable growth and success.


The Leadership Institute invites leaders of small to medium enterprises to join us in Sydney for The SME Success Summit 2020 on the 13th of May. The summit is an educationally focused program that aims to help business owners drive better performance. 


Small to medium, family enterprises are the backbone of the Australian economy accounting for 98% of all businesses. The SME Success Summit couldn’t come at a more opportune time as the sector is facing a decline. Consider this alarming statistic – 


Over 60% of small businesses in Australia fail within the first three years, and the rate of this failure has risen by nearly 13%.  


At the SME Success Summit, business owners will learn how to hone a high-growth strategy, fine-tune operations, implement a lean sales process and so much more to achieve the fullest entrepreneurial potential. 


The event features Australia’s top business minds who will deliver keynotes and training workshops specifically designed for the needs of SME leaders and their teams. This is a chance for SMEs to tap into the network intelligence of the SME Summit’s speakers – operators with a winning business track record. 


Mark Hawthorne started with McDonald’s in Coffs Harbour on his 15th birthday and ultimately became the CEO of the fast-food giant in the UK. Mark then moved to the fast-growing Guzman y Gomez restaurant chain as the Australian CEO. Under his leadership, Mark increased the presence of GYG to 120 restaurants and more than doubling revenue. He joins the summit to teach SMEs what he’s learned from his years in the top job and the secret sauce to scaling a business. 


You can’t succeed i business if you don’t know where you’re going or how you are going to get there. Great SME leaders not only have a strong vision but are able to execute their business strategy successfully. In this session, Natalie will share how to craft a vision, develop a greater mission, and unlock the values that will drive business performance. 



Tim York has led the Darrell Lea business since 2014 and grew the business by over 400%. And Tim Stanford has been leading the marketing strategy with sharp consumer insight, management alignment and bold ideas. In their joint session Tim and Timthey will outline how they turned around Darrel Lea from the rocky road of receivership to the sweet caramel liquidity of a thriving international brand. 



Dr Glen Richards isn’t your ordinary vet – he has a sharp eye for new markets and diversifying small businesses.  At 27, Glen bought a small vet practice in Townsville and today he runs a multi-million-dollar pet care empire comprising of 160 veterinary hospitals 230 stores and 5,500 employees in Australia and New Zealand. He will share his growth playbook and show SMEs how they can do it too. 


Sales is the lifeblood of every business, but for something so essential, it’s remarkable how many SMEs don’t get it right. Dean Carroll has sold a lot of wine in his time – both as CEO of industry giant Brown Brothers and previously as its Chief Sales Executive and National Sales Manager. In this session Dean will cover the essentials of sales, including establishing a replicable sales process that delivers consistent results. 


Learn what it takes to drive innovation and high performance by honing your business strategy and accelerating sales growth at the SME Success Summit 2020. 

SME Success Summit 13 May 2020

And get the full summit experience virtually! Engage with speakers and delegates with the option to enjoy the summit online via LIVE streaming. 

5 Key Traits of Innovative Entrepreneurs

Learn the 5 key traits of innovative entrepreneurs and the actionable strategies you can implement today to win in the innovation game.


If you are a new business in 2020 creating value by offering innovative solutions to your customers, well done 


Businesses everywhere, including the biggest and the most established ones, are working hard to develop what you’ve got – the innovative, startup mindset to modernise and stay in business. They are trying to score innovation wins to survive the next wave of disruption. 


As a new business owner, do you have what it takes to sustain your innovation game? Or will the next, shiny new business take you out when you’re just getting started? 


The findings in Innovators Become Leaders report suggest that successful innovators share 5 Key Traits that you should institutionalise in order to sustain the culture of innovation you’ve started in your new company. 


5 Key Traits of Innovative Entrepreneurs

Learn what it takes to drive innovation and high performance by honing your business strategy, fine-tuning your operations and accelerating sales growth at the SME Success Summit 2020.


SME Success Summit 13 May 2020