As every other business owner will tell you, I was not prepared for what was coming. As businesses were shutting down, my business was forced into hold pattern. I went through every emotion from denial to scared and everything in between.
Essence is a professional and executive recruitment company and in March 2020, the LAST thing that companies were doing was hiring. For the past 3 months, they have been making tough decisions and trying hard to keep the teams they have. All I wanted to do is help, and we have the capacity to do that. But nobody was asking.
So, during COVID-19, I found an opportunity and went for it. I Identified that companies are going to realign which means there was a huge effect on their employees, I saw this as an opportunity to help SME’s and Not for Profit organizations make tough decisions that will affect their team.
What I learned (so far) opening a business during COVID:
1. Its okay to be uncomfortable – opening a company during COVID has been very uncomfortable. I ask myself everyday if this is the right decision. However, there are many articles about leaders needing to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, so I know I am not alone. One quote that always sticks with me from Alrik Koundeburg “To be outstanding – get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
2. Be aware, listen and reflect. I listened and I reflected, I asked the hard questions. There was a lot of flags telling me that what I thought people knew about Essence was actually different than how the business community thought of Essence. I asked the questions:
a) What do you think Essence does?
b) What do you think we do well and what can we work on?
What did I find out? Nobody even knew we had a consulting division. Worse! Our clients were going somewhere else to get the help and paying for it!
I needed to make the decision on keeping the consulting division, spending the time, effort and money to educate people about what Essence really does. From listening to other’s experiences, it does not work OR I start an additional company with a fresh look, fresh start and distance it from Essence.
3. Don’t wait, now is the time – Pre-COVID, planning and more planning was the normal. When I opened Essence, it took me over 6 months to plan, complete my research and prepare. PeopleCo was open in less than 3 weeks. As entrepreneurs, we want to make sure we are making the best decisions for ourselves, our company and our people. Right now, I don’t have the luxury of time. I honestly don’t know how much demand there will be in professional and executive recruitment in the short to mid-term future, nobody knows. I do not want to lose my focus on recruitment, but I needed to diversify and give another option.
We launched PeopleCo this week and it has been an amazing experience. Even though business is not usual, we used this time to be better. The best thing that is happening is that as we are identifying PeopleCo’s strengths, its systems, its customers, etc. I was also able to re-evaluate Essence and focus on its strengths and update its processes, to make it an even better professional and executive search firm for our clients. And most importantly, how we can give our own clients the most amazing customer experience.
My advice? You can’t wait and see what happens, nobody knows. BUT if you are thinking about opening a business or need to realign, now is the time. As one of my favorite women said
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once. But, don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”– Michelle Obama, Becoming