It goes without saying that the current world climate is in an extraordinary situation. In what is an anxious, ever-changing environment, non-essential businesses have had to close down around the world and a majority of people have been urged (or forced) to work from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all permanently, and suddenly.
There are immediate negative impacts… Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, jobs are lost, businesses are shut down (some forever), the economy is in a state of uncertainty, and many other aspects of society will be affected by this pandemic. One thing is for certain: things will change after this, making way for a new future. And it’s closer than we think.
The quote from Darwin is as applicable today as ever. No advice I have heard on how we as a people or as a business should handle these times is better than this quote. Identify and adapt to change while we live within our means and co-operatively work together to overcome both the health and economic threat!
It’s easy to worry about the current state of things and that worry is valid. But there is the potential to change things. Let’s quickly examine the state of business about 12 years ago: during the financial crisis of ‘08/’09, Bitcoin, Uber and AirBnB had all just begun and had yet to gain value. They were merely start-ups that hadn’t fully come to fruition. Now, AirBnb and Uber are both valued at over $33 billion and Bitcoin is worth around $106 billion.
Twelve years ago, most of the well-known online companies that are now household names, were just ideas or start-ups at the time. Even back in 2003, Alibaba and JD.com grew in value after the SARS crisis.
In times of crisis, we adapt to the state of things. Businesses are created, they change and grow, and can thrive if they change to the times. Newsletters like thehustle.co updated daily on the latest in tech business, highlighting those who are evolving to the times. It’s corners on the internet like this that are keen on showcasing the change-makers who are putting a positive impact on their industry.
So what has been the impact to online business and where should we be looking for how to adapt…
Since self-isolation and quarantines have begun around the world, peak traffic has increased on average. With more people at home using the internet, traffic is like never before.
However, some are noting that globally, internet traffic for certain industries have decreased, and competition for ad revenues decreased.
Instead, a lot of internet traffic is geared to the current pandemic. In the last month, web searching has skyrocketed for key terms like “corona,” “lockdown,” and “social distancing,” all things that have only recently entered our daily vocabulary. In the US, the key trending search terms involve protective equipment like face masks and hand sanitizer. Pandemic has become the zeitgeist, but what is the impact of this?
For the short term, major spikes in traffic will mainly revolve around COVID-19-related things, purchasing items, and media articles, as people mainly look for up-to-date info regarding the pandemic.
However, in the long-term, certain industries will see trends in their internet traffic. E-commerce stores selling to customers online have the potential to continue staying open, even while working from home. Many brick and mortar stores have actually made the switch online as well, even selling on WeChat to those who were quarantined in China. This signals a change towards consumers making online their go-to method.
Of course, the airline and travel industries will have one of the largest impacts, as airports and borders close down and general interest in travel comes to a halt.
This begs the question, how has ecommerce and marketing reacted to this sudden change?
In what’s an unsure time, advertising has taken a hit even before the pandemic hit the Western hemisphere.
On March 2, Publicis Groupe’s Zenith said it would lower its December prediction of a 4.3% rise in global ad spending this year due to COVID-19, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That same day, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the Times “is seeing a slowdown in international and domestic advertising bookings, which we associate with uncertainty and anxiety about the virus,” and that the publisher now expects first-quarter digital advertising revenue to drop 10%.
Ad revenue is changing from its typical industries and in response to this, marketing can make a shift to where consumers are going to go, moving to digital platforms. But there are significant winners and losers by industry.
Think of where major internet traffic is going to go in the coming weeks, months other than general work: to online education, video streaming, various at-home hobbies like crafting, job search sites, discount retailers, at-home exercise. The activities people normally engage in offline will be making shifts to the web.
And the ones who will struggle covers those that require a location or crowds, like traveling, luxury goods, sports, music, and live entertainment, to name a few.
Marketing teams need to adapt to this and shift their content accordingly to regain revenue. Staying online is key. No one will be able to see the billboard outside, anyway.
The general demand seems to be staying strong at the lower price. At MotionInvest.com, a business I own with partners that buys/sells websites, websites are still sold in hours and demand is staying steady.
I had the opportunity speak with Emilia on this topic which she put on her YouTube channel…
This signifies that people are still looking to buy sites and grow in the online space. And we’re not the only ones. EmpireFlippers saw record number of new weekly site listings earlier this month.
Interest rates are going to be at or near zero. so-far a functioning financial system and significant stimulus packages issues by governments. Will all of that mean that money is easier to get than before, the search for yield and stock market volatility will mean there is a boom in debt financing at all price points in the website buying and selling industry?
My prediction is that the smaller and cheaper websites will increase in demand as more people rush to get into the online space. And the demand for larger sites that sell their products for higher prices might go down as less money becomes available to spend (but I could be 100% incorrect and it could be the complete opposite). More people will shift their focus on building sites to grow their value, rather than investing in larger sites. Whether this is a short-term or long-term change is unknown, but a strategy is key to surviving.
With these changes, multiples will be highly dependant on the availability of debt financing and if I had to bet with the data we have now I suspect will decrease in line with the rest of the stock market for the over $100k range and sub $100k will stay flat (but again I could be totally wrong!).
This is e-commerce’s chance to prove just how fundamental it is in our society when we need it most. And companies have stepped up. One of the biggest, Amazon, recently hired 100,000 new workers and are temporarily pausing unloading of all non-essential products to keep up with the demand for goods.
Online businesses will have a chance to thrive and are already seeing a huge spike in the countries most affected. 31% of Italian and 50% of Chinese consumers say they’re using e-commerce more frequently, in a poll by Ipsos MORI.
Lockdowns disrupt the supply chain but that only puts more pressure on manufacturers and e-commerce to get the essentials out there. More people are shopping online but only for the essentials. E-commerce is affected by the supply chain now because it is becoming the core provider.
The key is to always keep moving and not be that guy who’s bulk-buying and reselling sanitizing wipes providing no additional utility in the world. Anyone trying to exploit the current economic situation will suffer because they’re prioritizing the short-term of benefiting themselves and not considering others during an incredibly sensitive time. Google and Facebook are already cracking down on this by banning resales and providing credible info linked on their homepages.
So what will be some of the changes that we can look at…
High quality writers will become more available and interested in remote work.
Our knowledge on how to manage work remotely will become more of the norm and companies will be led to create working from home procedures and policies which will stay in place after the pandemic is over. I have always thought that the next recession would accelerate remote work, companies would ask why do we have an office. With a recession triggered by a pandemic that has forced remote work it will only accelerate that trend.
Specific industries could see a spike in demand after this, like the cleaning, food, and manufacturing of essential goods, as consumers go back to core values and realize these are what is needed and relied on when all else fails.
And in an effort to keep things low-cost, marketing teams will have to come up with solutions to deliver a low-cost-efficient product to clients. For instance, ContentRefined is focusing on this strategy with its new offering from ContentLever (4 posts and social media management for $199/month). Online marketing will increase, and if we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that the internet is the essential medium we need to run industries and stay connected.
At no point in most of our lives has the rate of problem creation been soo extreme. With so much mental capacity freed up due to layoffs, I am optimistic about the businesses that will be created to solve real problems and help the world.
The world needs entrepreneurs now more than any moment in recent history to identify and solve real problems!
Internally we have paused the development on one project to shift focus on a solution (that likely won’t make anything) but will help people – more on that soon.
Do we all need to take time off to recharge? How do you build grit?
Today I want to share my thoughts on why a lot of the advice you have received from people who “mean well” is BS for a lot of people when it comes to the needs and benefits of “vacations”.
We are going to dive into what grit means, how to build grit, and finding out what a grit training schedule is. Based on my own experiences, I believe that how we define entrepreneurial grit and how we build it within ourselves are keys to success.
The analogies I share here helped me finally put a framework around my work schedule and the passion to continue to train and build grit.
As I write this, I am on a trip (aka vacation) with my kids and wife, who are all dead tired and asleep. Time for me to crush out some work.
I want to point out that we are all obviously different and the type of work we do varies based on personal preferences, talent, goals, and passions. However, understanding your goal in business is critical to what everyone needs to build mental toughness and also recover efficiently.
The structure I outline below are what I have found works for me, but I understand that my strategy won’t be optimal for everyone based on what your “optimal” is. The same way a training schedule for an Olympic rower is going to be different than an Olympic weightlifter – both have a talent that they need to build but do it in different ways (but more on that analogy later).
While reading this, be sure to keep in mind what your work and personal goals are and how they fit into my grit strategy.
Grit can be defined in many ways, especially as an entrepreneur. However, I like to think of it as the level of perseverance someone has along with their combined efforts and passions to reach a goal. Obviously there is no quantitative way to measure the amount of perseverance someone has. Instead, we look at our external efforts and achievements to determine our grit.
Grit matters. Why? It not only shows others our level of perseverance and resilience, but it defines our work ethic, helps build a growth mindset for our everyday lives, it develops our mental toughness. Most importantly, grit molds our passion and purpose in life. Having a purpose in the work you do will help avoid failure.
Grit is a growth mindset. People have created their own definitions and strategies on how to achieve grit, however along the way, strategies have become convoluted and confusing, especially when it comes to rest and recovery. Let’s jump into it and go over how my strategies for building your entrepreneurial muscle can help with your short-term and long-term goals.
We live in a time where efficiency is one of the most talked about and researched topics in business. However, the general consensus around rest and recovery is not optimal for success. Those of us who put in A LOT of hours on our business have always been told..
Granted, I used to hear this more when I was working much crazier hours: 12-14 hour day job + 3-4 hours/night on my online business, with absolutely no days off for 2-3 months at a time.
It was also a lot harder to respond to these points when the income reports where pretty brutal! Have a look at the original income reports! Needless to say, it was very hard to listen to the risks and warnings about burnout, work/life balance, etc when the data didn’t yet support it.
In many ways, the noise around this topic has gotten more confusing. For instance, discussions and research around mental health has, at times, blurred the lines between a very serious issue plaguing people in today’s society vs. strategies around optimal work/rest balance.
Of course, the two are related and while there is overlap, there needs to be better discussions differentiating both topics. Many articles/interviews discussing mental health is coming from the standpoint of reducing the risk of mental health, but seem to be biased towards recommending rest over work as the lone solution to reduce this risk.
While having a proper work/life balance is important, maximizing rest is, of course, not the end-all-be-all solution to mental health issues. This topic is much more complex than this, and obviously, I’m not qualified to comment further on these issues, nor will I. My intent here is to share my strategies for increasing mental toughness and perseverance as it pertains to achieving optimal work performance. I can only speak for my own situation, but we don’t live in a risk-free world.
One important thing to remember is that if you enjoy the work you do, the work isn’t necessarily a sacrifice. Clearly the amount the work drains you mentally will dictate your ability to be able to build your grit and execute the work.
I always find it helpful to have an analogy to reference on any topic … in this case, I like to think of it as a muscle: the GRIT muscle.
Many of the same principles of improving your physical fitness apply to your GRIT muscle. Whether it be setting a goal to claim a starva KOM (for the bike geeks) or hitting a new PB (Personal Best) at the gym, the basics for training any of the body’s systems remains basically the same…
If a sprinter trains their legs to achieve strength and explosive speed, think of training your mental toughness and resilience to be gritty. When I came to grips with this and realized that those periods where my schedule was insane were moulding and building my GRIT muscle, it was easier to continue pushing through and turn work into a passion.
The analogy works well with other comparisons …
Any athlete who is serious about building their skills and physical fitness would never leave their training to chance. This is the same approach we need to take when building our GRIT muscle and entrepreneurial drive. We should have a purpose to our “training” (aka work) schedule.
So how do I try and find balance of building my GRIT while balancing other things I want to enjoy in life?
I try and break down my work in a somewhat fractal way where my day mirrors my week, which then mirrors my year. During the day/week/year timeline there are peak work periods and lighter rest periods.
Similar to how a well-rounded athlete needs to train both strength and endurance, the all-around entrepreneurial grit muscle needs to be trained for both the short and long-term efforts needed. If you have a highly specialized talent and at the point where you only need to be exceptional at a few things in your business, then your schedule should reflect that.
The best strategy I have found to both be productive and manage my effort throughout the day is the pomodoro technique. This method was first developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and has since been used as an excellent work hack to increase efficiency.
The concept is simple (and VERY effective). You use a timer to break down your work into intervals, usually 25 minutes long, separated by short breaks. The purpose is to reduce external interruptions from everyday life and work, by focusing hard for a short period of time, leading to effective intervals of work.
I used a couple of mini sand-filled hour glasses I got off Amazon until Kelley broke one! She says she wasn’t throwing it at me but all I saw was exploding glass and sand everywhere! Now I use a simple online timer like e.ggtimer.
Weekly I try to have a couple days that I push myself as hard as I can to be more gritty. I call these my “work all day” days and they are great for getting lots of work done and pushing myself to my limits, in turn helping grow the GRIT muscle.
The luxury of being able to sit down before 8am and know I won’t be stopping work until 9pm-11pm allows me to put things on my to-do list that I wouldn’t otherwise get to for months!
I realize there are many people with 12-14 hour days as their routine, however, this is how I choose to structure my week and it works very well, keeps my efficient, and allows me to balance my work/life schedule.
I wish I had 4 phases to my schedule so it lined up better with quarters, but the reality is I phase my year in 3 blocks: build, stabilize and recover.
A slightly larger than normal week with some very long days at the computer
So what are the key points you should take away from this post?
Hopefully after reading this, you don’t have a fixed mindset on how to achieve grit. This outline is simply my method, which I hope can help you create your own structure for growth. Remember, we all have different goals, passions, obstacles, and talents, so align your strategy to what works best for you. But make sure your pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone. Face adversity head on and don’t be afraid of failure – in the end it will help develop resilience and grit!
I have occasionally had posts on here over the years that reflect my evolving thinking on business and business strategy.
Today’s post I want to reflect on what I have learned over the last 2 years, as I shifted much of my focus to adbank and blade – then came back to do a deep assessment on the health of the other businesses.
This was a unique opportunity for me because I got to come back to some parts of the business with what felt like cold eyes- and really review what was working and what was not working. What businesses stood the test of time, what businesses improved and which ones got their asses kicked!
The only projects that survived/thrived were ones that had a manager in place or were boring/evergreen businesses (either SAAS or content).
What does this mean for the future of my online businesses. Here is how this review impacts my plans moving forward by business type…
The key takeaway is that boring is sexy when it comes to long term stable success!
This is not a unique insight and one that is supported by the most successful conglomerates for many decades.
Berkshire Hathaway does not need a lot of introduction. Many people know the basics of how Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger applying a relatively unchanged set of investing principales from Omaha have outperformed pretty much everyone over the last 50+ years and grown it into a monster with them becoming 2 of the wealthiest people alive.
I have long been a fan of everything Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffet, I highly recommend reading The Snowball, Warren Buffet and the Interpretation of Financial Statements and Berkshire Beyond Buffet along with his annual shareholder letters.
The key takeaways we can apply to online businesses is a focus on
Constellation Software is a relatively unknown Canadian company that doesn’t make a lot of noise but has achieved phenomenal results (over 1 decade of stable 30% annualized return on invested capital). They focus on boring low churn B2B SAAS businesses. To get a real sense of the business I recommend the 10 years of president letters (here). The CEO and CFO did a deep dive looking at the high performing conglomerates and shared the insights in the 2016 and 2017 letters which were very telling.
The 3G Way, Dream Big and True Power (tougher to get through) all provide a great insight into the management system and culture behind 3G Capital.
Another similar company to these above many haven’t heard of is ESW Capital (great story in Forbes here) who share many of the same traits but is arguably the most centralized out of the list.
What do all these high performing companies have in common…
Hopefully this honest assessment of what businesses struggled, which were able to stay stable and which ones thrived is useful. The similarity of the traits the businesses that thrived shared with the example companies is very telling.
I look forward to continued sharing on what is working and not working across all my projects.
Are you a businessman or an entrepreneur? Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between the two? Business people and entrepreneurs have many similarities. They both provide jobs for the unemployed, give solutions to the consumers, and help in developing the economy of a certain nation. However, they are not the same kind of people. The following are 10 differences between a businessman and an entrepreneur:Continue reading
As Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
In this post, I go into detail about my continuous learning (lots of room for improvement!). Over the past 4.5 years I have listened to hundreds of audible books (have 300+ books in my audible). When a student at Nebraska State asked Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the superpower question, Gates answered, “Being able to read super fast.” And Buffett echoed him, adding, “I’ve probably wasted 10 years reading slowly. ” To help with this, I often listen to my audiobooks on 2x speed so that way I can use the time I have to read these books more efficiently. It takes some time to get used to that speed but once you do it really helps get through books quickly.
Each month I like to pick out 5 books to read for that month . Sometimes I don’t get to all 5 but it helps when I finish a book to have another one lined up as sometimes it can take a while to choose one to read.
I also believe books are a great way to provide training for team members. I often recommend for them to read a book and then discuss at our weekly 1:1 on the key takeaways from it.
Since I tend to listen to quite a few audible books, I have a VA create and update a spreadsheet each month of my favour books with a link to cheat sheets to go with them so I can remember what I have learned from each book.
The practice of going back and looking at the cheat sheet for a critical book has been an efficient method of increasing retention on key books.
Here are a few of the books I like along with their synopsis.
Here is the spreadsheet I use to keep track of my favourite books and a the summary of each for me to brush up on… here.
START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life. I think of this as the hand-hand self defense for negotiation… best to set things up so these skills are not needed
Napoleon Hill, America’s most beloved motivational author, devoted 25 years to finding out how the wealthy became that way. After interviewing over 500 of the most affluent men and women of his time, he uncovered the secret to great wealth. By understanding and applying the thirteen simple steps that constitute Hill’s formula, you can achieve your goals, change your life and join the ranks of the rich and successful.
My recent new favourite is Traction! It feels like a combination of EMyth Revisited plus Scaling Up. Great for smaller companies looking to achieve high performance!
Continuous learning through books is about expanding your ability to learn by regularly upgrading your skills and increasing your knowledge. I never really have time to sit down and read so I solved this problem by listening to my books when I am in the car (without the family) or on long bike rides. There have been many great lessons that I have learned from these books that I have applied to my companies from the way the organization is made up to simple strategies we use when executing projects.
If you are a big reader/consumer of knowledge do you have any hacks for increasing retention?