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With many of us encouraged to stay home in this new normal, Daymond John of Shark Tank urges everyone to "take the time to reinvest in yourself" while working from home. In this video, I explore what you can do at home to reinvest in yourself.

In the beginning of the global pandemic, governments around the world introduced community quarantines and lockdowns to help contain the spread. Activities were limited to just essentials: picking up supplies, outdoor exercising with stringent social distancing rules, essential work and operations, and emergencies. In some places, the spread has been largely contained, and this has led to the easing of quarantine and lockdown measures.

Nevertheless, things seem far from normal. In fact, many experts claim that the pandemic has introduced a “new” normal that we are likely to live within at least the next year or so.

With many of us encouraged to stay home in this new normal, we have found an abundance of time. Time saved from fetching our children from school, commuting to and from work, even from going out for social events. Some of us have utilised this time to sleep in, to rediscover what cooking is like in the kitchen, and some of us have discovered the joy of Netflix.

However, I would like to encourage you to explore what you can do at home to invest in yourself. There are many good reasons to explore learning at this time. In the short term, and particularly during this time, learning may help our mental health.

As discussed in a previous video, exercising your brain puts you in a position of being in control and lessens feelings of helplessness. In the long term, lifelong learning helps you be a better business owner, a better boss, and a better person overall, as I discuss in a previous video on how being committed to lifelong learning makes you a better business leader.

Before I begin the discussion on ways that you can invest in yourself, I’d like to introduce a caveat. Productivity experts say that this is a good time to explore learning options when you can. The pandemic is a good time to explore learning options when you can. Let’s acknowledge that some people are weathering the pandemic better than others—and self-investment has many forms. This is why this discussion about investing in yourself is not limited to just learning options.

So how can we invest in ourselves during this pandemic? Here are three things that you can start with today:

(1) Take online classes or read books

There are several being offered online. Other workshops and seminars have also been converted into online classes. There are also courses that are offered for free, such as those offered here and here. Many of these courses are also offered by Ivy League School professors in the United States.

If you can’t take classes right now, maybe you can start reading a book. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are all voracious readers—and they all associate reading to their success in business. This is the perfect time to read a book or books that you’ve always wanted to but never had the time for. If you need more books to read, here’s a link to some free ebooks.

One of the leading advantages of online learning is how it benefits careers and businesses. Many of those who have taken certification courses online have enjoyed career advantages and professional benefits as a result of taking these courses. Online courses improve knowledge and develop technical skills—and because many of these online courses provide certification at the end and gives the impression that you are committed to learning and development.

The upside is that you take these online courses at your own pace and right in the comfort of your home. No commutes, no fixed schedules, and all at your convenience. Many of these are short enough to only take up a couple of weeks at a time, with a time investment of an hour or so per week.

If you’re worried about the cost, many courses online can be accessed for free, but the downside is that sometimes you don’t get the certification. However, if you find the online course to be relevant and of great interest to you, you can always upgrade to a paid access at any point of the course. This gives you the full experience and certification at the end. All that is required from you to begin is go online and sign up.

Personally, I have found that by paying for courses, I tend to be more committed to completing it as I have invested my own funds into it. It also forces me to choose the courses I take carefully. And who benefits from this? I do! You, too, can benefit from following this strategy, too.

(2) Connect with your community

Most events, including networking events, have been cancelled or postponed. Many of them are moving online. Maybe your community has already organised one—or perhaps you can create one and build your own community.

You can set up a Facebook Group and invite the people you know to join—and then maybe, you can also ask them to invite people in their own network to join. Let’s use technology to network and connect with people.

Remember, in business, it’s not just what you know but who you know that matters. The people you meet in these virtual groups may eventually become your suppliers, your clients, or even your partners. They may be people who can provide you with assistance and support—and vice versa.

If you are interested to know more about online networking groups, send me an email, and I’ll share with you what I have.

We don’t know how this new normal will pan out in the next few months or years—anything is possible, and so we take every opportunity that we can to adapt and move ahead.

(3) Invest in your well-being

Remember, when I said that there are many ways of investing in yourself? This is what I mean.

You do not have to push yourself when you feel overwhelmed during this period. While it may seem like a very conducive time to learn a new skill for many, your own circumstances may be different from others. We are in a global pandemic. Maybe you've been working hard all of these years, and you never had the time to focus on yourself. Reinvesting in yourself may mean something else—such as taking this time to rest and focus on your own health, physical, mental, or otherwise.

Quarantine rules encourage exercising--so maybe stepping out for a quick walk or run will do wonders for your health. Many successful entrepreneurs put a priority on their health and block time for exercise in their daily schedules. A healthy body nurtures a healthy and sound mind.

Some people have also started journaling. Journaling has been proven to be beneficial for your mental health as you start to describe how you feel in words, and many experts have said that journaling helps manage our worries and anxieties during crises. From a pragmatic point of view, journaling allows us to put our ideas down. Who knows, maybe you'll find inspiration for your next entrepreneurial venture by journaling and putting ideas down to paper.

Many have said that this pandemic has allowed people to focus more on what matters, because it has taken away the many distractions that would normally clutter our day. Maybe it is time for many of us to focus on ourselves, whether that means investing our time to educate ourselves, connect with the people that matter, or to take care of our physical and mental health. Maybe we need to do just that.

Thank you and keep safe.

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The global pandemic is set to affect not just public health but also the economy. As governments impose lockdowns to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading, this brings in what many are calling the “new” normal. This new normal impacts all businesses.

In this video, I explore practical steps that you can undertake today to help keep your business going through this pandemic.

How are you doing? I hope that this video finds you well, and despite what’s going on today, that you are taking care of yourself.

I recognise that many businesses are responding to the economic effects of the global pandemic differently. Depending on which industry you are in and how the government is regulating your business operations in response to measures to help minimise the spread of the coronavirus, I offer five tips that you can do today to help you manage your business in an otherwise difficult and unpredictable situation.

  1. Understand your current financial position

To make the best possible decisions in a difficult situation, you need fully understand your current position, especially your financial situation. This is the best time to keep your financial statements up to date and to discuss with your accountant where you are financially.

Here are some questions that you may need to answer to help you get a better picture of your financial position, which will enable you to make better decisions about your future business operations:

  • How much do you owe?
  • How much are you owed?
  • Where is your money currently being spent?
  • Where are you currently earning income?
  • How much cash do you currently have?
  • How long will your current cash position last?

  1. Perform financial health checks and manage your spending

Now that you know your financial position, it’s time to perform health checks and manage your spending. Are you eligible for any form government assistance? If you are, look into that.

Are there any items in your spending that you can cut or reduce? Talk to your bank and see if you can renegotiate payment terms for loans. Talk to your landlord and seek payment extensions for rent or if you can renegotiate rates during this crisis.

If your business has limited its operations, see what expenditures you can cut down. Maybe there are services that you aren’t using that you can put on pause or even completely cut off.

This is also the best time to take stock of your assets and see if there are any that you can lease or even sell to improve your cash flow.

  1. Communicate with your stakeholders

Your stakeholders are people who have an impact on the operations and performance of your business. These include your customers, your employees, your suppliers, and the supply chain in general. In difficult times, it is best to keep communication lines open to all of your stakeholders.

How are you customers managing? Will they be able to continue doing business with you? If not, what challenges are they facing? Perhaps you can help or provide supplementary services so that they can continue to utilise your services.

How are your suppliers? Can they continue serving your business’s needs? Are they experiencing challenges or difficulties in the supply chain themselves? Supply chain and service interruptions are to be expected in lockdowns, and this is why it is important to keep yourself informed so that you can find ways to adapt and work together to mitigate negative impacts caused by these interruptions.

  1. Build on your network

Your network and connections have an impact in how your business will perform. This is the best time to reach out to members of your local business community—if you’re not part of an organisation already, it may be time to seek membership in these communities. This is the time to band together to find support and give each other support.

In my previous video (link forthcoming on how to take care of your mental health), I discuss how finding a supportive community and reaching out to others can benefit your mental health. Doing so may also boost your business’s health. Thanks to technology, lockdowns should not keep us in isolation. Now, more than ever, is the time to reach out, seek support, and give comfort and assistance to one anoother. We’re all in the same boat—and if we paddle together, we can reach our destination and achieve success more quickly.

  1. Review your business model

Many businesses around the world are pivoting and finding ways to deliver products and services to their clients and customers in ways that they have not before. For example, many restaurants that are forced to close dining rooms instead offer take out and delivery services, aside from selling frozen/ready-to-cook packs of their signature dishes, they offer other grocery items as well. Many brick-and-mortar only stores are working on their online presence so that they can continue to sell their products to their clientele.

Agriculture in Australia is also responding to challenges that they have been facing for the past few years—first, as a result of the drought and second, as a result of the global pandemic. But the industry is innovating. Have you heard of the paddock to plate movement? The goal of this movement is to make the food supply chain more transparent to both producers and consumers, and to shorten the chain between these two parties in order to reduce costs and to contribute to overall stability and sustainability. This movement is not unique to Australia. In many countries around the world, this grassroots movement is also seeing some growth and increased interest from consumers.

If we take a page from these so-called disruptors, is there anything that you can change in your business today so that you can continue to offer your products and services to your customers?

Are your customers experiencing new and different pain points that you can address and resolve for them? Do you see new segments in the market sprouting that are suddenly in need of products and services that you offer? Is there a way you can tweak or change or improve your current offerings to expand your business or find an alternative revenue stream?

This “new” normal is bringing in new challenges, new needs, and new pain points for everyone. At some point, scientists will find a cure for the coronavirus and lockdowns will slowly and steadily be lifted. We do not know how the world will look like by then. But we can respond to the little changes that happen day-to-day, adapt to these changes little-by-little, and hopefully, find a way to not just survive but also thrive and progress moving forward.

Thank you and be safe.

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The global pandemic is set to affect not just public health but also the economy. As business owners scramble to do what they can to keep their businesses afloat, provide support to their employees, and cater to their clientele during these challenging times, it is very easy to focus on others that we tend to forget to take care of ourselves.

In this video, I explore practical things that we can do to take care of our mental health while working to overcome the challenges we are facing during this health crisis.

How are you doing? I hope that this video finds you well, and despite what’s going on today, that you are taking care of yourself. As a business owner, it is easy to put others ahead of yourselves, especially the team that works in your business.

However, your business cannot survive without its most important asset—and that’s you. I have discussed the importance of taking care of yourself in a previous video, calling attention to the need to rest and recover, because doing so makes you a better business owner, a better boss, and a better person overall.

While the advice in this previous video still applies, I would like to provide specific examples on how you can take care of your mental health during this crisis. It is also important to focus on ourselves—because we cannot help others if we don’t help ourselves first.

Here are a few practical tips that we can do to take care of our mental health.

  • Find a supportive community

It is important to remember that we are all in this together and that, if we work together during this crisis, we can prevail over its negative impact. This means looking for and reaching out to likeminded individuals who may share our worries and, more importantly, the resolve to find ways to make a positive impact in spite of current circumstances.

This is the time to surround ourselves with people who have a positive outlook and who are motivated to not just survive but also to succeed and even make a positive contribution to others. This is especially important if we get easily affected by negativity that we find around us, especially in social media.

  • Exercise our brain

If your current circumstances allow you some downtime, maybe it’s time to use this gift of time to exercise your brain. If there’s an online course you’ve always wanted to take or a book (or books) that you’ve always wanted to read but never had the time for, this is the time to go for it.

Perhaps this is the best time to reinvest time for ourselves. Also, focusing on learning puts us in a position of being in control at a time when many of us feel insecure or may have feelings of helplessness. During these times, it is best to redirect our energy into something that can produce positive results, such as reading or learning. Most of all, and best of all, it puts you in a position of being in control.

  • Remember self-care

On the flipside, some of us may be pre-occupied with many challenges in our business. Maybe our customers or even our employees are looking to us for more support, which means we work more hours to address these concerns. Perhaps the problem is that we do not have time to spare at all.

Whatever the case, please remember to find the time for yourself and practice self-care. It is tempting to focus on our productivity during this pandemic—it seems like we are given more time than usual as the world slows down and many industries come to a halt. But mental health professionals warn that this is not always healthy—and that it is perfectly fine to be unproductive.

These are exceptional times. It’s OK to not expect too much of ourselves and instead focus on being kind to ourselves. Take a walk. Meditate. Find a new hobby—or pick up an old one. Listen to soothing music. Maybe skip work altogether in the middle of the week if you need to.

  • Separate work from home

As governments around the world call on its citizens to stay home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, this move has introduced the largest experiment on working from home. And it has also introduced a lot of disruptions and challenges, especially to those who consider their home a place to rest, relax, and decompress.

The first rule of working from home is to establish physical, emotional, and mental boundaries. Set up a routine—and if you can, follow your usual routine. Wake up, eat, and sleep at the same time. Work the same hours if you can. Don’t work if it’s time to rest. Put those phones and laptops down at the end of the work day.

I recognise that this becomes a challenge when you have a family and have kids. This is why routines matter. At the same time, we also need to leave space for flexibility and accept that things won’t always go as planned—this is something new, after all. We didn’t expect this and we couldn’t have planned for this. It’s OK if things aren’t perfect. Do NOT expect them to be. Like in your business planning, be flexible as you work from home to get things done.

  • Help out: volunteer or donate

There is a lot of research that show how volunteering and helping others promote psychological well-being. It helps relieve stress and anxiety. Volunteering and helping out has also shown to help people find purpose and meaning, which brings them feelings of optimism.

And if all else fails, perhaps it is time to reach out and seek help from people who have the experience and expertise in managing mental health. These are extraordinary times—and some issues may need extraordinary measures.

Thank you and keep safe.

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Many around the world and in our country are experiencing the effects of this public health crisis. Economic experts are sounding a grim warning of how this pandemic can affect all businesses.

What can we do, as a small business, to counter the impact of this crisis on the economy? In this video, I explore how we can proactively respond to the impending effects of this crisis. My goal is to encourage everyone to start having this conversation today and begin finding answers to the question: How can a small business owner respond to the effects of this crisis and support each other in these uncertain times?

As of this video’s recording, there are hundreds of thousands of reported cases of COVID-19. Many health experts are comparing this crisis to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003. At that time, Australia was not severely affected as we only had 6 reported cases and no fatalities. Many of us have not experienced a crisis of this scale in our lifetime, and we, as Australian businesses, are treading unchartered waters.

We’re feeling the impact of the coronavirus in the world economy, as many nations are closing or have closed their borders to mitigate contagion risks. Businesses have shut down by order of the government and hundreds of thousands of people are now unemployed seemingly overnight. Even if many of these businesses have shut down, quite a few of them have chosen to retain their presence online.

If your business is still trading, you still have the opportunity to adapt to the current environment. That, in turn, puts you in a position to prepare for recovery once this crisis is over. Just as it did in 2003 during the SARS crisis, this crisis will also pass. Your business just needs to be in a position to take advantage of that.

If this is the time to be proactive, what can we start doing today?

Communicate with your clients

Everyone is likely to be feeling the effects of this health crisis—some more than others. This is the best time to get in touch with your clients to see how they are faring today. Acknowledge that times are tough and empathise with their current situation.

Let them know what you are doing today to help mitigate or minimise the risks. For example, if you run a restaurant or any food-related business, show your customers how you are protecting your own staff and what new measures you’re putting in place to stop the spread of the virus. Show them how you are adapting to do home delivery and how you can assist those in isolation by preparing meals for them over the next two weeks. Give them options on how, by purchasing from you, can introduce a variety in their lives by providing food options.

Communicate to your clients if you need to limit your operations or if stock becomes low in supply. How can they get in touch with you? Did you change your operating hours? What services and products are you still offering? Reassure your customers by consistently and  constantly communicating, especially when there are changes that will affect them significantly.

Use technology, explore alternatives

They call this the age of social distancing. Social distancing means deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. A recommended space of a meter or more between individuals is recommended to stop the spread of the virus. This is the reason why, in many parts of the world, large events like concerts, conferences, and shows are being cancelled to discourage the mass gathering of people.

The current recommendation is to stay home and avoid crowds—to practice self-quarantine at home and socially distance yourself from others. This means not participating in face-to-face meetings or events.

If you need to meet with someone or work with a group of people, what can you do? It’s time to use technology and explore the alternatives. There’s always email. There’s also video conferencing applications for messaging and voice calls. If you have to call off a face-to-face meeting, you can set up a video conference call through Skype, Google Hangout, or Zoom. If in case you need to work from home, you can still track team tasks and projects virtually through productivity tools such as Monday, Asana, and Trello.

There are many apps available in the market today—some have free features, while other features are available at a fee. If you’ve always wanted to learn something new and explore these apps—now is the time to do so.

Here are some examples of what people are doing across the globe in response to the call for social distancing:

  • In some places like the United States, governments are partially shutting down restaurants to discourage people gathering in large groups in a single dining space. Restaurants are keeping their kitchens open by encouraging people to order for takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery.
  • Many international conferences have also been cancelled. Organisers are instead holding virtual conferences, where people can still participate by logging in online.
  • Many companies are encouraging staff to work from home and are using many communication and productivity apps that I have mentioned to catch up and keep track of progress.
  • The entertainment industry is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Many concerts and music festivals have been called off. As an alternative, many artists have gone to social media, such as Instagram and Facebook to hold live virtual concerts.
  • Other professionals—chefs, marketing professionals—are offering free virtual workshops.

Necessity is the mother of invention. There is a need today to rethink traditional business models to fit the conditions of this crisis. Those who can adapt are in a better position to overcome the challenges. This is the time to get those creative juices going and to revisit your business plans. Who knows? Your creativity might lead you to a business model that will bring you and propel your business to growth after this crisis is over.

Explore what loans and benefits are being made available to you

The government has just announced a stimulus package for the Australian economy, which provides support for small businesses, amongst many others who will be or are already being affected by the pandemic. Contact your accountant and explore what is being made available to your company and how that would impact you directly.

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

As business owners, we understand risks and that we should always be prepared for what is inevitable. Now is the time to think about what you should do for your business to survive. If what other people are doing is any indication of what we can do, there is a LOT that we can do today to prepare our business for the future.

I will share with you a series of questions that will likely take some time for you to think about. The answers that you come up with may be the answer that allows your business to survive and put you in a position for growth once this crisis is over.

  • What can I do now so that I can reach my customers and touch base with them?
  • What alternatives do I have so that I can continue to offer the products and services to my customers?
  • What do my customers need now?
  • Has the crisis developed new pain points for my customers?
  • What changes can I do today to support my customers’ needs and address their new pain points?

The last question is particularly important because this is how you strengthen your relationship with your customers in this time of need. For example, some grocery and supermarket chains in Australia have come up with special shopping hours to a niche market—in this case, a Senior-Only shopping hour to help older shoppers.

These are uncharted waters. We will possibly feel the economic effects of the coronavirus in the months to come. But I urge everyone to keep calm, stay safe, and focus on the things that you can change or control.

When this crisis is over, I anticipate that more business will be more open to using video conferencing and that it will be widely accepted as the main way of doing business than ever before. How will that affect your business? Let’s focus on what changes we can make and find ways to support one another.

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What are some of the unique and fun ways to recognise employees? In this video, I explore some of the more unconventional ways of rewarding them.

There is a consensus on the importance of rewarding or recognising employees who do exceptionally great work. The rationale is that if you reward them, they will be motivated to continue doing great work.

The contention on this belief arises when we talk about finding the right rewards. As business owners, we want to make sure that we are generous enough to make the employee feel appreciated but not too much for everyone to expect that all exceptional work should be rewarded, even if such is a regular call of duty. We also consider our financial ability to sustain such rewards. It can’t be too generous that it affects the bottom line. Ideally, it should be simple and easy to implement—and one that can be sustained for many years to come.

Best of all, we should be transparent and have firm guidelines on who is eligible for these rewards, so that everyone feels that they have a fair chance of being a recipient and that we are not playing any favourites.

Note, however, that not all policies or rewards that aim to motivate behaviour work as well as one plans it to be. In my video, How an employee reward system can curtail productivity, I explored how one well-meaning employee rewards policy led to a decline in productivity. The key is to understand that employees are best motivated when the rewards are aligned with their internal motivation, just as I discuss in my video How to motivate employees the right way.

I’ve worked with business owners who struggle to come up with the proper incentives to motivate their employees. They are usually too busy with the business to think clearly about how to reward exceptional behaviour. But what they fail to realise is that their employees are one of the reasons for their business’s success. Ignoring their contribution may lead to demotivation and to employees doing only the bare minimum. This, in turn, can impact the morale and productivity of the team.

Here are some simple employee rewards that I’ve discovered align with internal motivation and are simple to do:

  1. Kudos Board! Perhaps the simplest but one of the most effective recognition programs. Managers, team members or even clients can give feedback about someone they feel who did exceptional work. This can be published either in the organisation’s bulletin board or social media for everyone to see. It’s good because employees are publicly recognised, at the same time, it gives other employees concrete examples of exceptional work that they can model.
  2. Write a simple Thank You note. Sir Richard Branson has been known to do this. It is simple but heartfelt, and lets employees know that you notice their hard work. While it takes time to do and it may be difficult to write the note, this brings more value to your employee than any monetary value. And, it’s a cost-effective measure, too!
  3. Throw a pizza party! This is great especially when you are celebrating not just the achievement of one team member but the collective effort of an entire team. It’s a fun way to build team camaraderie, too!
  4. Give a special perk for a limited time, maybe a paid day off or the opportunity to park at the best spot for a few days. It’s a simple reward but note that selection criteria should be clear and transparent to prevent any indication that you are playing favourites!
  5. Dinner for the family on you! Large corporations have been known to provide this reward. This is to recognise that families also make sacrifices, especially when their family member has been working very hard on a project that has taken time away from them. It also makes an employee feel especially valued because rewards are extended to their family.
  6. Career-based rewards, such as sending employees to out-of-town training classes or even just online classes of their choice.

How about you? How to you recognise and reward your employees?

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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