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In the age of social distancing, how do we build and nurture a community around our brand? In this video, I discuss the value of a brand community and how to build one while everyone is encouraged to socially distance from one another. 

A brand community is a community of not just your loyal customers but also of your fans who function like brand ambassadors. Members of a brand community actively promote your brand’s products and services to their peers. Herein lies the value of a brand community: having customers ensure steady sales, brand ambassadors foster sales growth.  

What are examples of brand communities? Think of fans of Disney, Lego, or Apple. Fans of these brands converge in online forums and groups to talk about their love for the brand—whether about new products that will be launching soon, or the hunt for old collectibles or merchandise, or even about their experiences, both negative and positive. You’ll find fans posting about their love for the brand on their personal networks, too—maybe a photo from a visit to a Disney park, a new build from Lego, or even their new iPhone. 

While big brands and big companies have been at the forefront, many smaller businesses are applying these in a smaller scale. And these communities have been the secret of how many small businesses have been able to stay afloat during this pandemic. Complemented by a business pivot, which I discussed in the video called the #CovidPivot (link forthcoming), having a highly engaged community has been crucial to the survival and even success of small businesses during this health crisis. 

So what can small businesses do today to build and nurture their own brand community? Here are 3 practical ways that you can apply today: 

(1) Offer compassion, empathy, and solutions to customers 

Now, more than ever, there is a need for empathy and compassion towards our customers. Many are affected by the pandemic, and it would be tone-deaf to market products and services as if things have not changed drastically. We cannot just focus on just selling. It sounds tone-deaf, insensitive, and selfish. That said, a business still needs to be run, and we still need to earn our keep.  

So how do we balance our need to market our products and services with being compassionate and empathic to the needs of our customers? The simple answer is by offering real, practical, and reasonable solutions. After all, aren’t we in business to offer solutions to our customers’ pain points?  

More than that, there is also a need to acknowledge these pain points—we let our customers know that we see these problems, we understand these problems, and we are in the business of solving their problems. 

Think of how Single O (link to CovidPivot video), a café located in Sydney, responded when the Australian government imposed social distancing measures. They created a new product, a coffee brew called Stimulus, which customers can brew at home. It did not stop there—they continued to develop new products and offerings based on what their customers needed. They put up a corner store to sell pantry items, predicting that some of their customers will experience some supply issues for some essentials.  

Another company, Whole Kids Australia, offered kids snack bundles through their online store which may be delivered for free to their customers. It’s a great solution for a busy mom who needs to balance working from home while taking care of kids who are forced to stay indoors because of the pandemic.  

They offer empathy and compassion in their marketing messaging by recognising the difficulty that parents face juggling work, chores, and kids. And because the founders themselves are parents to school-aged kids, the message comes off as authentic and empathic. It reinforces the message that Whole Kids understands their customers’ pain points. 

(2) Be more transparent 

Building a community requires building trust. Trust comes from being honest and transparent.  

If you can’t offer the same level of service for reasons brought by the global pandemic or due to the government restrictions put in place to address the spread of the coronavirus—it’s time to come clean and say it. If you have to limit the number of people in your store, let your customers know. If you need to change certain things around your store or need to add safety measures to protect your customers and your staff, let them know. Acknowledge that these changes might affect wait times or the level of convenience that your customers are used to. 

In the United States, there is a Texas-based Korean BBQ restaurant that offers a notable example of how transparency in marketing works. As events around Austin were cancelled and the government forced restaurants to close their dining rooms, the owner of Chilantro took to social media to explain how this affects their business. He offered solutions to customers on how they can enjoy Chilantro dishes in their own homes. He also came clean as to how government measures are impacting his business.  

He was upfront about the fact that given how they serve Chilantro meals, where customers come in to assemble their own customised bowls, things changed drastically for them. As a result, sales weren’t doing well, but that he is pivoting so that he can keep paying his staff. He frequently addressed his customers through social media, letting them know which of his several locations were open for pick up or take out, and what meals were available.  

Today, Texas is slowly lifting restrictions and are now allowing dining rooms to open, provided certain measures are put in place. Chilantro remains open and in business, thanks to a brand community that it was able to build and nurture prior to the pandemic and even through the health crisis. 

(3) Talk about your employees—the faces behind your brand. 

Your brand community includes the people who work behind the brand—that means your staff. Why? Because your employees are also your brand ambassadors. In times of crisis, it matters how we take care of our own. It also matters how we recognise them. 

Chilantro has been featuring their in-store employees on their social media pages, to recognise their hard work and because they are the faces that customers see whenever they walk into any Chilantro restaurant or food truck. These are the people who lovingly prepare their rice bowls and burritos.  

If you haven’t already, it’s time to introduce these faces—the faces of your employees to the customers and acknowledge their contribution in your marketing message. Let customers know that these are the faces helping behind the scenes.  

Doing so humanises your brand. It lets your customers know that people who care are behind every product, every service, every interaction, every experience. And that’s really all there is to it in any community—people who care about each other, people who help each other, and people who support one another. In the most difficult of times, we all need care, help, and support. 

How are you doing? I hope that, through my videos, I have been helpful to you, especially during these challenging times. If you think you need further assistance or just want to chat, I would encourage you to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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Growth starts with having the right attitude and the right mindset. In this video, I will share with you how you can nurture a growth mindset in your business 

What is a growth mindset?  

A growth mindset is a belief that we can develop our talents, abilities, and skills through dedication and hard work. 

How do we develop a growth mindset? 

As its name suggests, a growth mindset is a mindset of growth. It involves believing that we can grow, that we have control over our growth and development, and that if we work towards it, we can improve ourselves and be better.  

Remember the key words: belief, control, and development 

Where do we start? 

Experts believe that nurturing a growth mindset involves different sets of strategies. Here are three strategies you can start employing today to help you develop a growth mindset. 

  • Learn vicariously. 

Learning vicariously or learning via proxy means learning from the mistakes of others. Mistakes are teachable moments—use this as an opportunity to learn something new or to improve current processes. It would be a waste of resources if the lessons do not get shared to others.  

For example, if someone in your team makes a mistake, take this as an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn. Replace blame with curiosity and try to find out what caused the mistake and how this can be avoided in the future.  

What’s another way to learn vicariously? Read! In one of my previous video, I discuss how reading is a daily habit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They do this to stay relevant and even become better business leaders in this ever changing world.  

  • Consider struggle as part of the process. 

Every expert started from the bottom. Struggling to master things is part of the process. Expect to struggle if you wish to grow. 

Take Michael Jordan for example. His career as a basketball superstar is best known for what did NOT happen in the beginning—he did not make it to his high school basketball varsity team. Instead, the coaches thought he was too small that they put him in junior varsity. 

This stung him so badly that he used this struggle as an opportunity to keep practising every day in school until he made varsity. He went his way to basketball stardom from there. 

Many times the fear of struggle is what causes us from trying new things. If we start accepting that we are all made to struggle and that this is part of the growth process, this will help calm our fear of trying new things, a key aspect of building a growth mindset. 

Don’t avoid struggle. Learn to embrace it. Try to control struggle by placing it in a context that you can control. If you want to learn how to do this, please reach out to me so that we can chat. 

  • Regard failure in a different light. 

Failure is necessary for success. Failure is an effective teacher.  

Failure is the time to apply extra effort to significantly improve your results. It’s OK to fail—and the best thing that you can do after failing is to understand what you can learn from it. And for a very successful entrepreneur like Jeff Bezos, founder, CEO and President of Amazon, failure is key to his billion dollar success. He famously said, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com.” 

The ability to learn from failures and past mistakes is a critical skill set that business owners need to master, as I discuss in a previous video

It is often said that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. And in this discomfort zone, there is a struggle. There is a failure. And that’s OK. It’s easy to aspire to become the world’s most successful entrepreneur, like Jeff Bezos—or even to aspire to succeed like Michael Jordan did as an athlete. But they didn’t start from the top. They worked from the bottom. Jeff Bezos started Amazon inside his garage, and Michael Jordan started in junior varsity. They both struggled, made a lot of mistakes along the way—but the most important thing that they did was to learn from their struggles and their mistakes, and used those lessons they learned to grow and become better. And that’s exactly what having a growth mindset means—embracing struggle and failure as part of the growth process.  

Do you struggle to come to terms with certain struggles or even failures in your business? Do you avoid growth and development opportunities because you are too busy or that you have too much to handle? If you can identify with those questions, please send me an email and let’s have a chat. 

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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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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