• Caroline Jennings

Staying Motivated When the Going Gets Tough

How small business owners can use their mission as an anchor during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Every month, I get together with a group of my closest female colleagues to share thoughts on what it means to be a young woman in the business world. I call it my "Boss Babe" group. We challenge each other to be bold, take risks, and act fearlessly.


A few meetings ago, one of the Boss Babes admitted that she was considering quitting her job. It was making her miserable, and the toxic work environment had started to take a serious toll on her mental health. We all threw our support behind her.


Last night's meeting took place over Zoom. We went around the room (or rather, the grid of face squares on the screen) and shared how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted each of our lives. When we got to Boss Babe, she just let out a dry laugh. "Well, I quit my job," she said. "And then the next Monday, the world fell apart."


I felt her pain to my core. I made the decision to quit my stable, well-paying job to pursue Word of Web full-time just two months ago. Now, I am a small business making websites for other small businesses. And let me tell you, that is a tough business to be in right now.


According to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 20% of "healthy" small businesses in late 2019 reported having enough cash saved to operate if revenue were to dry up. In light of the recent COVID-19 closures, most small business owners simply don't have the time, mental bandwidth, or money needed to invest in a marketing revamp.


I sometimes ask myself, Why couldn't I have stuck with my job for just a few more months? On the surface, it seems that I would be far better off this way. I would have a paycheck, a more consistent workload, and coworkers to fall back on when work-from-home gets lonely.


But here is what I've realized: even though times are tough right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. That's because my missionempowering small businesses with the digital tools they need to thrive in their local communitiesis more important than ever, and I'm more committed to it than ever. And there is no such thing as bad timing when you're on a mission.


There is no such thing as bad timing when you're on a mission.

In a recent interview, my good friend and mentor Harold Hughes talked about the leap of faith he took in quitting his Corporate America job and founding his own startup, Bandwagon (now a multi-million dollar fan analytics company). He recalls asking himself, "If I [am] going to start something . . . what would motivate me to run it when things aren’t going great?"


I think all of us can agree that we're living in a perfect microcosm of things not going great. That means now is the time to latch onto your founding mission—that "calling" that was so strong that it caused you to forego comfort, safety, and certainty—as tightly as possible. It's not easy, but it's necessary, for both your health and your business's health


Now is the time to latch onto your founding mission—that "calling" that was so strong that it caused you to forego comfort, safety, and certainty—as tightly as possible.

Here are a few thought exercises I have found particularly helpful in staying motivated and connected to my mission amidst the COVID challenges my business has faced:


  • Think back to the moment you decided to start your business or side hustle. What did that feel like? Where were you when you made the decision? How did you convince the naysayers that your idea was a good one? This is a great way to reconnect with that original motivation and conviction you felt when starting your business.


  • What inspired you to start your business? What need did you observe? How did you know that you were in a unique position to fill it? It's important to stay close to your initial "why" so that you have an anchor during uncertain times.


  • Read through client testimonials. Reflecting on past client work can be a good reminder of how you are adding value to people's lives. When you are working from home (as many of us are right now), it's easy to feel like you're working in a vacuum.


  • Write down 10 accomplishments you are most proud of since starting your business. It's easy to be down on yourself and forget about your successes when times get tough. This is a good way to remind yourself how awesome you are!


  • Engage with your audience on social. People are more active on social than ever. That means this is the perfect time to engage with your fans through interactive content like livestreams, Q&As, and challenges.


Have any tips you would like to add to the list? Post in the comments below!

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