- What happens to your dreams and goals in uncertain times? When things don’t go to plan it’s easy to retreat. Some withdraw into distraction, or mind-numbing entertainment but others press on, making the most of the situation.
- Perhaps those that advance look for opportunities to develop their business in a new way, or support clients differently. Perhaps they decide to learn that skill they’ve been putting off, or complete that course they’ve always thought of doing.
- When the pandemic hit, I lost a number of coaching clients and knew I had to do something. I’d never run a virtual event before but when I came up with the idea for Wartime CEO I created a page, set a date and started taking registrations. The content was developed just-in-time by asking participants what they wanted.
- The event was a huge success and received excellent feedback as well as generating new coaching clients for my business. Any fears I’d had initially about my capacity to do this were dispelled and I’ve since gone on to make Wartime CEO a regular monthly event.
- Remember that when you decide to advance in hard times, you’re setting an example to those around you – to your colleagues, your friends and your family. Your response not only paves your own path, but also leads the way for others.
What happens to your dreams or goals in uncertain times when things get tough and chaotic? Sometimes people retreat into mind-numbing entertainment and distraction, while others try to make the most of the situation, find a new way and still advance when things get tough and uncertain. Some retreat and others advance – which group are you in?
Let me tell you about a story recently for me that forced me to decide which group I was going to be in. Now, I work as a high performance coach for CEOs entrepreneurs, or even just the everyday person who wants to close that gap between who they are and who they’re capable of being, and realize their full potential in life. I was getting by with my coaching business with a handful of clients and the occasional referral here and there. And then this global pandemic happened, the global coronavirus crisis, and suddenly all of my income almost disappeared completely.
I was in a serious situation. I had to find new clients, but I didn’t have the opportunity to go out there and meet with people. We were in lockdown. I didn’t have the opportunity to go out and mingle with anybody. So I had to think of a way to go completely virtual in a remote setup, find new clients, meet them, so to speak, and hopefully convert some of those clients into new paying clients, to fill the income gap that we had. Then I came up with this idea, why don’t we create a new event called wartime CEO, which was meant to help people not just survive the current crisis, those who are leading companies, but actually emerge stronger as a result. And even though it was called wartime CEO, it wasn’t designed just for CEOs, but for leadership, the CEO mindset – how do you lead at a CEO level, whether you’re a manager leader or actually a CEO in your company.
I put that event together. One of the first things that I did with that event was I created necessity. I really want you to embrace what I mean with this. The very first thing I did was put together a page, an event page, if you will, that described, what is the event? What are people going to get out of the event? When is it going to be held? What are the key takeaways? Who’s going to be involved in the event? I published that page with a date of when it was going to happen, and started taking registrations. I was past the point of no return, right? Because now as people were signing up for the event, I had to deliver it. And here’s the funny thing – I didn’t have any of the content made.
At one point, I remember we had the date set for May 7th for the first one of these. And as we got close to the day, I said to my wife, “Gosh, I don’t have any of the content ready yet. Maybe we should push the date. Maybe we should make it May 15th or May 22nd”. And, and she said, “No, that’s just absolutely crazy. You know, you just have to step into it and just use it as a forcing function to get the event out the door”. And so I ended up sticking with the event on May 7th, didn’t move the date, which would have been a little bit of a train wreck as well, right? Because people have already planned for it. They’ve put it in their calendar. And suddenly I’m going to send an email saying, “Oh, now I need to move the date”. So luckily that didn’t happen.
The next key thing I did made this event more doable, actionable for me – I had never done a virtual event before. And that key thing was asking questions. What I mean is, I sent out a simple survey to all those registered, asking them “During the next six months, if you think about not just surviving this current crisis, but actually emerging stronger as a result, what are the top three challenges on your mind?” And they shared with me their top three challenges. And after registering, as each person shared their challenges, I could suddenly start to build a curriculum.
Okay, these are the things that people want help in solving. That informed the course content. And I was literally focusing on just an in time model here. So think about it. I thought of the event. Then I put together a page which describes the event, and published that page. Didn’t even have the content ready yet. Then I asked questions about, well, what would make this event super valuable for you? I had said on the page that described the event, what they could generally expect with it. But in that survey email, I said, well, we want to further tailor the event exactly to your needs. So any additional clarity that you can provide on your challenges will help us do that. When I got those questions, it was from that point that I started to develop the content. Everything was happening kind of just in time here.
The other key thing that I did was getting guest speakers involved so that it wasn’t just me. I did this for a couple of reasons. One is, I wanted to break up the time, so it wasn’t just me speaking all that time. I got a couple of other people involved in the event and had them come in and talk about their experiences and topics that could relate to what we were trying to achieve with the day.
Another thing I did was breakout sessions. I organized breakout sessions, using Zoom, where everybody who’s participating in the event could break out a couple of times during the event and talk about what they’re learning and share their experiences with the rest of the group. And that really, really helped as well to break up the content and not create such a dependency on me to just talk about it. The other interesting thing with having guest speakers involved is that those guest speakers were able to promote the event through their networks as well. It wasn’t just me through my social media, promoting the event, but also them as well. Then, during the event itself, I had to be brave enough to make my offers. So this event, by the way, was completely free. There was no cost for attending. We were giving free value throughout the event, but towards the end of the event, about three quarters of the way through, I started to talk about community and accountability and how important those elements were for people to continue making progress, especially during a crisis situation. And that was my perfect opportunity to talk about my coaching services and to make an offer. The offer I simply made was that if anybody who is attending the event wanted a free coaching call with me after the event, they simply had to get in touch and we would get that call scheduled.
And of course, during that call, that gave me an opportunity to prove even more value with that person individually. And then also at the end of that call, make a pitch if you will. This is what it would look like to work together a bit more closely. This is how much it would cost, and give them the opportunity to think about that and decide if a deeper, longer term coaching relationship might be better for them. Now, what were the results of doing this? Well with just the first free wartime CEO event that we did, at the end of that event, I took everyone off of mute and I asked them to share just in one word or one phrase, what that event meant to them. And I heard things like, “I feel reinforced”. “I feel energized”. “I feel ready to tackle the unknown”. “I feel motivated”. “I feel empowered”.
I was getting all this qualitative feedback that was telling me hands down, without doubt, this was the right thing to do. That people were finding it valuable, but it wasn’t just qualitative. There was also some good quantitative feedback in this to the annual income. I’ve now run two of these events, and the annual income that I’ve gotten from just these two events in the form of coaching fees with new clients is over $100,000 per year. All because I decided to not retreat, but to advance in the face of uncertainty. All because I decided to figure out a new way of reaching out to people in the context of the environment that I was in. I wasn’t going to limit myself. And I encourage you to do the same when you’re faced with uncertain times. When you’re given the opportunity to retreat and maybe drift away into mind-numbing entertainment, spend your hours on Netflix, I want you to stop and ask yourself, “Actually, if I weren’t to retreat, but to advance, what would I do differently? How might I capitalize on this situation, give value for others and also provide value for myself in the end?”
And remember this too, when you do something like this – when you decide to advance and not retreat. You’re not only paving your own path, but you’re also setting an example for all of those around you – your family, your friends, others who might also be struggling with the same situation that perhaps you’re struggling in. You become a role model that is a beacon of hope for them.
Look, I totally get that when uncertain and chaotic times come, that they can be hard, right? You could feel that you’re going to lose stuff. You have uncertainty about how you’re going to get through. You don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, but have self belief. You have to be willing to make mistakes and try new things. And if you do that, and if you create some necessity; if you push yourself out there, if you try to deliver things just in time and don’t try to make it all perfect upfront; if you ask questions for those that you’re trying to serve to help arrive at the answers that they need; if you engage others in whatever your event or thing is to support you in the form of guest speakers or additional support; if you make sure that you’re creating interactivity with your group and getting them to work and come up with answers themselves, you can get there, right? You can get to the end, you can see yourself through whatever challenges. You could see the light at the end of that tunnel.