Persevering through the COVID-19 storm

I am very grateful to be able to share my feelings and thoughts openly regularly with you. It was a humble feeling to realise how my writing has positively impacted not just your physical health but also your mental wellbeing.

Being a pharmacist for a decade has taught me greatly on how to think like a sceptic and interpret information through a scientific lens to discover objective truth. However, it was not until I began my business journey five years ago that I started to understand and see the truth through a wide-angle lens.  Bad times like what we are going through right now can bring out the best in us or the worst. The choice is usually entirely up to us despite us thinking that it is beyond our control.

In every moment of darkness, it seems, there are countless moments of light – reconnecting with overdue friendships and relationships, gestures of compassion and kindness, outside the box thinking and showing indisputable resilience.

Being a pharmacist and a business owner has subconsciously allowed me to reason during moments of distress and hard wire myself for positive adaptation in the face of adversity. It’s times like these that allow us to cultivate and co-nurture with others, which creates a positive reciprocal supportive environment as a whole for everyone to grow and thrive. This is one of the reasons that I wanted to use my writing not just to help every one of you to achieve great health but also to build a centre of community around adding as much value to each other’s lives.  I truly believe that sharing knowledge, ideas, and thoughts can indirectly help each other in documenting our journey of growth in the world where resistance is prominent from all angles.

My business journey started very similarly to many other small business owners out there. Constantly going through phases of financial peaks and troughs, which can give that uneasy roller coaster-like feeling.

Visually seeing your sales figures going on a downward trend month after month despite working 80 hours a week is not a sight that many business owners want to see. The more you look at it, the more it gives you chills and an endless amount of sleepless nights. You finally come to terms that hard work does not always pay off. All your mind can think of is how to keep going for another month with virtually no cash flow and all those overheads and suppliers to pay. To make things more stressful is knowing that eight families are relying on your success so that they can thrive too. The burden on your shoulders becomes heavier and heavier. If you still have some cash lying around, you’ll probably opt for some advice from a business consultant. Otherwise, you’ll probably start reading some self-help books on business resilience. In the hope that it’ll give you the edge to stay afloat for a little bit longer waiting for some sort of miracle to happen.

For those of you who don’t believe in miracles (which I think is the majority), you’ll do whatever it takes and resort to the most obvious steps of slimming down already slim monthly expenses. For example, getting a credit extension from suppliers, paying your creditors using a credit card to buy you more time, and getting a loan holiday from your bank etc. You do all these in the hope of squeezing out a few more drops of cash to sustain your business. However, you’ll eventually reach a stage where there is simply no more juice to squeeze out.

This is literally what most business owners are doing every month, and not to mention the problems are being escalated by the pandemic lockdown where you can’t operate for five weeks.

I do not doubt that every day many business owners will be asking themselves a question of whether quitting is an option. Or more accurately trying to find a reason not to quit.

When you are at the last resort of convincing yourself to not quit, hearing unfair and insensitive comments like how small businesses do not have the necessary strength to see them through a few weeks of lockdown (as quoted from Dr Deborah Russell (Labour MP)), certainly makes you start questioning your ability and vision as a business owner.

I think the reason why many businesses fail is that running a business is extremely hard. There’s no doubt about that. Even though we have all tools on the internet, many marketing channels we could use, including different social media platforms, email, and affiliation marketing. Many businesses still struggle to get their message across. We have the internet giving us all the possibility of not failing. But many still fail. The simple answer to this is that we lack patience. We are living in an era of instant information. We want everything instantly, even when it comes to growing our business.

Every time I think about why I did not get out content or starting my weekly blog earlier, especially during the first four years of running my business makes me feel very sad. There is a story that was never told – I wanted to grow eastMED pharmacy through connecting with my patients. However, in the first three months of starting my “weekly dose of wisdom” blog,  I felt like my blog wasn’t having the impact and engagement that I desired. There were other factors involved, for sure. But seeing a low opening rate of my weekly emails and together with a large outflux of our customers unsubscribing to my emails saying they were “spammy” or “not interested” literally made me feel like crap. However, I didn’t stop writing. I persevered and slowly continued with my emails to engage with you all and after a year I can finally see its impact. Many business owners are not achieving what they want with their business and are lacking the patience to see things through and think that everything happens overnight. Most of the time, it is coming at the cost of an unhappy life or no lost financial but just lost in time.

Another reason many businesses may fail could be attributed to the lack of moments of distress. So going back to Dr Russell’s comment about small businesses. Although it is not the most empathetic thing to say, it certainly is a necessary “smack in the face” wake up call that we all need to help us find our true meaning of existence as a business. None of us is likely to want to invite distressing circumstances. However, such times will bring out the most creativity, innovation, and agility. It allows us to rethink our typical routines and identify new strategies for coping and moving forward.

The lack of self-care is also a key indicator of business failure. Let’s face it; running a business is an incredibly lonely and anxiety-filled process. The difference between working for someone and working for yourself is that when you go to sleep at night, you can’t switch off entirely, not thinking about the possible solutions to problems you encounter during the day.  People who are business owners can probably relate to this. Waking up in the middle of the night sweating, can’t get back to sleep because all of a sudden a stream of thoughts come by like a train and you have to write them down quickly before you forget and try to get back to sleep. So it is extremely crucial not to let yourself run on fumes. It is okay to have some time off and let your mind to recalibrate.

Lastly, most business owners give themselves so much unnecessary pressure to succeed, or the most appropriate word is to become an overnight success.  Remember, nothing in this world is an overnight success. Every owner with a successful business puts in the hard work and time that you are not aware of.  When you dare to choose to make your business something that you want to be doing for the rest of your life, are you simply going to give up after just six months? Two years? Or because of the repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic? To ensure your business survives the economic downturn, you must put in tonnes and tonnes of work, tonnes and tonnes of optimism at times where the majority do not see it.

To help us ride out the storm, we must focus on what’s in front of us and stop judging ourselves. When we start putting a laser focus on the work that needs to be done in the upcoming months and in a non-judgemental way, we automatically strengthen our resilience and capability to enjoy what’s within our control and cope with what isn’t.

“In every darkness, there’s a light. In every struggle, there’s a way. In every faith, there’s hope”

To your best time yet.

Pharmacist & Small business owner