By Jane Hillsdon
As I reflect on the year of 2020 to date, it is actually hard for me to remember what life was like pre-COVID. With little notice and much speed, the world as I knew it ceased to exist anymore and a new normal emerged.
I vaguely remember the beginning of this year when on the nightly news, there would be updates about a bizarre new virus in China. I mentally filed that news in the same manner I had filed the news of Ebola and the SARS virus – i.e. in the ‘this is not going to affect me’ file.
As the weeks of 2020 progressed, I busily went about working on my business plans for the calendar year ahead. I hired a full-time marketing coordinator and settled into the usual business practice of overseeing our existing client accounts, implementing our marketing plans and pitching our services to potential leads.
I also started to book in our five-week family holiday around Europe which was to kick off on June 18. Our family had been saving our money and our holiday leave for two and a half years so that we could escape the 2020 winter and discover the magic of Morocco, Spain, Santorini and Sicily. 2020 was shaping up to be a year of making memories.
Summer turned to Autumn and I continued my 4am – 9pm days producing more marketing, locking in more travel plans and chasing around three very busy teenage children.
The news stories about COVID seemed to gently persist, and while I heard all of the coverage, it still felt like most international news generally feels; distant and somewhat extraneous.
Then one day; Italy.
And not necessarily in that order! Frankly, it all happened so quickly, it was all a bit of a blur.
Three months on from that crazy first week of commotion and I’m emerging out of the COVID cocoon with a deep-felt appreciation and gratitude for what just happened.
While of course I’m completely gutted that we don’t get to go on our family holiday, I’m also incredibly grateful for the wake-up call that I think myself and the whole world will ultimately benefit from.
As a regionally-based small business owner, I know that this pandemic has caused a lot of heartache. However, I also believe that it has created some pretty amazing opportunities.
I’m choosing to dwell on the latter and find myself being especially grateful for the following:
As a regionally-based small business owner, I have never felt more included. I feel like the whole world has opened up to me. No longer is the eight-hour round car trip to Sydney an obstacle for me. No longer does my location present a reason for me not to be included in what are typically city-based business and industry networking events and conferences. As a regionally-based businessperson, with an addiction to professional development and a love for networking, whenever I assessed the investment into a city based event, I always had to add the day of travel, and the additional accommodation and travel expenses to my cost-benefit scenario. Not anymore!
I am attending masterclasses, networking events and online conferences every week. And loving it!
The requirements to physically isolate from other human beings ignited an insatiable thirst for people to connect online. Facebook groups that I was part of and that had lay dormant for months were suddenly teeming with contributions and conversations. Zoom networking events became a thing! Google hangouts where we could share a wine and a whine with colleagues based anywhere in Australia became the new Friday night drinks. This honestly, has changed my life.
At first, I found that the time that COVID suddenly dumped into my week was disconcerting. I actually love to be busy. However, COVID revealed something very important to me. Before this time, I was busy being busy. I was aware of this but I didn’t know how to break the cycle. COVID took care of that! The lockdown period actually provided me with the time to reflect on what is important. It gave me time to reassess my direction. It provided me with precious time to spend with my family. Before COVID, our schedules were so hectic that we never had time to actually connect – all we had time to do was coordinate.
4. Creation and innovation
It was the time and the lack of busyness that allowed the creativity to reignite in my heart and my soul. The lack of clutter in my day provided me with enough headspace to reimagine how I could run my business more effectively so I could achieve my vision to help as many small businesses as I can in regional Australia. As a result, I have now completely changed my business model. I have launched a podcast. And I have never felt more on-purpose in my life.
Before COVID, I really didn’t like revealing that I worked from home or that I juggled running a business with the commitments of raising a family. As a minority, I thought I would save myself the judgement. And then there was lockdown. I don’t know about you, but my curiosity spiked to all new levels as I strained to get a glimpse of the homely habitat that every single person in the world was now revealing! It seemed that suddenly we saw that in reality, everyone is juggling families and work. Everyone was home-schooling or having to overcome the minor hiccups of the same virtual video software as I was. This kind of levelling has changed this space forever. I welcome all of my new home-based business contacts to the fold. Seriously – you’ll never look back!!
So, who knows when this pandemic will be over? In some respect I guess it will never be over. But I’m ok with that. I believe that as a result of this experience, I have emerged as a business owner and a leader that is prepared to confront any future change and know that things will be ok. Now more than ever I subscribe to the age-old advice that life is all about the journey and not the destination.