John F. Kennedy famously said in his 1961 inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
What if you applied JFK’s idea to your business, right here in the midst of crisis? Can you ask
not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network?
In times of uncertainty, it is easy to retreat into our comfort zones: stick to the customers, ideas,
and plans we know, the ones that feel like safe bets. But even if your business is in a niche that is
booming right now, and especially if it isn’t, you have to adapt your business to the current
situation, and that means stepping out of your comfort zone. The skills that you applied to your
business in 2019 may need to be applied very differently in 2020, and you may need to draw on
other skills that haven’t been part of your work until now.
Remember, your clients or customers are living in the same chaotic world that you are. They are
working from home, being furloughed, or worrying about how long they will be able to continue
working or running their own business. They have new needs, new struggles, and a whole new
way of life that they did not plan for. They have a whole lot of uncertainty in multiple aspects of
With creativity and courage, you have the opportunity to help both yourself and your network.
Here are three comfort zone expanders to help your business not only survive, but thrive:
Although it’s better than silence, try to take this beyond the generic “Hi, I hope
you’re doing well.” Ask where they are struggling in their business (you can probably venture a
guess). Ask if there are projects they are working on that you might be able to help with, even if
they are not in your usual line of work. Let them know about a resource you found that you think
would be helpful for them, or some good news you think would be inspiring to them personally
The point is to let them know that you are available for them. While they might never have
reached out to you for help, they may be more than ready to let you know what they need from
you if you ask.
Can you think of something you would not normally do for someone in your
network that they may now need? Can you think of a creative collaboration that would benefit
you both? Do you have an idea for them that won’t benefit you at all? Share it, listen attentively
to their response, and continue the conversation from there.
Chaotic situations call for creative solutions, and you want to be one of the people helping to
provide those solutions.
Dig deep into your network.
Now is the time to engage those networking connections. Does
one of your contacts likely know someone who would be a good contact for you? Ask for a
referral. Who do you know who needs to be connected to someone else you know? Make
spontaneous outgoing referrals.
Be willing to say, directly or on social media, what opportunities you are looking for—in a
positive and professional tone. Share opportunities, resources, and support on social media,
through both kind comments and your own posts. Find groups that are about problems that you
can solve, and find ways to interact with them that are professional and constructive (rather than
a sales pitch).
Finding opportunities in the chaos means reaching deep, finding your clear head and calm heart,
and bringing them into the way you serve your customers and clients. This is the time to find
your leadership skills and put them to work for your business. Leadership does not have to be
loud or even visible; you can be a valuable leader just by taking charge of your own situation and
choosing to look for new ways to connect and thrive.
The wonderful thing about focusing on creative ways to be there for your clients and connections
is that it creates waves of mutually beneficial opportunities in both your network and your
community. The more of us who are seeking opportunities to meet each other’s needs, solve
problems, and build our future, the better off we all will be.
Genet Jones, owner of The Thoughtful Wordsmith, has been writing for fun since 1989 and for profit since 2005. She also enjoys editing (yes, really), yoga, mountain biking, and exploring Northwest Arkansas.