For Eastern Iowa entrepreneurs, harnessing thoughts, emotions and behaviors in growing small businesses can prove daunting at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic.
In Rina Jensen’s perspective, COVID-19 has created a chance for these entrepreneurs to reflect on what trajectories they want to create for their businesses, and how to achieve them.
The Cedar Rapids native and former small-business owner has for the past three years worked as a resiliency coach, guiding aspiring and current entrepreneurs through one-on-one and group coaching sessions, workshops and presentations, based on her certifications in neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.
Jensen said she believes small-business owners ought to receive more local support navigating the emotional and psychological layers to advancing their ideas, given the various challenges and stresses inherent in growing and running a start-up.
During the coronavirus outbreak, Jensen has halved her weekly and hourly coaching fees for entrepreneurs.
In late February, before self-isolation became a widespread practice, Jensen also had kicked off a collaboration with the not-for-profit New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative and Iowa City’s MERGE.
In that partnership — presently on hold — Jensen is set to provide peer group support and individualized coaching for Corridor entrepreneurs, with the two organizations subsidizing part of the cost, at regular meetings over a six-month period.
The following interview has been condensed.
Q: What got you into providing resiliency coaching for small businesses?
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A: What inspired me was I was a New York Life Insurance agent, and while I was doing that, they had hired two coaches. Both of them were talking about drilling down, goal focus and doing all the proper business things, but I still had underlying subconscious things going through my head that kept me from cold-calling or kept me thinking that nobody would want to talk to me.
Once I realized that was a need, that that’s really what mind-set is about, I started taking all the steps to become a coach. A resiliency coach is not a common thing. There are a lot of business coaches and life coaches, but no resiliency coaches.
Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed what it means for a small business to remain resilient?
A: I don’t think the definition has changed at all. Business resiliency is about being able to recover quickly from a setback, and we’re all experiencing major setbacks right now.
We’ve had many things outside our control prior to this, but we’ve always had the illusion of control. We still have our most important controllable accessible to us, which are our thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
Business isn’t about maintaining the status quo. It’s a series of pivots, and those that are willing to pivot now will have a better chance of survival. This is a time in which we’ve had many virtual meetings — that’s a pivot for every industry across the board.
Q: What have you heard from small-business owners about the pandemic’s effects?
A: It’s easier for them to be aware of new ideas and new obstacles. It’s easier to point them out and identify them. The fact that we have all switched on a dime and been blindsided shows that even the best possible planning couldn’t have prepared us for this hot mess.
We’ve always had a remarkable ability to catastrophize, and we’re in a situation right now where our ability to catastrophize has been outdone by what we’re experiencing right now.
Q: What are some goals small business owners can set now?
A: Our actions, and whether we decide to wallow and live in this negative impact or if we decide to take steps forward — it’s our choice.
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Many small business owners right now are facing the very real possibility of permanent closure. The thing that we all need to be aware of is staying focused on the fear of losing everything will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One question I ask clients is, what do you want your business to look like in a year, and then focus on the steps it will take to make that happen. What is it you can do now, what resources do you have, what have you been trying to get accomplished that you now have time to focus on?
What are other potential strings of income, and who can you reach out to for help if you need it, if it’s not something you can do on your own?
There’s a quote by Charles Darwin that everyone messes up and paraphrases into “survival of the fittest,” but the truth is, it is the “survival of the most willing to adapt.”
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