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The B Squared Media 2020 COVID Business Diary

COVID-business-diary

This is my COVID Business Diary for 2020. I’ve seen many other business owners go under. Or claim they’re busier than ever.

Our experience has been more of a roller coaster ride. I’ve documented it all: the good, the bad, the ugly.

I hope this gives you a realistic look of how small businesses like ours are coping with COVID. I hope, in some small way, it helps.

The B Squared Media 2020 COVID Business Diary

To start, I didn’t actually write out these thoughts every month. The idea came to me in October. So, I backtracked and ended up here.

Two things I wanted to focus on, besides the story for the month, was my current mood and the forecast at the time. You’ll see how drastically these changed over the months.

Again, my goal is just to put it all out there in the hopes it makes someone feel better. Or vindicated. Or give hope.

January 2020

MOOD: Excited!

Forecast: Best. Year. EVER.

January was bliss. We closed our biggest client to date for our new Customer Care services. They flew our entire organic team in for training at their headquarters.

Additionally, we had chosen a word for the year. We’ve done this for a few years now and the team really gets behind it. The word for 2020: EVOLUTION.

Here’s how we positioned our word of the year:

I have found a parallel between the longevity of a business and its ability to evolve. B Squared has morphed multiple times in our eight years in business and I’m excited to see what the future holds for our agency.
Then, I got on my soapbox and exclaimed: “Many agencies come and go. Being one that is consistently at the forefront of the industry is what differentiates a good agency from a mediocre one … and in 2020 and beyond, we expect B Squared Media to be GREAT.”

February (& early March) 2020

MOOD: Hopeful.

Forecast: Trending up!

Looking back, this is the month where a COVID Business Diary would have been started. It was early, but there were whisperings of this sickness that was spreading around.

I had plans to fly to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World the first week in March. Speakers started texting one another asking if we thought SME was still going to host the conference. (But only Mari Smith had the foresight to reach out to me and ask if they should be hosting it!)

I spent DAYS trying to find hand sanitizer and a mask for my flight. I was unsuccessful with finding a mask, but used wet wipes and Lysol to entirely coat my seat on the plane and my hotel room.

social-media-friends-SMMworld2020

The event was fun but COVID was the star. And two days into my trip I got sick.

I don’t know if — but don’t think — it was COVID. But I did start to realize this thing was no joke.

COVID Business Diary Begins: March 2020

MOOD: Overwhelmed, yet hopeful.

Forecast: Still good!

If I were smarter, this is the month that my COVID Business Diary would have its first entry. Business was still “fairly normal” but my personal life had me pretty overwhelmed.

This is the month where COVID started to show up in my personal life.

  • I was sick for a solid two plus weeks with an awful cold or sinus infection (still don’t think it was COVID!)
  • My mom got a liver transplant right as the hospitals got shut down and none of us could see her off or visit during recovery
  • The strain on grocery stores started and Lysol, Clorox, Purell, and toilet paper became all but obsolete
  • The new house we were buying was teetering on being lost because the banks were crazy and we couldn’t move fast enough
  • My sister, who works for Google in NYC, came for what we thought was a long weekend to avoid the craziness in the city and ended up living with us for four months

However, I was still hopeful with work because I had an Ace up my sleeve. Though the public didn’t know it yet, Mark Schaefer and I had secretly been planning out our partnership announcement.

And then …

April 2020

MOOD: Stunned and scared. 

Forecast: Starting to dip.

In early April, Mark got COVID. Obviously, our partnership plan would have to be put on the back-burner. More importantly, this was the first person I knew directly who contracted the Coronavirus. It was really real now.

I was stunned, to say the least. My little reptilian brain kept telling me that COVID would somehow not affect my business the way it was affecting my personal life. We DID get the house deal closed and moved into the new place in April (and boy was that a whole ordeal).

And then, clients started pausing their services. To be honest, I was grateful they weren’t straight-up canceling, but a pause is a pause. It means zero dollars coming in and zero work hours to parse out to the team.

My once-active pipeline started to slow as well, and timelines for “needing services” got longer and longer.

May 2020

MOOD: Hopeful.

Forecast: Still trending down.

Luckily, Mark made a recovery and we decided to move forward with our partnership announcement. We both knew the timing was terrible but we had hope that our partnership would bring a lift to B Squared Media.

To our delight, it did! So as the pipeline started to recover, I started to feel hopeful again.

On a personal note, I turned 40 in May and had the most pathetic socially-distanced birthday party ever. It was a far cry from the luxurious vacation or dance-the-night-away-at-some-club party I had envisioned.

Nevertheless, my husband did everything in his power to make it special and I’ll never forget that! He filled the kitchen with horse balloons and confetti, and attempted to have a cool 4-0 balloon for me. But, the 4 popped and then he had to replace it with cardboard. SO 2020!

socially-distanced-40-birthday

Even so, this is the month when more clients paused services. I started to feel like I was juggling the good with the bad, but resolved to keep my chin up.

COVID Business Diary: June Through August 2020

MOOD: Overwhelmed. 

Forecast: Down by about 13% and steadily dropping.

I don’t know about your business, but we always slow a bit in the summer. The same was true for our COVID summer but with the numbers dropping, it was more brutal than usual.

A few of our clients ended their pauses in July and August, so that was a glimmer of hope.

At this point, my biggest worry is the team. The clients seem to be extra testy; demanding more and more deliverables for the same retainer. On the Customer Care side, it’s way worse. The Community Managers are seeing huge backlash regarding BLM statements and other social injustice causes that are at the forefront right now.

One of our team members and her husband both came down with COVID. We scrambled to fill her shoes but we were not always 100% successful.

Managing customer expectations has NEVER been this hard.

For me, the pipeline started bursting (and not in a good way). As potential client budgets got slashed, we got removed until 2021 or altogether. Even my closing ratio, which was once around 50-60% took a nosedive to about 30-40%.

August ended up being our lowest month revenue-wise. I started to lose hope.

September 2020

MOOD: Optimistic.

Forecast: Turning a corner.

And then, September happened. Glorious September! We closed four new projects and a few of my “hail Mary” networking ideas started to pan out. Two of the new projects came from my partnership with Mark.

Adding to my optimism was the fact that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were right around the corner. Several clients let us know that their ad spend would increase greatly. VERY. GOOD. NEWS!

In September, I resolved to be okay with not having a growth year in 2020. While this may not mean much to you, it means a LOT to me. I’ve had a growth year every single year since I started B Squared Media in 2012. Mind you, I wasn’t giving up. However, I was telling myself that the mere survival of 2020 was “enough.”

So while we were all overtired and filled with anxiety, we pushed on. And I just asked everyone to do their level best. That’s all we can do right now.

October 2020

MOOD: Indifferent. 

Forecast: The same: down but not out.

I think I spent most of October feeling numb. Things were steady; I didn’t wake up every day with crippling anxiety. At the same time, I was so tired that I felt disconnected from everything.

October is when COVID, and all that comes with it, really dawned on me. I had finally hit the wall that everyone else was talking about.

To combat this, I spent a lot of time at the barn with my horse, Diva. I swear she’s an emotional support animal. She helped me get through 2020! The barn was also in all its Fall splendor at this time, so I let nature heal me.

valley-crest-stables-NJ

Luckily, we also decided to spend our five-year anniversary with Mark and his wife, Rebecca. We drove 10+ hours to Tennessee to enjoy hiking, southern food, southern manners, and the company of friends.

It was a much-needed break. I even enjoyed the 10-hour car ride with my husband. I realized this month just how important our marriage was, and how much I respect and enjoy our relationship.

November 2020

MOOD: Swamped. 

Forecast: It’s looking like a recovery is coming!

I suppose I’m glad I took some time for self-care in October because November threw us into warp speed.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday had all of our ads clients in a frenzy; we were extremely busy taking care of those campaigns and heightened ad spends.

We closed two new clients, which was thrilling. Between October and November, I started to feel like things were turning around sales-wise.

Our Customer Care team was still taking the brunt of online trolls and anger; one of the new CMGRs got called the “C word” on her third day. So yeah, frontline customer support people really NEVER got a break in 2020. (and I don’t think 2021 will be much better)

Clients overall seem to be more challenging than ever before, but I can’t figure out if it’s us, them, both, or 2020.

Finally, all of the political discourse was going to come to an end soon. Haha. Okay, we know that didn’t ACTUALLY happen but that’s what I was feeling in November.

Final COVID Business Diary Entry: December 2020

MOOD: “Just call me a fireman …” 

Forecast: We made up 50% of the gap!

And now my COVID Business Diary brings us to the current day. We are still swamped. We closed a time-sensitive project with a HUGE client the day after Thanksgiving and it has been all hands on deck to meet their goal.

It’s been one fire after another, and I find myself working 10-15 hour days this month. 2020 will go away kicking and screaming (like other demons this year).

I’m still down about 7% overall. But like I said, I’ll take it with a smile and a “THANK YOU” — I know when to shut my mouth and be grateful.

2021 is not going to be easy. My prediction is the first six months will be more of a 2020-like dumpster fire. However, I do believe that things will get better towards the end of next year. I also think the next few years will be FANTASTIC.

Finally, I have a tremendous amount of hope going into 2021. For our country, for my business, and personally. This diary is truly how I went through 2020 as a business owner. It was a roller coaster ride. It was filled with tears, anxiety, and unrealistic demands. But when I looked hard enough, there was beauty in everything.

Bring it on, 2021! 

 

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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and customer care agency. She's also the Co-host of The Marketing Companion podcast with Mark Schaefer, where they discuss jaw-dropping marketing trends. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout!
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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Brooke – thank you so much for your vulnerability! Not only does that help me become a better friend and network partner, but it gives me valuable insight into the minds/hearts of all of the business owners in our community. Since I’m running a major campaign designed to support them as they journey to returned vitality, it’s critically important to connect to where they are emotionally. Often they tell me what they want to see, but are less open with telling me how they’ve been or what they’ve been juggling on the backend.

    Reply
    • Thank YOU, Shannah! We’ve all been through SO MUCH this year (personally, professionally, politically) and I know I’m not the best at showing the “BAD” with the good. I wanted to lay it all out in the hopes it resonates with someone. It looks like it did (YAY)! I hope your campaign finds all the success!!! Happy Holidays!

      Reply
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    Mark W. Schaefer
    December 16, 2020 5:48 PM

    Happy to be a small bright part of your year. Onward and upwards!

    Reply

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