People refer to the new normal a lot lately. But what does that really mean? With COVID-19 circumstances and health guidelines in continuous flux, it seems there is no fixed normal to build a business around. That’s why inspirational business speaker Kaplan Mobray, who will deliver the opening keynote address at Imaging USA 2022, recommends abandoning the idea of a new normal and embracing a now normal mindset instead.
“The now normal is about focusing on the immediacy of who you have to be, what you have to do, and how you have to do it to be relevant now,” he says. Whatever we thought the pandemic was going to be has changed and continues to change. “We have to be ready for imminent change, ready for growth, and planning for growth. Focusing on your now is really important. If you make really good now decisions, now plans, now strategies, it’s going to push you to create opportunities that will drive the growth of your business for your future.”
“Ask yourself, If I were in my clients’ shoes today, what would they need from me most? That is a different conversation from, Here is what I have to deliver."Kaplan Mobray
Perspective. Be in a mindset for continuous growth. Look at your current circumstances and ask yourself, What do I see, and how I can I create opportunities based on what I see? That growth mindset will fuel innovation and a powerful confidence about what you can do to thrive.
Change agility. Keep asking yourself four questions: What has changed? What changes have I made? What will I change? And what has changed me? “Be able to have an agile conversation around embracing change as the way you’re going to grow,” Mobray says. With change agility, you’re seeing the reality of change as a constant, but you’re always prepared because you’re looking for ways to grow continually through the unknown, he explains.
Empathy. These are hard times, and when you lead with empathy—show that you care more, give more, understand more—you’re a bigger resource for clients. “Ask yourself, If I were in my clients’ shoes today, what would they need from me most? That is a different conversation from, Here is what I have to deliver,” he says. It’s not leading with fee; it’s not even leading with execution. It’s listening and offering helpful solutions to clients and thereby showing you care about their needs now.
Confidence. When you have a growth perspective and are agile in the face of the unknown, you build confidence that you can handle future change. You’re confident in past efforts, in your ability to create and innovate, in your ability to remain relevant to clients, and you’re confident you can keep regrowing your business from an operational and financial perspective.
Gratitude. Many people have struggled during this time and have even lost their jobs or businesses. So, it’s important to be grateful for the opportunity to evolve and reemerge as a resource for your clients. Also be grateful for what you’ve gained during this struggle: new learning, new ideas, new relevance, new confidence, and new courage.
“Change and surprise are really the same thing."Kaplan Mobray
Change = surprise. Most people fear change. It involves a leap of faith, abandoning an old reliable script for a new one with no guaranteed happy ending. On the other hand, most people like surprises, Mobray points out.
“Change and surprise are really the same thing,” he says. “It’s about the edge you place on it.” When you think of change as a surprise, it’s easier to embrace it as a positive for your own growth and the growth of your business.
To build up your tolerance for change and practice viewing it as a positive, he recommends building change into your everyday business. Learning new techniques or regularly incorporating new processes into your business is good practice for dealing with future bumps in the road. That way, when an unexpected change occurs—COVID-19 lockdowns, for example—you’re better able to embrace, instead of run from, the change. “Change will always stretch you with new experiences,” Mobray says. “Is your mind open enough, confident enough to embrace that stretch?”
Ask new questions. When you reunite with a client for the first time, ask how they’ve weathered the storm. Be a partner to them and go on that journey to discover what they’ve learned along the way. What did they do to survive? What did they do to innovate? What did they do to build toward their future? When you understand what they did to find a way through the pandemic, you can better serve them and become a resource for their future.
Embrace hybrid. “For photographers, there should always be a virtual option or experience,” says Mobray, whether that means a virtual pre-session consultation or sales session, or even a video streaming of a wedding or other event so that those who can’t attend have a way to participate. “We are all in the hybrid business—live and virtual—and we have to acknowledge that not everyone can be everywhere anymore.”
Give a gift. People have been disconnected from their pre-pandemic routine for so long it can be hard to remember the businesses they cherished in the “before times.” One of the best ways to remind clients you’re there for them is to give a gift, says Mobray. Send an image, for example, to remind them of your work and also to commemorate the experience you shared together. “That puts them in a passion to say, ‘I remember you. What are you up to? How did you survive? How is your business going?’ The gift will create a new conversation and bridge an old conversation.”
Amanda Arnold is the associate editor.