Where’s the Opportunity?

(Listen to this post, here.)

Almost exactly one year ago, things were shaping up nicely for my youngest son, Jonathan.

He was a second-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Denver and had just landed a summer internship at a cool tech firm near school.

He was thrilled.

The internship would allow him to learn some new things, make some money and remain in Denver for the summer, as opposed to moving back home for three months to live in a sleepy suburb with his parents. (I know, I don’t see why he preferred Colorado, either.)

And then, just days before he was scheduled to start the internship, the whole thing fell through (don’t ask).

He was devastated. Not only was he disappointed about the missed opportunity, it was much too late to find something else. It was looking like there would be no other option than to come home.

But then he had an idea…

Jon frequents a funky, local coffee shop and so he went in and asked if they were hiring. One thing led to another and by the following week, he had a summer job.

I asked him the other day how he felt about losing the internship. He said, “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

As he explained, he makes a lot more money at the coffee shop, he’s been able to continue working throughout the school year, he’s met a ton of great people near where he lives, and he’s become quite adept at creating “latte art,” a skill which, were the apocalypse to occur, is sure to come in handy.

Look for the Opportunity

I know of few people whose businesses have not been negatively impacted by what’s happened over the last couple of weeks. We all wish things would just get back to “normal.”

Hopefully, that will happen soon. But in the meantime, and in between watching your retirement savings fall to the ground like a drunken toddler (or whatever), why not look for the opportunities that have been newly created?

For your business…

Business has always been about helping people solve problems. It still is. So, what do your clients and others need now that they didn’t need two weeks ago?

Are you a writer who can help businesses communicate the impact to their customers?

Are you a leadership coach whose clients need help learning how to support remote workers?

Are you a financial consultant that can help businesses manage their cash flow in a time of uncertainty?

When it comes to your services, what can you develop, fine-tune, or modify that will satisfy a need and earn money for you in the process?

If you work for yourself, you’re already skilled at creativity and invention. How can you apply that here?

For your marketing…

I spend a fair amount of time networking with people over lunch and coffee. That’s off the table now (literally).

So I’ve switched to “virtual coffees” over Zoom. It’s not quite the same, but it’s actually much better than I anticipated.

And, unlike in-person meetings, it dawned on me that I can do these with contacts anywhere in the world, something that I probably wouldn’t have realized had I not been forced to find a new approach.

How about you? How can you tap into everyone’s heightened eagerness to stay connected and grow your business in the process?

For your personal development…

I used to love running. But I have a bad knee and so for the past few years I’ve been using the elliptical machine at the gym. It does the trick, but it’s pretty boring.

Now that the gym is closed, I’ve been hiking in the conservation land behind our house. Wow. I had forgotten how great it feels to be outside, by myself, exercising early in the morning. I may never go back in.

That’s just one example.

Since we can’t watch sports, go out to dinner, get together with friends or do a hundred other things that used to make up our daily routine, what can we substitute – maybe something new and better – instead?

Here’s the bottom line.

Unlike Jon’s experience, few of us will come out the other end of this crisis and say, “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

But there’s a big difference between gritting your teeth and counting the days until it’s over and looking for the upside – and there’s always an upside – that our new reality offers.

The choice is yours.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What and where is your favorite coffee shop?
  2. What skill do you possess that will come in handy post-apocalypse?
  3. What have you done in your business or life to seize the opportunity that the crisis now presents?

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22 thoughts on “Where’s the Opportunity?

  1. Michael D Hume

    1. Why, my favorite coffee shop is Stella’s Coffee Haus on South Pearl Street in Denver, of course!
    2. I juggle three items with tricks. I also have a gift for putting smiles on peoples’ faces, which seems to ALWAYS come in handy. Also, I can play The William Tell Overture on a pencil.
    3. I’m sheltering in place here in California, and wiping down all interior surfaces with germ-killing alcohol. And by “interior surfaces,” I’m referring to those lining my digestive tract, and by “germ-killing alcohol,” I’m referring to red wine. I can still meet with my BNI networking group virtually (speaking of Zoom), which I did this morning, and offered my partner businesses and clients an upbeat, light-hearted way to reach out to their lists via blog posts, temporary web pages, or simple emails which I can write for them. Business is VERY GOOD right now… it’s a blessing… and here’s hoping it continues strong. Cheers! (clink)

  2. Nancy

    Hello Michael -Belinda Wasser shared you with me and I have been subscribing to our newsletter for a few months now. As a Virtual Assistant, your newsletters are informative and fun and I appreciate the dry humor! We live in Rockport, Maine and our daughter graduated from DU in 2013 with a BS in Marketing and has been living a free spirited, New Age lifestyle ever since . . . go figure! My favorite coffee shop at the moment is downstairs in the kitchen, my current mantra/skill is: A DAY AT A TIME – I am not sure exactly the skill I will be sharing post-apocalypse since I am taking it a day at a time – but time will tell! Stay well!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like you have the right attitude for all the changes. And glad we have Belinda in common as well!

  3. Annice

    As a person who has been striving for quite some time to develop a remote income stream, I am seeing a very silver lining in this current crisis. Whereas just two weeks ago I was having a hard timing convincing potential employers to let go of their intransigency over on-site work, I now have recruiters reaching out to me specifically because of my experience and comfort working remotely. I believe we will see a real shift in workforce expectations as more companies equip themselves with remote workers and opportunities abound. Hooray for fewer cars on the road and less gas getting burned, a cleaner environment, and less time wasted sitting in traffic jams! Hooray for greater personal freedom and work-life balance!

    Favorite coffee shop: Bergie’s Coffee Roast House in Gilbert, AZ

    Post-apocalyptic skill: Flexibility!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Seems like you are well-positioned! I hope that on the other end of this there is a lot more remote work. Amazing to me how long and far people commute every day, especially here in the highest-trafficked city in the nation (it’s nice to be #1 at something).

  4. Laura

    In reading post-apocalyptic novels (“Station Eleven” is my fave), I long ago realized I have absolutely no useful skills for the End Days. But I’m trying to do something with my website building skills right now.

    I felt so badly for all the closed local restaurants in my suburban NYC area–so quickly they and their hourly workers were struggling and it didn’t seem there was much I could do about it (except get take-out where offered). Then this week had the idea of quickly setting up a central website for people to learn about/buy a favorite restaurant’s digital gift certificates NOW to use later when the restaurants reopen. This gives the restaurants much-needed funds (maybe to give their laid-off hourly workers a stipend?) and gives us shut-out/shut-in patrons a way to meaningful show our support and concern right now when it matters. A central website will also make it easier for this idea/these businesses to garner media attention and to blast out a single useful link to community networks.

    I’m also offering to help each restaurant set up their own GoFundMe page if they don’t already have a gift-certificate system; the digitally created GoFundMe thank you note will serve as the voucher. (If any readers here have a better idea than GoFundMe, please share in the reply comments.)

    My Chamber of Commerce and mayor have said they think it’s a good idea (although they aren’t in a position to help), so now I’m working to get the restaurants themselves on board (amazing how hard it is to contact a real person via the info on their biz website!). Once I get a critical mass of 10 or so, I can make the simple listing website in a few hours, and add more restaurants as the word gets out. Whether or not this idea actually becomes real, at least it’s something within my power to try.

    Good luck to everyone!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Wow, that’s fantastic Laura. You are a terrific example of what we need right now. I hope it takes off quickly.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m sure you and their other fan are disappointed, Don, but hopefully they will come back with Supertramp and Styx for a triple-header one day soon!

  5. Sam Underwood

    Michael you never miss connecting and I remain grateful for your humor, your insights and even your challenges from time to time. I have followed you for many years and I must say I have loved sharing the journey with you. My client group are Realtors and of course, this is not a good time for them in the business community. I write a single newsletter issue each month and then customize it individually for about 80 clients. My process this week was to write a newsletter that soothed myself in all the right places and I felt a responsibility to help my clients communicate hope, compassion and responsibility in this truly uncharted time.

    This is the feedback I received from one client, “You certainly captured all of the heart that is you in your April Newsletter! You have more than taken the cup is half full approach and have made something positive out of a very scary time. I have to admit that I honestly feel better than I did before I looked at your material, and I thank you for that! I thank you, too, for what I already know this will mean to our recipients.” I will tell you that feedback means the world to me and it tells me I am on target (always good to know). I believe we marketeers have a responsibility to help people communicate especially now in meaningful, sensitive, helpful voices.

    Thank you again for your influence on my work Michael and I trust you will keep exploring no matter what the day brings. PS my favorite coffee is Maxwell House and Me Right at Home!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like you were exactly on target with your readers, Sam! Congrats to you. And Maxwell House brought me back. Have not had that since I was a first-time coffee drinker in my parents’ house (“good to the last drop”).

    2. Kim Tyler

      Sam Underwood – I would love to connect with you as our businesses are sound very similar. And I have also been a M Katz fan for years.

  6. Kim Tyler

    We love Stella’s! As I read your post, I was hoping that was going to be the name of the funky coffee shop. That is it for my response… keep us laughing and educated Michael 🙂

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m glad! Say hello to Jon next time you go in (apparently they are still open for take out, at least for now).

  7. Terry Matlen, LMSW

    Much needed breath of fresh air. Thank you, Michael.
    Oh- your questions:

    1. I don’t drink coffee. Probably the only person on earth.

    2. Skills- I help people with ADHD so once things calm down, I’m hoping to help people get back on track with their projects. Or basically, their lives.

    3. I have to admit something here. I feel guilty marketing my for-fee services knowing how many people are struggling financially (and of course, physically, mentally). I’m lucky in that we don’t depend solely on my income, but… my husband is “on leave” until things settle down (he’s in the medical field), so maybe I need to shift my feelings and plow ahead. In which case, I’ll be promoting my Zoom consultations.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. My wife doesn’t drink coffee either.
      2. Sounds like it’s much needed.
      3. I’ve heard that from a number of friends and clients. My view is that if you tripled your prices to take advantage of the crisis, that’s profiteering. But if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, that’s just continuing to help people. Everyone loses if you stop doing what you do best and nobody is better off if you go out of business.

  8. Daryl Gerke

    1. “FaceTime Coffee” every week for the last year with a friend. Now that we have our shots, back in person at our local Starbucks.
    2. Teaching and writing, the love of which cause me to keep failing full retirement.
    3. When a live class was cancelled last year due to COVID, went on line with Zoom. Yes, best thing that happened – several classes since then and no more travel – yea!

    Thanks again for your great newsletter course – made it super easy to keep cranking out my monthly missive on consulting.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m with you on in-person coffee, Daryl! I’m one shot away and then looking forward to getting out there again.


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