As a small business based in the event industry, Spiritus Communications was hit hard by the coronavirus, and has had to make rapid changes to restructure the way they deliver content, turning it into an opportunity to strengthen their weaknesses. In offering leadership training and speaking, book publishing services, and organizational consulting on how to improve culture and manage change, Jocelyn and Scott Carbonara have worked for organizations like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Walmart, AT&T, SAS, Carolinas HealthCare System, and the federal government.
“It’s been a massive change because we’re used to traveling around the country and speaking on stages with big audiences and that completely changed overnight,” Jocelyn said. “So we’re having to adapt and provide virtual Zoom sessions and virtual coaching, helping organizations through change. It’s a process of learning what they need and adapting to that. Our services are still the same, but how we deliver them is completely different. We were very dependent on in-person events, and this (pandemic) has exposed that. I don’t think anyone expected this to happen. You could not have told us in January that there would be no more live events held for a duration. It’s certainly made us readjust, and whether that’s a weakness or just a side effect of this pandemic, we’ve had to broaden our services.”
“If you have a fixed mindset, you say, ‘this is all I know, this is all I’ll ever know, so this is what I have to keep doing,’” Scott said. “If you have a growth mindset, you’re constantly looking for new challenges, and you’re learning new things every single day. This has forced us to get into the social media space and the technology space in ways that we would not have invested in when we’re travelling across the globe. We’ve been putting out a series of videos for leaders and employees, and my blogs have been focusing on how you can build your own resilience during this challenging time. The nature of putting things online gives the potential for an exponential return on investments. You can touch more people with your message.”
Jocelyn and Scott hope that when they are able to transition back to live events, they will have built an online platform through which they can continue to provide content.
“However,” Jocelyn said, “there is something about in-person engagement that can’t be matched anywhere else: the level of engagement when you get people in a room listening to a speaker, talking to each other and learning. It’s good to have the virtual calls, but it’s impossible to match that level of energy. I miss that and I hope we can get back to that. I also miss hanging out at Weaver Street Market and listening to the random conversations over a cup of coffee, as well as walking on the Riverwalk and feeling like you can stop and talk to people without feeling nervous or like you have to back away.”
“I love being in the event space. I love giving keynotes to hundreds of people,” Scott said. “I love travelling, getting to meet new people, and doing in-depth training with organizations and meeting people that way. I really miss that. I also miss Mexican food, Thai food, and Indian food, in that order,” he added with a laugh. “This is a time of reinvention. A lot of restaurants are selling family meals to go, which is not something they were doing before this. But they’re still cooking, they’re still making money, they’re still employing people, and they’re still providing a valuable service. Businesses should find a way to reinvent, not find a way to do more of the same, faster.”
“As technology advances, being agile has been something that’s always been valuable for businesses: to be able to change as needs change. During this pandemic, all the needs have been changing so quickly, but this principle still applies. Businesses need to be able to adapt to the market and what’s going on around them in this crisis,” Jocelyn said. “Think about how you can adapt today, right now nobody knows what tomorrow is going to look like. Take care of yourself and adapt as much as you can, and forgive yourself for what you can’t solve today because you’re not going to be able to predict exactly how things are going to be a year from now or exactly what you’re going to need to do. Just know that we are all in this together.”
Jocelyn and Scott felt that the stimulus package passed by the U.S. government to make loans available to small businesses in the wake of the coronavirus is helpful, although tricky to obtain.
“It’s a good start. It’s difficult to turn something on overnight that’s that complicated. It’s been very tricky for everybody to navigate, including the banks and those who need it, and it’s been especially difficult for small businesses that don’t necessarily have access to the right banks,” Jocelyn said.
“We don’t know when wave two is coming or the end of coronavirus is in sight, so by trickling things out to make it a little easier for people today, it can have a benefit. The technology isn’t going to be there immediately but the concept is something that many small businesses need,” Scott added.
Despite the economic challenges and difficulties presented with transitioning online, Scott and Jocelyn have reframed the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity.
“One of our strengths is change management and crisis communication, so I think it brings to light everything that we teach and requires that we rely on those things,” Jocelyn said.
“We’ve helped other clients tell their stories through ghost writing books or writing scripts for videos. Now we’re doing similar things in our own business, and we love it. We have time to tell some of our own stories, and to do so in a creative, fun, and helpful way,” Scott explained. “Right now, we’ve been putting the final touches on a book that we’ve been co-authoring. We have also doubled the size of our garden. The truth is, we’ve been writing this book for two and a half years, but now it’s coming into fruition. We’ve always gardened, but now we’ve expanded it because for the first time ever, we have time. So even in the midst of a pandemic, there is always an upside.”