For millions of Americans whose States have enacted stay-at-home orders, their home has become their office, gym, and everything in-between. Social isolation has presented us all with various challenges, and many businesses are having to adapt to the current situation.
Ismail Sirdah launched his career in 1998, as the owner of several popular Mexican restaurants. However, after a decade in the culinary landscape, Ismail discovered a passion for marketing and branding. After running several highly successful promotional campaigns for other local businesses, Ismail launched Lulu Promotions, which is now the number one promotions company in Georgia, within the Spanish and Latino markets.
As a social entrepreneur, he is currently dealing with his State’s stay-at-home orders and takes the time to discuss the challenges of working from home amid the pandemic.
What changes are you currently making to your business model during this time?
I am taking this opportunity to re-evaluate my business, consider digital strategies, and reconnect with the purpose behind our mission. It makes you realize how fast-paced life is when things are in full swing. As a busy event marketing company, we move from one client to the next, and this time has given me a moment to appreciate what we have built and the incredible vendors, partners, and clients we have had the pleasure of working with. I feel lucky to be so secure in such uncertain times.
How has COVID-19 impacted your daily routine?
It has changed it completely. I am used to spending my days meeting with people, brainstorming ideas, and working with teams towards a common goal. Of course, all of that has changed. With every event being cancelled for the foreseeable future, I have had to adapt to a new schedule. From learning to adapt to Zoom meetings, learning new digital strategies, and creating an at-home workout schedule, I am slowly getting used to it. I have tried my best to maintain the same structure in my day to ensure I stay focused and on task.
What do you do to maintain motivation?
I think the most important step anyone can do right now is to create a schedule. If you do not, you might start to feel the days all melting into one another. However, for me, waking up early, exercising, reading, and then focusing on work has helped keep me motivated (and allowed me to feel some semblance of normalcy). I have always said that achieving a goal is not about focusing on the outcome, but rather the systems you put in place. When I implement daily systems, I am more likely to move towards the goal I want to achieve. I am also motivated by all of the new things I am learning about digital event marketing. While it has been difficult to embed learning into my daily routine, I am now taking the time and it is extremely motivating.
How do you ward off distraction?
Working from home has allowed me to become sensitive to the conditions I work best under. When I am going to engage in creative work, I put my headphones in to limit my distractions. I work more efficiently when I separate the type of work I do. For example, if I am working on strategy, I take an entire day to focus solely on that task. I have found that the usual switch from email to phone calls can interrupt this deep state of focus that I am now able to achieve. I have also gotten into the habit of putting my phone in the other room and closing the door to any distractions. We get so used to constant ‘multi-tasking’ that we forget how productive we can be when we eliminate that.
What is your best advice for others working from home for the first time?
Find what works for you, and do not worry about what other people are doing. This is a time of experimentation, and that means pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps that means doing at-home workouts. Perhaps that means making your dining room table your office. Perhaps that means getting an extra hour of sleep every night, or dedicating an hour a day to learning. Do not be afraid to try new things and see how it affects your motivation and focus.
Have you adopted any new habits or activities during lockdown?
I most definitely have. I started meditating when lockdown began and it has been transformational. There is a lot of anxiety associated with the uncertainty of our industry, and meditation has helped me cull those emotions. It has allowed me to take an objective view of my own mind, which has allowed me to better adapt strategy for Lulu Promotions. I have also found that meditation has had a major impact on my ability to focus for longer periods of time, which has been transformative for my work.
Are you optimistic about the future of your business?
Always. I believe that even an industry as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as events will find a way to be resilient. This paradigm shift has forced entrepreneurs like myself to consider new ways of working, and I am grateful for that opportunity. If you are open minded, you open yourself up to the numerous opportunities that this challenge presents. I also think it will bring people together in ways that they have not been in a long time. The first in-person event we are able to work on will be a special one. It illuminates how important human connection is, and re-iterates why I got started in this business in the first place.