Leading Through the Pandemic: Q&A with our Founder, Rajat Kapur
We’re nearly six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and life in quarantine and socially distanced from loved ones continues to be a challenge for many, both professionally and personally. As the situation evolves and we continue on the “coronacoaster” – the term to describe the wave of anxieties and uncertainties surrounding this coronavirus – we checked in with our Managing Director, Rajat Kapur, to provide some perspective.
Life in quarantine has been difficult for everyone. What advice do you have to help get through it?
The sense of disruption to our daily lives has had an immense impact on our mental health. For me, I had ridiculously long working days that all started to blend together, which was tough. So making sure to take breaks and separate work life from home life, even though you’re in the same space, is really important.
To cope with the stress, I started meditating and practicing mindfulness – both of which I’d highly recommend! My family has also been hanging out with our neighbors (our “quaranteam”). Almost every night I’d play football with my kids and our neighbor who is my son’s age. It was a welcome break from the stress of running the business. Though, a few weeks ago, I landed on my foot strangely and got a small fracture on the bottom of my heel. It really hurt! Hopefully the boot comes off soon, but I think my dreams of playing in the NFL are finally done.
While the situation continues to evolve, how has the pandemic affected the business thus far and how have you had to adapt?
On Friday, March 13, literally day one of the pandemic, our largest client practically went out of business overnight. Another prospect had to temporarily shut its doors, so that opportunity disappeared. While all of our other existing clients pretty much stayed even or were slightly up, those two combined probably knocked out all of our 2020 growth and then some. That was hard. It was disappointing because it had nothing to do with the quality of our work. Our team was driving good results for those clients.
When that happened, I immediately reassigned team members with less work to brainstorm content ideas and went on a personal listening tour. We quickly published some content and shared it through all of our channels. I called everyone I could think of – current and past clients, prospects, and old friends to check in on them. Mostly to see how they were coping, but also to hear about their experiences. Besides being cathartic, it was insightful. Very soon after the shock subsided, we found some opportunities. Pockets of businesses across industries were using this as a chance to get ahead or reset their goals and invest. And then all of a sudden, the floodgates opened. Referrals and other inbound requests started pouring in at an unprecedented rate, particularly with website, e-commerce enhancements, and content based lead generation programs – all things we do really well. The team responded incredibly well, and although we haven’t made up all the lost revenue, we’re on a path to profitability by the Fall. We’ve even hired two more people, which would’ve sounded insane on that Friday in March.
With so many companies having to shift the way they work, how has the &Marketing policy of “work from wherever” changed?
An important part of the culture that &Marketing is built on is the “work from wherever” policy (we have never had a physical office space), so at first it didn’t seem like there’d be much of a transition. However, I very quickly realized that team members were stressed because everything around was chaotic. Parents of school-age children suddenly became teachers overnight, and team members who live by themselves were left without much (if any) interaction from the outside. As a result, we talked about it and decided to give people even more flexibility than normal, and I’ve tried to add a major dose of empathy, understanding, and humor to all that we do.
What are your top 3 COVID-related concerns right now?
- The uncertainty of how long COVID and quarantine will last is my biggest personal concern and my biggest professional challenge. I think our economy is in for a long period of “uncertainty” – something I can’t control so I try not to think about it. One day at a time!
- I’m also concerned about the &Marketing team – they’ve done a great job of ”surviving” through the pandemic so far, but the conversation people aren’t having enough is around the mental health impact of such a disruption.
- As a business owner, I’m also obviously focused on helping our clients hit their goals. We had to adjust or revamp every client’s 2020 plan, and now we need to make sure those efforts are bearing fruit.
You’re open about the fact that you have ADHD. What is the backstory? What has it been like for you during the pandemic, and what are you doing to manage it?
I discovered that I had ADHD only because my son was diagnosed about 4 years ago at school. I realized I had the same symptoms (apples don’t fall far from trees!), got some professional help. It has really changed my life. I actually don’t look at it like any sort of negative, but rather a ‘superpower’ of sorts. In my discovery, I’ve realized that many entrepreneurs have ADD or ADHD. Some people call it the “explorer” gene – as folks like myself can often see things that others can’t. We’re a little disorganized and not always easy to be around (just ask my wife!), but it can be managed and actually be an advantage.
It’s certainly not been easy to be in quarantine with ADHD and unable to be as social and active as I normally am, and breaking my foot didn’t help. Leaning into a routine has helped, as has being as physically active as I can— including taking walks during calls. I also love listening to audiobooks. Fun fact, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts at 2x the speed while I walk my dog. I used to find it difficult to stay focused enough to read normal books and didn’t read that much. I’ve gone from reading 1-2 books per year to about 50-75 audiobooks a year now!
On a lighter note, what are your top 3 personal interests or hobbies (outside of work)?
My &Marketing family jokes that I really don’t have any hobbies. But I love to:
- Hang out with my kids – we’re on a spree of watching all the Marvel movies
- Listen to audiobooks… got any recommendations?
- Meditate and practice mindfulness
While we’re living through an undefined period of unpredictability, the capacity to be nimble and adapt, and change can bring some level of stability to the situation. We hope that you’re able to draw some inspiration from the insights that Raj shared.
About the Authors
Rajat “Raj” Kapur is the founder and Managing Director of &Marketing. He strives to provide growing businesses of all sizes unparalleled marketing strategy and execution services. Raj brings two decades of professional experience in marketing, sales, and strategy development experience spanning B2B and B2C Fortune 50, mid-sized, and startups.
&Marketing provides the robust outsourced marketing department growing companies need without the high overhead costs of big agencies or full-time employees. Our variable model empowers businesses to reach their growth goals through access to the guidance and expertise of senior level strategists and a flexible execution team.