At Bounce Innovation Hub, we offer extensive programming for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, including one-on-one advising and mentorship. When a crisis hits, as in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to think about. It can be overwhelming, stressful and downright frightening for a small or young company.
Every day, my team and I talk with startups about preparing for what comes next. I developed a list of things you must think about now when something catastrophic like COVID-19 hits (and hopefully that won’t be again for a very long time, if ever). And these tips don’t just apply to startups; they apply to small and middle-market businesses, as well.
Go together, even if you’re apart. Since March, many of us have been working from home or practicing social distancing at work. This isolation can make or break a team. Building and maintaining camaraderie and communication are musts. Your group will be tested, but that’s what makes a startup hum. Win as a group or fail as one. But go together.
Communicate early and often. Communication is key for your immediate team, but you must also make sure your investors and customers know your plans. Be thoughtful, transparent and prompt. This builds trust and strengthens relationships, and they’ll know you’re in control — even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Spend every dollar like it’s your last. In times of crisis, you have to take a long, hard look at where you’re spending money. Stop all spending until you consider each dollar and how important it is to allowing you to come out once the game begins again. And if you do run out of money, get creative. If you’ve communicated with those who believed in you before, they may step up. Least of all, they will want to protect their investments.
Consider pivoting. As you look ahead and plan for the new normal, reconsider what you’re building. Is it still viable? Does the market still need it? Is there a different, more urgent problem your technology could solve right now? That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your original idea, but is it still the right idea for right now? Thousands of manufacturers across the country picked up the task of making personal protective equipment for frontline workers in the early months of the pandemic. A temporary pivot could save your company and possibly turn it in a permanent direction you never thought possible.
Think like a startup. For established businesses, find ways to adapt faster to change and consider ways you can innovate right now. In fact, this may be a great time to partner with a startup to jumpstart ideas.
The world is not the same as it was a few months ago and neither is the way we do business. Teamwork, planning, communication, transparency and flexibility — all hallmarks of a successful startup — will get you through to the other side.
Doug Weintraub is CEO of Bounce Innovation Hub