As Elon Musk once said,
Running a startup is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.
The abyss is very similar to the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19. This is a time of uncertainty with a deep lack of clarity on how long it will last or what our future has in store. This COVID-19 crisis is a new challenge for most entrepreneurs, but another challenge nonetheless. We’re used to looking in the mirror and relying on the person looking back - we don’t typically rely on State or Federal governments to figure things out. We take a position, take action and address the outcomes as we move forward. We’re used to navigating the unknown even if the light at the end of the tunnel is dim.
We typically thrive in chaos, but the chaos is different this time around. Our work norms are thrown into a playground-meets-office type of environment and the new cofounder is doing a 3rd grade Zoom call right beside us. Keeping our partner--now office manager--happy can help on multiple fronts, but now seems to be impossible. We find ourselves struggling with the inevitable questions: “How bad is it?” or “How much runway do we have left”? and feeling as if we need to report out on almost everything we do (sans bathroom breaks) to keep our employees and stakeholders up to speed while attempting to instill a sense of hope...within reason. There’s a new reality, a blend of the old and of the new.
So how should we navigate this unknown? How do we assure both employees and our families everything will be OK despite the barrage of messaging to the counter? The answer is we don’t, as this is uncharted waters. We’ll all need to adapt and overcome just as we have time and time again throughout the founders' journey.
Here are some thoughts I have on the path forward:
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
Now is the time to double down on communication, ensuring all employees and stakeholders are kept informed on the latest developments so they can be “in the know” and feel some sense of security given the unprecedented situation. This goes for your employees (English and non-English speaking), your business and life partners.
Acknowledge when you don’t know.
A sign of a great leader is acknowledging when you don’t know something. Commit to getting back to them while receiving counsel from your advisors, investors or your village to inform your perspective. This is NOT the time to fake it till you make it. Your employees and team need leadership, not a line of bull$hit or misdirection on what needs to be done.
Act Decisively as Time is of the Essence.
If anything, do something. Don’t fret, don’t get analysis paralysis or get bogged down by possible scenarios. Pick a direction and go with it. The beauty of decisions is you’re going to be wrong a good % of the time and if you are, quickly pivot.
Embrace your Village.
Rely on your close network to help pull you through this. Look to them for an outside perspective as you’re likely too close to it. And don’t forget to give back as well. We’re all in this together.
Cash is King/Queen.
Entrepreneurs worry about having enough cash to fuel the business on a regular basis, let alone during a crisis. “When will the market come back…or will it?” Continue to monitor your financial position daily while extending your cash as long as possible.
This activities should include:
Minimize or discontinue any unnecessary expenses immediately.
Cancel all company debit cards and have them reissued from the bank to ensure there aren’t any non-essential charges hitting the account.
Look to all debtors and explore extended payment terms
Pull down any lines of credit to pad the cash in your account
You’re working from home? Cancel that office space if you can or renegotiate your rent while you’re unable to gain access.
Founders will continue to learn how strong they are as they persevere through these trying times.
They’re resilient and take on the unthinkable
They’re used to having $hit go wrong and dealing with it
They ultimately want to conquer the beast or run through the next wall in front of them because they have done it before, and they will do it again.
They’re solid, persistent and pedantically focused on succeeding. They will conquer this situation whether it means they fight to see another day or… they keep fighting and learn their new personal limits.
Stay Strong My Friends & We’ll get this Through this.
President & CEO of The Town Kitchen
Co-Founder & CEO of PocketCFO