7 Practical Actions to Prepare Entrepreneurs for Success
These last few months, weeks, and days have been astonishing–the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest jobless rate since the Depression, and the national outcry to end the systemic racism in our nation.
As the economy is reopening, there are still many unknowns and much work to do. But one thing entrepreneurs can count on, demand for innovation, collaboration, and change is turbo-charged. Tenacity and creativity will win the day, and who has more of those attributes than entrepreneurs?
Here are seven actions entrepreneurs can take to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.
- Get Real, Fast. Analyze every aspect of your company’s 24-month business plan quarter by quarter. Don’t panic if your best case today looks a lot like your worst-case pre-pandemic. If you thought you needed a 12-month runway, it should be 24 months or more now.
- Analyze cash flow, month by month.
- Prioritize every expenditure based on short-term and long-term impact.
- Continue cutting costs.
- Determine how the current situation is impacting monthly revenues.
- Analyze your customer behavior. Are you losing users? Are there contracts that are in jeopardy?
- Revise revenue expectations from your top ten customers and prospects. Are they in industries heavily impacted by supply chain disruption? Are they in sectors likely to restart more quickly?
How your customers and their customers are affected will impact your bottom line.
- Re-evaluate and Leverage Your Assets. Cash paramount, but cash isn’t the only thing.
Consider the assets that don’t appear on the balance sheet:
- Customer relationships
- Board members
- Current investors
- Your culture
- Your brand
- Connect with Your Customers. Reach out directly to each of your top 10, 20, 50 customers. Re-enforce those relationships. Make phone calls, send personal emails. Tell them you care about them and their teams. Find out how they expect their businesses and customers to fare as regular business resumes.
Questions to ask your customer:
- What are their reopening plans in their locations?
- How are they changing the way they do business?
- What can your business do to help?
- Designate an Opportunity Manager. Federal, state, and local governments have new grant programs designed to help small businesses survive past COVID-19. Designate a trusted and detailed member of your team as the navigator. Direct this individual to keep up with the resources and useful to your company or your customers. Repayment terms for the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) continue to be refined. If your company received PPP, keep detailed information about how the money was used. Stay up on repayment regulations as they evolve.
- Inertia—the bane of entrepreneurship and innovation—has been smacked down. Whole industries have already started to change. Supply chains are shifting. Open your mind to opportunity windows that didn’t exist before. Investment capital will likely decline, but, eventually, investors will put their money to work. Like you, they are doing scenario planning to assess the impact of this pandemic on every product and every solution, looking for companies with expertise, intellectual property, or solutions that have future upside that perhaps didn’t exist before. Some examples would be home delivery, telemedicine, online education, personal protective gear—and the list goes on.
- Make Your Hiring Plan and Your Culture Diverse and Inclusive. Companies with ethnic/cultural diversity significantly outperform their peers—the most recent McKinsey study reports that the edge is 33 percent. The new generations of talent are the most diverse ever. Make diversity ever-present in your mind. Work daily to break down barriers to entrepreneurship. Speak up, act, and add your company’s support for change and equality to correct systemic racism. Reach into organizations and communities that are not part of your usual network to find the talent that will help your company thrive.
- Care for Your Team and Your Community. Care. Check-in. Now is the time that current leaders shine, and new leaders are made. Ensure a safe and healthy work environment that meets all standards. Develop an extended plan for in-office and remote work. If your company engages a personal employer organization (PEO), seek their advice. If you don’t have a PEO, seek advice from mentors or members of your board.
Did your experience or training prepare you for today’s reality? Likely not. But your entrepreneurial mindset did. The very qualities that make entrepreneurs take the risk to start companies in the first place are the qualities that will help you manage through this new reality—personally and professionally.