The Efficiency Effect: How the Pandemic Forced Startups to Learn from Immediate Challenges and Market Needs

The Covid-19 pandemic created a massive speed bump for young companies. The resiliency and creativity that are the cornerstones of every successful entrepreneur’s playbook kicked in.

The pandemic forced companies to rethink how they work, who they hire, and how to ensure efficiency.

As remote work, e-commerce, disrupted supply, and amplified health and safety concerns created new markets and needs, companies pivoted for survival and growth.

New Challenges Invite New Solutions

In chaotic times, winners return to the basics. For entrepreneurs over the last two years, that meant revalidating market and customer assumptions. Although the pandemic produced an endless stream of upsets, many of those upsets jarred loose two of the most stubborn obstacles to entrepreneurial innovation—inertia and resistance to change.

As the pandemic shattered the status quo, savvy entrepreneurs quickly assessed the impact on their customers. What were companies now forced to do that they had been putting off? How did the pandemic force priorities and budgets to change?

Startups in Ohio and across the country are pivoting and adapting their business plans to respond to newly urgent customer needs. With the proliferation of remote work, corporations everywhere are reassessing and improving cyber security. With The massive consumer shift to e-commerce (up 32 percent), consumer expectations for two-day, touchless delivery, and the preference to order online and pick up in-store, opportunities abound in automated inventory management and last-mile logistics. For young companies in information technology or bioscience, the pandemic brought an intensity to understanding and evaluating the sources, suppliers, and partnerships critical to the business plan.

Gearing up for the Talent Wars

Economic research from the Federal Reserve reveals that the percentage of small businesses reporting that job openings are hard to fill is at historic highs. Hiring managers are coming up with new ideas.

  • Aggressively recruit in underserved communities. Generation Z is a powerhouse of talent and the most racially diverse generation yet.
  • Hiring college interns creates a vetted and connected pipeline of potential permanent hires.
  • Scout on-traditional sources for talent, such as organizations training people to enter a new field or second-chance programs.
  • Build a talent strategy earlier than you may have thought necessary. Some entrepreneurs seek larger investment rounds to build up a war chest to fund aggressive compensation for hiring and retention.
  • Budget and plan for internal training. Encourage and reward your team for continuing education.

Managing Health and Safety

The pandemic changed everything we thought we knew about the health and safety of employees, customers, and others who visit company premises.

Across our portfolio companies, founding teams created new practices to manage the “new normal,” from hand sanitizing to air filtering. There were tough decisions on vaccination policies, social distancing, and remote work. This experience led to a greater awareness of disaster planning in other areas—early lessons that will have applicability throughout a company’s life.

 Adapting Company Culture to the Impact of Remote Work

The pandemic taught us (again) that communicating about culture is never one and done. Remote work is here to stay Being intentional about cohesive and connected teams is more important than ever. Startups are lucky. They don’t have years of attitudes to overcome or embedded practices to re-engineer. They can create hybrid environments that blend the best of in-office and remote work.

Be specific. Create a vocabulary to describe your company’s culture, and use it consistently. Invest in technology that boosts collaboration—great monitors, the best headsets and cameras, free video conferencing, and of course, the highest speed Internet to every employee’s remote location. Assign mentors to new employees. Encourage employees to come into the office on the same days of the month. Create cross-functional teams that cause collaboration between individuals who don’t usually work together.

Be Coachable

This pandemic has been a graduate course in dealing with uncertainty. The business effects are likely to continue into the near future. Entrepreneurs who navigated these bumpy times gained unique experience that would have taken years to learn.