How to Keep Your Startup Going (Even if it Feels like Everything's Going Wrong)

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How to Keep Your Startup Going (Even if it Feels like Everything's Going Wrong)

Harvard Business Review said that in March 2020, the best-case scenario for a COVID-19 economy would be the V-shaped recovery — when a classic shock drops the economy but growth eventually rebounds. Other epidemics followed this pattern.

But what happens when you feel like your startup goes the way of the L-shaped worst-case scenario (into a tailspin where output drops sharply and does not recover)?

Here’s what you can do to keep moving forward.

What You Can Do to Intentionally Move Your Startup

The first thing you can do: Think carefully about “woulda, coulda, shoulda” scenarios. If you have the luxury of looking backward, what would you do differently? Would you have hired different people? Would you own your space or rent it — or would you move back to your basement if need be?

Tip 1: Give yourself time to raise money if you’re still in the early phases.

You may not be able to raise venture capital as quickly during seed rounds during this time, and that’s normal. Many institutional investors or slowed their investments on new opportunities. Naturally, you want to raise as much money as you can, but it’s a good idea to shoot for more money, if possible. (And relax on any anticipated “due dates” you had in your head.)

It still might take more time — though maybe less time than, say, April of last year.

Tip 2: Talk to your customers.

Knee-deep in your startup?

Put a focus on your customers and keep talk, talk, talking to them. What do your customers need right now? What is the most relevant and timely information you can give to them? Or do they really need a discount for your product or service? What can you do to make sure your customers stay loyal during the pandemic — that they’re really convinced you see and hear them during this time?

Remember, the pandemic ill effects are not over.

Tip 3: Listen to your customers’ problems.

Do more than just talk to your customers. Listen. Listen to their problems when you speak with them and get your sales team absolutely focused on solving problems.

Your clients’ problems are different now than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. And if you’re a new startup, your product or venture might not even look the same as it did before the pandemic, so be willing to pivot.

Tip 4: Think of this time as an opportunity.

Even if you didn’t miss a beat at the beginning of the pandemic and jumped right into every single change that came your way, still ask what you can do differently to communicate your presence to your customers. Are you more digitally capable than you were a year ago?

Consumers have built new purchasing habits. If you already offer digital products, can you offer more? And can you make the ones you do offer better?

If you have a brick-and-mortar location for your customers, you might not ever get customers back there again. A recent survey shows that three out of four buyers using digital channels say they will continue to use them when things “go back to normal.”

If your startup fits into banking, groceries, telecommunications and/or insurance sectors, you’d better make sure you’re digital. (Don’t forget to check out Coverwallet to make sure you have insurance yourself.) The majority of consumer spending goes to housing, healthcare, food, mobility, education, travel and fashion these days.

Tip 5: Ask yourself if you’re still relevant.

If your startup is floundering, you might not be responding to changing consumer demand and needs. Do you need to manipulate your:

  • Product?
  • Offerings?
  • Digital assets?
  • Distribution channels?

Here’s a great example: Athena Security pivoted from firearm detection devices to selling systems that use thermal cameras to pinpoint people with fevers when they walk through security.

Another great pivot: Gyms and fitness centers like Orange Theory, Planet Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness live-streamed exercise classes and released at-home workout plans.

Tip 6: Consider the money angle.

Still floundering a full year after the pandemic began? It’s time to get (more) lean (if you haven’t already). Treat your business like millions of households have been forced to do: put the stopper on the cash flow. Create the leanest organization you can, put your business on a budget and stick to it. Investors want to see how you use your money, and the more cautious you are, the more you can prove that you’re prudent with your money.

Tip 7: Put everyone’s health and safety first.

Yeah! Even if you’re a solopreneur or sole proprietor. You want to lessen travel, stick to home and more, because if you’re sick, your business obviously suffers.

Safeguard your employees with every effort you can make. They’re your most important asset. Kill travel unless absolutely necessary, heed your governor’s orders and offer work-from-home options. Control virus transmission using social distancing, split shifts and frequent sanitization.

Finally, follow local and national guidance when employees find themselves sick.

Tip 8: Play give-and-take with your competition.

What can you glean from industry news, during in-person visits and through conversations with your competitors? Even better, what can you do to help each other out? Do them a favor when you can’t help specific customers! Go as far as to refer customers to your competitors. We’re all in this together, so look for advice and help where you need it. So what if you offer the exact same product? Chances are, you corner one niche better than your competition. Give them credit where it’s due. It’ll come back to benefit you in the long run.

Tip 9: Keep your footing as an industry leader.

Keep your reputation up as the best in your particular niche. If you’re brand new and sort of “unheard of” in the industry, there’s never been a better time to introduce yourself. Everyone wants to see a fresh new face and feel inspired right now.

The Pandemic Isn’t Over — Keep Paddling!

You may feel like you’re a captain of a sinking ship, but it’s important to remember to keep moving forward.

Give yourself time, connect with the people you need to connect with and mind your pennies. Give more than you take and chances are, you’ll ready yourself to right your ship in no time.


Author bio: Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!