Small Teams

How to Navigate Changing Times: A Checklist for Startup CEOs

Matthew New
March 7, 2022

In March 2020, when the whole world changed forever, Business Insider reported that startups in Silicon Valley were about to face the most difficult and biggest crisis of our generation. And, an NFIB Research Center study revealed that nearly half of all small businesses planned to be affected by the pandemic. A lot has happened since March 2020, and startups are still struggling to adapt and survive.

Whether you were in the beginning phases of product development or had just launched, you’ve likely had to make quick decisions about how to navigate the changing times as a startup CEO. From shifting to a remote-working model to knowing what kind of business interruption insurance to take out, here’s a checklist for you to follow.

Be the Leader Everybody Needs

It’s in moments of crisis that true leaders appear. And, there’s no better time than the present to demonstrate your leadership skills to your team. This is one of the best entrepreneurial tips to follow regardless of whether your startup is in crisis mode or not.

However, during changing times like the ones we’re experiencing right now, it’s important to step up to the plate and be the leader everybody needs. Make quick, actionable yet well-informed decisions and stick to them with perseverance as you work together to weather this storm. Be open and transparent about changes going on within the organization and be humble in asking for opinions about whether or not the changes are working.

Establish a Remote Work Plan

One of the first steps on your checklist (back in March) should have been to quickly establish a remote work plan. If you have been simply “working from home” since the spring, now’s the time to implement a remote work policy while ensuring that every one of your team members understands what is expected of them as they shift to working from home for the foreseeable future.

Make sure they know things like when they’re expected to be online, what kind of deadlines they’re required to meet and how to communicate with you if they need to. Give them all of the tools they need to succeed in working from home. Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts are all great tools for remote working, but also make sure they have the software and equipment they need to remotely succeed.

Here at Uptech Studio, we use a combination of tools to stay in touch with each other. All of our company communication happens in different channels on Slack. Each day, we all post our daily standup in Slack so everybody knows what everybody else is working on. And to help make the whole experience a little more personal, we also use a macOS app we wrote called TeamSmash to add webcams to our Slack channels.

Be Transparent with Employees & Customers

Times are tough and a lot of companies are having to furlough employees or lay them off completely. As a startup CEO and leader of your growing business, there’s no way to get around these kinds of difficulties.

So, try to be as honest and transparent with your employees as possible. Remember that you are all facing this crisis together. Be just as honest with your customers about your changing processes and services. Your employees are just as worried as you are, and any great piece of startup advice will tell you that happy, engaged employees lead to higher rates of success within a company.

Don’t “Panic Price”

During a crisis, resist the urge to “panic price.” Doing so can devalue your product or service. Instead, when you’re looking to cut costs, take steps to mitigate expenses first. Then, experts note, try to focus on searching for new market opportunities.

Instead of panic pricing and devaluing your product or service, focus on ways in which you and your startup can add value to what you’re already offering. Provide more value rather than lower prices and find ways to adjust to the “new normal” that your customers and clients are experiencing as well.

Lean Into Your USP

When the pandemic started, Forbes reported that 38% of small business owners weren’t confident in the financial future of their business, up from 15% at the beginning of 2020. Right now is the time to truly lean into your unique selling point.

With major financial firms and analysts predicting a recession that could be worse than the Great Recession of 2008, now is the time to re-evaluate your company’s USP. Can you adapt to the changing times and add something new and unique to what you’re offering?

Question Every Assumption About Your Business

When the pandemic first started, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital sent their founders and CEOs a letter titled “Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020.” In the letter, the firm dished out some startup advice.

The investment group told its entrepreneurs to “question every assumption about your business.” They said that now is the time to reassess everything related to cash, fundraising, sales forecasts, and capital spending. Use this additional time at home and out of the buzz of startup life to truly assess where you’re at, where you want to be, and how you can get there.

Take Time to Get Creative with Solutions

One of our best tips for entrepreneurship? Take times like these to get creative with solutions.

Can your startup readjust your business model to increase its relevance? Is there a way you can optimize your company’s workflow to save time and money to invest in research and development? Can you engage in new partnerships? Take the time away from the office to switch things up a bit. Use the changing times and circumstances and instead of focusing on the negative, explore all of the new opportunities that this crisis is creating.

Conduct thorough market-based research regarding what your competitors are doing to adjust to the changing times. Understand not only how your industry or niche has changed but how it will continue to change over the course of the next 12 to 36 months.

Think Ahead Towards the Future During Changing Times

Don’t focus on surviving through the crisis as a startup. Instead, focus on thriving. And, to do that, you’ll need to think ahead towards the future. Team up with others who are experiencing similar challenges and find ways in which you can weather the storm together through ingenuity and compassion.

Develop a long-term vision and put that into place in everything that you do. Pitch the long-term value of your company to investors and really show just how much thought you’ve put into developing a future-proof plan for the success of your startup.

If you’re not quite sure how to accomplish any of the above, get in touch with us. We do more than simply work with companies to build and launch their products. We develop partnerships that allow you to scale your startup with the tools you need to achieve true success.

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