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Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide in the Age of the Coronavirus

Trey Bowles
Mar 20 · 8 min read

The last week since the extent of the coronavirus severity has been a nightmare of biblical proportions and there has been more and more uncertainty every day. This is affecting all of us and has ramifications personally, professionally, mentally and psychologically…and for entrepreneurs.

BAD NEWS: No one knows when this is going to end. Entrepreneurs are struggling to come up with concrete solutions to problems that seem to have no end in site. People are losing their jobs and many businesses are in jeopardy of not making it through this crisis and survival is questionable for startups at this point.

GOOD NEWS: People are trying to help. The government is trying to figure out how to keep us safe and provide for the downturn in the economy. Communities are coming together and finding ways to support education, jobs, safety, and serve our “neighbors” in need. We have a few key practical steps to help you survive this next 90+ days of turmoil.

So, what can we as entrepreneurs do in order to weather the tumultuous storm of uncertainty and the unknown. The one thing that is hardest for entrepreneurs to survive is the idea of time. It takes time to develop a market, time to create a proof of concept and time to establish a sustainable business model and revenue stream. Well, I don’t have all of the answers but I do have few suggestions that can help entrepreneurs survive in the world of the corona virus.

I believe as entrepreneurs there are 3 Key Steps to how to respond to the world we are living in today.

1. Find content, information, and resources that can help you respond to this reality. (click to view SwitchBacks Podcast for more information here)

2. Surround yourself with a team (key staff, advisors, board members, and mentors) who can help give you the best advice and counsel based upon their experience and expertise.

3. Give Back: Realize the responsibility that entrepreneurs as leaders have to serve in our communities in the places that people need help.

As a response to Key #1 listed above, there are numerous sites, resources and locations where there is designated help and support for entrepreneurs.

The coronavirus outbreak attacks us at the heart of our businesses

Also, this morning, Nick Kennedy and I launched a new podcast that we have been working on for a few months. We have already recorded several podcasts and have insight from entrepreneurs that we believe will really help serve and support entrepreneurs and leaders as they grow. However, in light of the recent historical pandemic we decided to launch “SwitchBacks: The Never-told Stories of Entrepreneurs” today and have our first episode that focuses on practical solutions that entrepreneurs can use to survive this colossal and global attack that is stopping most entrepreneurs in their tracks. You can view the podcast here and we hope this will be helpful to you as you are trying to figure out nexts steps on how to survive and hopefully one day optimize and thrive in the future.

Switchbacks Podcast Season 1, Episode 1: Entrepreneurial Survival in the Age of Coronavirus

Our podcast focuses on 4 practical steps to survival:

1.Cash Is King

2. Communication is Key

3. Develop a Plan (30–60–90 days)

4. There is Opportunity to Innovate and Lead

Cash is King

For an early stage entrepreneur there is nothing more important that cashflow. It is important to have a Pro-Forma (income statement), Balance Sheet, Statement of Cashflows, etc but in the end, the only thing that matters is how much money is in the bank. You have to live and die by the reality of cash. As a first step, you need to get your financial status under control. Bring your finance team together and get a real picture of where you are financial and what you need to do in order to survive. Cutting costs and un-necessary expenses are a key first step. Renegotiate payment timelines and Accounts Payable. Find ways to bring in immediate revenue through creating realistic and far payment cycles, and do everything you can to keep staff even if that means cutting back on current salaries for yourself and your team.

Scott Case, CEO of Upside, put together an Existential Business Threat Flowchart around this very thing we discuss in the SwitchBacks podcast.

Communication is Key

In this time of unrest and fear, the best thing you can do is communicate, communicate, communicate. Honesty, transparency and frequency is your best policy during times like this. You need to make sure you speak to your staff, communicate your process, strategy and plan for moving forward. Listen first to your employees concerns and fears and respond by letting them know you understand and are there for them. Only after you appropriately communicate your consideration of the employee can you offer a plan. It is always better in times of crisis to over-communicate and utilize Nick Kennedy’s “Drive Through Communication Method”.

Nick Kennedy’s “Drive Through Communication Method”

Just like ordering food at a drive through, have the employees repeat what you are saying to them. Make sure they understand you and that you are communicating well. Far too often, the issue of misunderstanding is a miscommunication that is the responsibility of the entrepreneur to the team.

Develop a Plan (30–60–90 days)

Next you need to develop a plan or set of plans for how you are going to weather the massive business earthquake we have been enduring the last week. You need to develop your internal COVID-19 plan for your team. Will you be working remote? How will that be structured? What will work hours be and how can you best support the team to be as productive as possible moving forward. There is no better way to be able to keep on staff then helping them be as productive as possible even though they are working out of the office. Realize that your plans might need to change and you have to be agile in making sure you are operating most effectively in this new COVID-19 business landscape. Being willing to “switchback” your way up the mountain to get to a safe place or reprieve, survival and eventual sustainability. Here is an outlook on how to develop a 30, 60, 90 day plan in a corona virus world.

Follow this strategy to develop your 30,60, and 90 day plans during the age of corona.

30 days: Assess and Respond. (Aka Stop the Bleeding). Cost cutting, revenue optimization, get on life support.

60 days: Develop a plan and start to operate your business as needed to adjust to the requirements of running a business in a time of corona. (Get off life support)

90 days: Plan for re-emergence and optimizing a plan for the new world. It may take longer than 90 days, but you need to create a plan and future that realizes that “this too shall pass”. People will get out of their houses, they will go back to work and things will get back to some semblance of normalcy. You need to determine and plan for how you are going to operated in a world post Corona virus or post the initial scare of corona. (Build and grow).

Innovate and Lead

Finally, it is time to step up and innovate and lead. Take this opportunity to innovate, disrupt and find ways to provide services and technology that serves the needs to consumers and businesses.

Necessity is the mother of invention and innovation. There will be opportunity during this time. Be creative and find the solution. This too shall pass, but we must be innovative to get there. Your job first and foremost is to provide. Find temporary work if you need it. Get through this and then reemerge stronger than ever.

So what do I do now?

  1. Bring together key stake holders and decision makers who are going to lead this change.
  2. Set clear, concise and intentional set of plans on how to address this opportunity/challenge
  3. Execute…Track and Measure Change and Execute more.

Despite the uncertainty of the future, you have to remember this is just business. Just like in any other part of the rollercoaster that is building a business. Building a business is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. All you have to do is create a product or service, sell that product/service and then serve your customers retain them and grow your userbase. You need to view this current state as another opportunity to respond to the market forces and develop a plan that will allow you continue to grow, survive and thrive into the future. Treat this obstacle like any other and determine how to address opportunities and challenges as they arise and work to mitigate and then excel.

As an added benefit to the entrepreneurial community, one of our organizations, The DEC Network is going to work to develop a FREE “Fast Start” Mentorship program that connects entrepreneurs with mentors that can help you make it through this uncertain time.

Finally, we would like to challenge entrepreneurs to think outside of yourselves during this time. Find a way to respond to the needs of your community. We would like to connect you with opportunities to serve and support your local community and utilize your skill sets, your experience, and expertise to give back to those who need and could use your help. Entrepreneurs have to decide in the early days what the ethos of your give back strategy will be and in order to lead well and grow you also need to determine how you are going to “give back” to those around you. We have partnered with the #BeANeighborCampaign in order to connect volunteers with non-profits and opportunities to “give back”. Go to www.beaneighborcampaign.com to sign up as an individual and serve those in need in your local area.

Trey Bowles

Written by

I like to start things. Currently working on The DEC, Dallas Innovation Alliance, Startup Champions Network and Mayor’s Star Council. @treybowles

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