Keeping Your Entrepreneurial Dream Alive During a Crisis
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post coordinated by Jeffrey Pollack, an associate professor of entrepreneurship in NC State’s Poole College of Management in collaboration with Gabe Gonzalez, Liz Tracy, Joseph Billingsley, Lewis Sheats, Tim Michaelis and Jon Carr.
The world is currently facing a public health crisis and a financial crisis. These crises pose a variety of personal and professional challenges. For entrepreneurs, one challenge is how to keep their professional dreams alive.
There are a number of things that entrepreneurs can bear in mind during the present crisis.
Know that you are not alone.
There are lots of people affected by this crisis who are looking for help and support. Provide help and support to those people you can. And remember that it is also okay for you to seek help and support. For example, the Small Business Administration’s disaster assistance loans are there for a reason – and no entrepreneur should feel guilty for accepting help from this or other sources.
Grow the quantity and quality of your social ties.
Research tells us that having a lot of social ties helps to buffer entrepreneurs from the negative effects of economic stress – and helps prevent entrepreneurs from wanting to withdraw from their ventures. Even during this time of social distancing, with time and effort you can become more socially engaged and embedded online.
To establish a baseline, you can get a sense of how engaged and embedded you are in your social networks by completing this survey. The survey is part of an ongoing research project funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – and it can provide an insightful look at how you communicate with your social ties.
Put simply, keep the lines of communication open among yourself and all your stakeholders.
Pivot, if needed.
Connect with your customers. What do they need now? What can you do to help them now? Adapt to your customer’s new wants and needs. Overall, think outside of the box and reconsider the products or services you are offering. What do you need to do differently, now, to optimize your value proposition?
Lead with compassion and build trust with those around you. Think of ways your venture can be helpful to others in this time of need. Build goodwill. By providing valued goods and services in today’s environment of unprecedented stress, you can cultivate strong social ties like never before. As a result, the relationships you forge and strengthen now, under these difficult conditions, can deliver benefits for you in the months and years ahead.
Find ways to collaborate and work with others. For example, in North Carolina, think of the restaurant workers relief fund. Their efforts are much more powerful with many restaurants coming together versus just one. As another example, asking your competitors for assistance, or “coopetition,” may help everyone make it through this tough time. Bootstrapping resources, sharing resources and sharing the expense burdens associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may actually be a competitive advantage for service-based firms at this time. In other words, your competitors and partners may both help you stay in business and bounce back faster once everything is back to normal.
Make good decisions.
Try not to panic. Compile all the information you have, however incomplete it may be, and make the best decision(s) you can. To the extent that you can, avoid making irrevocable decisions.
Be consciously frugal with your resources and set priorities for the next six months on essential business expenses and resources needed to maintain your core business. Focus on prioritizing the tasks that are needed for your business to survive.
For the entrepreneurially inclined…expand, and grow, if you can.
Look for new problems to solve. Ideate and build/test rapidly. Consider launching and validating your existing product/service (or new ones) remotely (e.g., via demos, conversations). Enable people at home, who usually are not at home (experts and customers), to give you feedback! If your current or new product(s) resonates in the short and long-term, then you’re in a really good position. Now is a good time to think entrepreneurially – how can you create value for others right now?