Startup Resilience: 10 tips to come out stronger from the COVID-19 crisis 

You have probably heard a million times that tough situations will make you stronger. Nonetheless, no matter how comforting that sounds, many are still not prepared to rise to the challenge and call it quits. Entrepreneurs know that developing a successful story is not only about boldly launching a million-dollar idea; most of it comes down to their ability to respond to each situation in a quick and smart manner and lead with resilience.

Although many would agree that having the right mindset is essential for being resilient, the learning and upgrading process often appears to include more aspects than just simply having it naturally. Below are 10 tips to help you excel in the role of a resilient startup leader.

  1. Think of funding as a continual process

Closing a funding round oftentimes is not as simple as going from a cold-call to funds raised in just a few months. Congrats to the exceptions! For the most part, it is absolutely essential to develop a long-term strategy and start warming up your investors well ahead of time. While they might get hooked on your brilliant business idea from the very first day, they would rather get to know your team better and start breathing your product the way you do before they take the plunge. Many of the startups that closed rounds during the lockdown had been building those relationships for quite some time. Hence, it’s always a good idea to start adding new industry names to your LinkedIn and/or Twitter network and to get them acquainted with your progress.

2. Plan ahead to have adequate cash reserves 

Many startups fail to implement a plan about keeping and securing cash reserves necessary for running their business smoothly in times of unexpected crises. The good thing, though, is that we learned the lesson. The most common question that those who are working on such a plan now is how much cash reserves should a startup or a small business set aside? In essence, there is no right answer. Some experts suggest that having three to five months of cash reserves to cover expenses is enough, while others recommend longer periods. However, you should also keep in mind that building up large reserves may negatively affect your business growth and expansion. In this connection, your ability to get short-term investments in case of emergency also plays an important role. Founders should not only maintain good relationships with the banks, but also get a good understanding of all alternative options to traditional banking, such as crowdfunding and crowdlending, and eventually opt for the solution which is of best interest to the current situation.

3. Remember that building strong relationships is a continual process 

Over the last half-year, the business sector has witnessed more agreement terminations than some of us could ever imagine. At first, it all seemed like those partnerships had come to an end. But, it takes resilience to understand the significance of keeping in touch when times are hard, and to offer your services even when you can’t get compensated. You shouldn’t cease to invest in your old relationships now. Just the opposite, these are the times when it would be useful go through your old list, offer your assistance, and see what you can do. You shouldn’t only help your current and former clients stay afloat, but also use your connections to assist individuals who are left jobless or are seeking better opportunities. Many of those people will eventually come back to work with you again. What’s more, they may also bring more business to you through word of mouth, and, your business will join the rank of companies that foster support and solidarity.

4. Build a culture for rapid decision making and seize unexpected opportunities

Even though each crisis brings with it challenges, these times are also a source of new opportunities; those who are ready to grasp new opportunities may swiftly come out as big winners. Although your chances of surviving and accelerating can be down to which sector you’re in, there is another part of the story too, where your success depends on your company culture and readiness to make strides in pivoting. Having an established framework for decision making well before something happens is what usually distinguishes the fast movers from the rest. With this pandemic we have all learned that lesson and we should now be more prepared for similar events in the future.

5. Be visible and leverage the power of storytelling 

COVID may have taken you on a roller-coaster ride that you haven’t been prepared for and, hence, you felt even further away from your dreams than you were at the beginning. In such a situation it is normal for founders to find the prospect of working on visibility and storytelling daunting. But, remember that we are all in this together. Over and above, stories engage people’s emotions and it is in times of distress that people need something to resonate with the most. The pandemic has affected everyone’s story and not dealing with it promptly may result in weakening your community. At the end of the day, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – all you need to do is create a compelling narrative about your future visions, share your true story, and show that you are doing your best to respond to your customers’ needs despite the hardships.

6. Empathy and solidarity win in the long run

Economic slumps often result in pressures that make it harder for businesses to show empathy and solidarity. These are times when founders preoccupy themselves with urgent issues and are in constant fear of losing control. To respond to such challenges with compassionate leadership despite the hardship is what distinguishes resilient leaders. It is in these circumstances that you should demonstrate how much you care. If you are able to make positive changes in people’s lives when they most need it, they will never forget it. It is widely accepted that leaders who show empathy and solidarity to their employees and clients benefit from long-term loyalty.

7. Accept the obstacles as part of the path

You have probably heard this many times, and, yet, it is easier said than done. Be that as it may, the perspective we have on things oftentimes holds the key to success. If you take in your stride the fact that the most rewarding paths are also the ones with the most obstacles, you will have no problem in enthusiastically overcoming each barrier that comes your way. The corona crisis taught us that we should be prepared for the worst. Luckily, difficult situations like these stand us in good stead for the future. 

8. Lead with optimism and tenacity, but know when to quit

Many would support the theory that success is mostly a result of perseverance. Startup owners would be the first to prove this statement true, as many founders have endured years of work to ‘succeed overnight’. Basically, being able to see the silver linings and tenaciously lead the team onwards even in the darkest of the moments is a characteristic that every leader should have. But, in times of crisis, industries change, and sometimes resilience means knowing when to quit and move on with another endeavor. It is in our nature to get attached to our efforts, but in reality, those committed to adapting and growing, know that sometimes the best thing they can do is admit that things aren’t working, take the lesson learned and embark on a new venture.

9. Seek and accept support

Oftentimes people are reluctant to seek support, for fear of ‘admitting’ they can’t achieve something on their own, which shouldn’t be the case at all. There are many people out there who have already walked that path full of ups and downs, and are happy to share it to others. Founders can also benefit from various mentorship and acceleration programmes that will provide them guidance from people with extensive knowledge and experience. Additionally, introducing your business to friends and acquaintances and asking them to give you a hand or just spread the word about your business may prove helpful. You may be surprised, but the odds of rejection are usually much lower than we think. People feel good when they help others. 

10. Observe success stories and get inspired by other entrepreneurs

When you are deep in the weeds thinking about the future of your business, observing the success of others is always a good idea for lifting your spirits. Watching these people closely will not only give you comfort and inspiration to move on but will also provide you with various insights on how they managed to climb such heights on the ladder. A great plus nowadays is that there is an ever-increasing number of podcasts, webinars, and various other free online events, and it will cost you nothing to enrich your daily activities with a 20-minute slot allocated for drawing inspiration from others. To start, check out the EU-Startups Podcast, where we’ve already interviewed many inspiring founders.