This article was contributed by Pablo Lascurain, one of our Startup Grind Directors from Latam. He’s an active participant of our director community and has, like so many other entrepreneurs, been feeling the effects of city-wide lockdowns. Below he shares his advice for founders on how to tackle challenging times with creativity.
The current circumstances are tough and they may get even tougher for entrepreneurs. Many of us are feeling uneasy about the unknowns. So what can entrepreneurs be doing during these uncertain times? One of the best things we can do to regain some sense of control is to look at our existing resources in new ways.
Right now, there are three main areas where you’re probably feeling major disruption:
Disruption to the value of your time.
Disruption to your productivity.
Disruption to your business interactions.
Each of the above presents a challenge to any business, but especially to entrepreneurs who may depend on these types of resources to thrive. Rather than letting those challenges rule us, I’d like to walk through a few options for pushing through these disruptions by re-evaluating our resources to uncover opportunities. These ideas are meant specifically for entrepreneurs, but can also help non-entrepreneurs.
1. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When it Comes to Your Time.
Regardless of your profession, your time can be priced in the market. This is based on your income, revenue-generated, added value, or any other monetary metric. Because of the lock-down, my team has just hit the “Black Friday” price for our hourly rates (we internally call this the Black Friday time paradox). It’s tough. But it also means we can allocate our time to activities we usually thought about as less valuable, but in reality are transformational for companies.
As an example, here are a few things my team has done to turn our newly available time into something more valuable under the current circumstances:
Write the company manifesto. For us, a company Manifesto means answering questions around what makes our company special and how we do things around here. That includes defining our mission, vision, and values. Then we take it a step further by creating a Wiki or document explaining how the mission, vision, and values are lived and how they will be implemented inside our organization.
Document processes and build manuals. This is one of the fastest way to come up with new ideas for optimization. Write down the top 5 most common or revenue-generating processes ie. Stages, Time, Stakeholders, etc. Then evaluate those to begin pinpointing bottlenecks and efficiency opportunities, all the while documenting how you’ll attempt to improve the process in the future.
Create or identify your personal or company differentiator. Most companies struggle when asked: What’s your company superpower? What made or will make your company a success? Take the opportunity to really dig into these questions during this time. Hint: your company superpower is not price and it’s not delivery time. It should be super specific and super unique.
2. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When It Comes to Your Productivity.
On my team, we tend to measure productivity using external factors like sales, revenue, growth, KPI’s, etc. But in a lockdown, most of those external factors are going to be in standby for the short-term. So does this means we’re no longer productive? Not at all. In uncertainty, we evaluate new solutions! The first step to re-evaluating your opportunities when it comes to productivity is to ask yourself: “How can we measure or maintain our productivity outside of numbers?”
Here are a few ideas for things you can focus on:
Explore digital tools for time management. You can check out asana.com, monday.com, taskmeister.com among others. There are also some methodologies for measuring productivity, like chunking. Chunking groups together information into ideally sized pieces so they can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want without stress.
Define how you measure success in your life. Can you imagine choosing only one metric for measuring how successful you were in your life? It sounds a bit extreme, but it’s an amazing exercise to attach meaning to your priorities. What does success mean to you? You company? Your family? Your partner? Your starting point here should be checking out Clay Christiensen’s book: How Will You Measure Your Life?.
Learn a set of skills. We regularly upgrade the operating system for our smartphones or computers. When time is available, we should think of updating ourselves. This means asking yourself: “Which skills can help me evolve?” Are you a CFO? Learn about service design instead of financial reporting 2.0. Are you a CMO? Think about psychology or web development. My team likes to think that by adopting radical new skills we can also transform the way we approach our day-to-day activities.
3. Re-Evaluate Opportunities When it Comes to Your Business Interactions.
By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about social distancing, a term applied to certain actions that are taken by Public Health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Essentially it means avoiding physical social interaction. This, of course, disrupts how you can do (past, present, and future) business. Entrepreneurs will likely be nervous about how they will be able to get new customers and avoid losing existing ones.
Here are some actions that we’re implementing with some of our clients:
Start building relationships with potential clients by showing value upfront. Because of the Black Friday time paradox, our team had a lot of newly available time. And so we decided to create yearly strategies for clients and prospects, with simulations that showed the impact of working with us. This means putting a lot of hours in upfront, but also creates a mechanism that generates fidelity, curiosity, word of mouth, and keeps relationships alive.
Deepen existing relationships by reaching out to current customers or clients. Post-sales are one of the most forgotten or underrated areas of the sales process. Oftentimes, once your customer has gotten their product or service and paid for it, the relationship is over. Because of our overtime, my team implemented a calendar for everyone in a 500+ employees company to schedule 10-min calls with clients to understand the experience of being a client. They also took the opportunity to offer these clients 30% off their next transaction. This mechanism optimizes interactions that generate empathy, learnings, customer development, and customer satisfaction. It’s also great for word of mouth and keeps relationships alive.
As mentioned earlier, these are uncertain times and that can be unnerving. But by re-evaluating your resources you can uncover opportunities to make the best of the unknown. I hope you find these tips helpful and please feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments below.
Pablo Lascurain is a Startup Grind Chapter Director in Latam. He’s founded 7 companies, sold 4 and helped more than 200 companies solve problems, scale, and thrive. Read more by Pablo Lascurain on his Medium account.