The current pandemic is dramatically impacting American small businesses and entrepreneurs. According to a recent report, almost 7.5 million of America’s approximately 30 million small businesses may be forced to close permanently over the next several months. However, many believe that – like other “black swan” events – the COVID-19 pandemic will fuel the next wave of innovation, and more resilient and world-changing startups than ever before.
Yet, with more than 22 million Americans filing for unemployment – a decade-long setback in job creation – and some Americans fleeing major cities, many new and established entrepreneurs are too terrified to even think about starting new companies. As much as those of us who have been through the wringer want to shout from the rooftops, “Hey, now is a perfect time to start a company!” people are just not ready to hear that message.
We do know, however, that in order to truly revive the economy, we’ll have to do it through entrepreneurship. But we’re still potentially nine to twelve months away from that reality. Even businesses that are managing to weather this storm aren’t thinking about growth right now; they’re thinking about survival.
Still, there are entrepreneurial steps you can take right now, without jumping into the game just yet. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself.
COVID-19 has shifted many consumer behaviors and business models in the short term, but we’re also starting to get an idea of the long-term economic changes COVID-19 will leave in its wake. Many of these long-term changes will come in the form of digital disruption. Not only do recessions accelerate cost-saving changes in business models, they also necessitate completely new business models to best serve the ensuing “new normal.”
Strengthen your core.
The wonderful thing about technology is that it allows us to do more with less. It also allows us to do more of what we’re good at, while automating and/or outsourcing the rest. Since COVID-19 has proven the benefits of remote work, it will naturally accelerate our evolution toward a knowledge and skills-based economy. In this model, entrepreneurs can access more outside expertise more quickly than ever before, and even on-demand.
Historically, entrepreneurs have been hindered by wearing too many hats. The old belief was that, in order to cut costs and conserve resources, startups should do everything in-house. For many, this in-house model correlated with the old school prioritization of in-office collaboration – the idea that, in order to maximize trust, value and efficiency, you need “butts in seats.” This belief persisted, even in the years leading up to COVID-19.
Yet many startups don’t need many (if any) butts in seats, and some companies might never get up off the ground without remote, distributed work teams. Post-pandemic, it won’t matter if you have all the necessary expertise on staff, as long as you have quick access to that expertise. And, as many businesses become more digitally complex, they’ll need to rely more on remote talent from around the world.
This way of the future will free more creative visionaries to found world-changing businesses without necessarily having or even staffing niche technical expertise. Utilizing new platforms that provide quick, on-demand access to talent around the world, founders can focus on the core day-to-day functions that keep their business running.
Adopt a millennial mindset.
In 2018, millennials already represented the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Conditioned to work with digital tools like Zoom and Slack, “Generation Nice” also embraces more compassionate leadership. With up to 71% of millennials seeking a “second family” at work, entrepreneurs who lead with empathy stand the best chance of maximizing their teams’ potential.
This post-pandemic business world will prioritize human capital alongside advancing technology, because millennials know that you cannot program creativity. Millennial leaders also recognize that, despite the Soylent-drinking Silicon Valley stereotype, millennials reject the old top-down mentality that professional success means working yourself to the bone while sacrificing your relationships with friends and family.
Let work stem from life.
Many who have been furloughed or shifted to remote work are spending more time with their families. And though many of us have been conditioned to view our personal lives as separate or even detracting from our professional success, true entrepreneurs know that some of our best creative ideas stem from our essential, everyday experiences.
Any entrepreneur who’s taken a work break can attest to the way their mind and body literally detox. When you’re out of the game, you have the opportunity to clear your mind and begin to operate on a more empathetic and understanding level. Learning how to access this more relaxed and benevolent mindset is absolutely key to successful entrepreneurship, because it optimizes your ability to creatively solve problems.
Learn how to recover.
If you’re always responding to challenges with anxiety or aggression, people will be much less likely to pitch creative ideas to you. They’ll be much less likely to pull you into spontaneous Zoom meetings to brainstorm if they don’t think you’re open to new, potentially disruptive ideas. Often, the only way to develop a more open and receptive leadership style is to pull yourself out of the fight and take time to relax and recover.
Using down time to establish effective recovery strategies can help you rebound stronger in your next professional pursuit. Whether through meditation, exercise, or both, taking the time to recover in the way that best clears your head and leaves you feeling the most refreshed will pay dividends now and in the future, when you’re back in the thick of work stress.
Learning how to promote your own wellbeing will not only improve the health of your personal relationships – it will also deepen the connections you build with your colleagues. And when your core team feels respected and cared for, they’ll work extra hard to take care of your customers, and your profits will take care of themselves.
Family is first, and after that, I’m all startups and business. I’ve spent 15+ years starting and building technology companies. I’m a husband, father, entrepreneur, product designer, geek, bootstrapper, and all-around nice guy. I’ve made lots of mistakes. Once in a while, I get it right. From my early days as a professional motorcycle athlete to my current position as the Founder, CEO of Assemble Technologies Inc. and TheFutureofWork.org, I’m on a mission to build a smarter way to work. And I’m just getting started!