UPDATE: This startup post was first published on 14 September 2020 and updated on 2 August 2021.
The ongoing pandemic has shown us what is absolutely essential, and what goes beyond our basic needs. It has also shown us which startups are likely to thrive in the post-COVID world, and which may need major overhauls.
While the world has been changing at a rapid pace, our needs haven’t.
What’s different now is the way those needs are fulfilled, due to the restrictions many of us have to observe in our daily lives.
Signs of hope and challenge
The suddenness of the COVID-19 resurgence has caused some territories to restart relief efforts, including one-off payments to affected small and medium businesses.
If the first wave taught us anything, it's that startups can actually thrive in all market conditions, although they may need to redefine their structures.
Now is the time to strategize, so we can once again adapt to the changes caused by the Delta variant. Let’s have a look at some ways a small business or entrepreneur can redefine the startup ecosystem.
1. Reset your mindset
Given the return of lockdowns, all our preconceived notions have to be thrown out of the window. It’s time for a hard reset of your mindset.
Let go of the old things you were planning before two weeks ago.
Depending on your business niche, you may be able to find a solution in the problem itself. For example, a personal trainer might not be able to provide services in person, but it can be done through video conferencing. Read the stories of how three entrepreneurs quickly pivoted online due to 2020 lockdowns.
As they will tell you, all it requires is opening your mind to new ways of delivering your product or service.
Before you take any step, reassess your business. This is not because of the pandemic, but because you need a clear plan of action. If you don’t know the points to improve on, you’d never be able to improve them. And you may have to redefine what is essential.
With a startup, assessment or reassessment at each stage makes it easier to stay on course.
Anticipating a situation before it happens is one useful outcome of regular business assessments. That way, you can have systems in place to help you counteract any negative situations that might arise.
We reimagine our goals and ambitions daily, except we often do it unconsciously. But when you are trying to implement it in your business, you need to do it consciously. Never be afraid of roadblocks or changes.
A great way to stay up-to-date is to study the trends, and keep an eye on your competitors.
How do you think the a period of confinement will affect your business? What needs to change to continue providing your service or product? These are some of the questions that can help you reimagine the whole idea.
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One of the most important strategy exercises that entrepreneurs can perform is to compare the present form of the startup with their initial vision. For a second, let go of all the details of the business — money, customers, systems and processes.
Close your eyes, and check out the overview of your present business. Does it match with your vision? Chances are, you will find some common points. If that is the case, you will be able to pivot, even during extreme conditions.
However, if there is no common point between your vision when you started and the present scenario, it is time to rethink your business and its implementation. Here, you have two choices: fix what’s broken or start something new.
Assuming you have found a few things you want to change, it’s time to actually make the changes. Due to the nature of the pandemic, cutting down on financial costs will likely be one of them. Let’s see how you can do that.
Rethink your expenses
If you have discretionary expenses, cutting those would be a good first step. For example, ending or renegotiating your contracts on leased equipment that isn't in use.
Look around you, and see what you can live without for a few months. And, then let go of that.
Redeploy your assets
Instead of firing your employees or offering them pay cuts, think of how else you can use their skills. Revenue generation is something every startup needs at all times.
If you have a sales team, make sure you’re using the team’s skills optimally.
On the other hand, if you have administrative staff with reduced hours, offer them other options based on your business model. Rather than letting go of these experienced people, try to redeploy them. This will save you training down the track.
Find new sources of revenue
To stay afloat, all startups must regularly look for new sources of revenue. If you are hitting a roadblock, hiring a business strategist and consultant would be a good option. That way, you also get an unbiased view of your business systems and the changes needed.
Seek out pitching opportunities — especially those that deliver your product or service in a novel way or to a different audience — and teach your team how to explore these avenues. At the end of the day, your strategy matters more than your implementation for a sustained and continuous revenue generation method.
The way forward for startups
When it comes to business solutions, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. However, the steps of assessing, identifying, imagining and thinking will help you to understand where your business is. It’ll also help you to plan out a course of action to not just survive, but thrive.
Keeping a customer-centric mindset and doing your best to keep your team, would help you go a long way to stay afloat in this unique time.