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Strategies for startup entrepreneurs – Keeping your business alive through COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus continues to wreck havoc on international markets, presenting entrepreneurs with a dire economic outlook and growing set of challenges. To survive this storm, entrepreneurs must take immediate steps to secure their business and to guide their teams through these difficult times.

Please share your own thoughts and ideas so we can update this post as a resource for entrepreneurs across the continent.

The reality is that we are facing a financial crisis before we fully understand the implications of the health crisis. The situation continues to develop meaning it is not possible to know how long this tunnel will be. That we are dealing with a unique situation that will negatively impact business is clear.

Here are a few tips and strategies for the weeks ahead.

  • Take care of your staff. Make sure people don’t have to travel or move around more than necessary. If it’s possible to have people work from home, make this happen. Realize that your team might require also emotional support these weeks, and are dealing with higher levels of stress as they try to take care of their family and friends. Productivity drops as people scramble to adjust. Bring your team together (virtually if possible) to discuss how to do this best. Make plans and implement accordingly.
  • Assess your market. There is no industry not impacted by COVID-19. In many cases complete industries have come to a standstill. Take time to assess how the markets are changing, how industries are adapting across the world, and what this could mean for your own business. The situation requires you to look into the future e.g. not what the situation is today but what will the situation possibly look like tomorrow…. and the day after? The more you can prepare the better.
  • Liquidity is king. Cash cash cash. Know your runway. How many months can you keep the business operational before you would be forced to close shop? Think through the scenarios e.g. what is the point your company has to reach before you act on additional mitigation strategies? Where can you control costs and at what point do you have to consider letting people go? The more you can secure your cash the better. Only the companies with sufficient liquidity are going to survive. The tricky part is that it’s unfortunately, at the time of writing this blog post, not possible to know when the situation will pass.
  • Double down. There are many things to distract you as a founder these days. Don’t lose focus on the activities and clients that pay the bills. Make sure your customer service is the best possible and don’t give anyone reason to cut their business ties. Keep focused on your pipeline (will clients, projects and deals be impacted in the weeks to come?) and follow up diligently on your receivables. You have to keep the business moving.
  • Communicate aggressively. Communicate, communicate, communicate. With your staff, with your partners, with your investors, clients and customers. Let them know what the business is doing as a response to the situation. Keep your stakeholders informed and keep a high-level of engagement so people are not surprised by your decisions or changes in strategy or approach. Also understand your company is there to offer support to others. What can you do to help people through this crisis?
  • Unlock opportunity. Many ventures part of the VC4A network are well positioned to thrive during such a crisis. They are designed to be resilient, are smart and innovative in their approach, and already thrive in circumstances where most ventures would fail. Also now, there are real needs across all spectrums of the economy. How does your company create value for people and institutions during such a situation? How can you be part of the solution? There will be winners and some companies will show their true ability to thrive when this is all said and done.
  • Take care. Nobody can say what will happen the coming weeks or months. As a founder, the stress is real. Make sure you take care of yourself. Recognize that people around you are experiencing the same thing and let’s reach out to one another to offer our support.

 

Resources:

Map your startup risks using the Corona Canvas – Business Buddies

Maintaining team culture in the time of COVID-19 – Shortlist

10 commandments for remote workers – Andela

Antifragility in the Africa focused entrepreneurial ecosystem – EchoVC

Tackling COVID-19 in Africa – Mckinsey

What are some of the other resources and strategies you would recommend to founders trying to navigate their way through COVID 19? Please share your views on twitter while mentioning @vc4africa and we can get them added into this post.