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The SME + Startup COVID Survival Toolkit : A Tech Founder’s views on how to keep your Business running (and growing) in the face of this crisis

Facing the biggest calamity of the century demands an urgent and massive paradigm shift in how we think and operate as individuals- and Businesses. 

Unlike previous global recessions, the COVID-19 pandemic is packaged with a massive psychological impact in addition to severe financial distress. This requires a new set of “Solution-Focused Tools” that will enable SMEs and Startups to fight back effectively. Over the next few weeks I’ll share my thoughts and some real world results from all the steps we are taking with our own business - and those of our Customers’ - and what’s working so it could potentially benefit those of you in similar situations.

I believe that for any business where Technology and the ability to work remotely plays a part, it's possible to chart a reasonable survival path for all businesses (and for a smaller % to keep growing). However this can only be achieved if you can deeply tune into what your Customers, the broader ecosystem and the world needs at large. I strongly believe that those of us who achieve this synergy effectively will be able to sustain their businesses through the present phase - and actually grow them in the future.

So, how can we make this happen?

First off, it’s critical that the Leadership team takes immediate measures to adapt strategy and operational plans as per the new reality. There are a few good tips on possible measures specifically from Founders/CEOs in this article from BCG. A few things top of mind for me in this realm that are especially relevant for a startup / small biz:  

  1. Spend time creating better communication and transparency with the team so that everyone continues to feel connected and assured. At our company, we kicked off a weekly company-wide  #zoom call where the leadership team shares all the positives and negatives from the past week (including select/relevant company financials) and then everyone asks open questions, and also freely & informally shares whatever they truly want to express.It’s critical to communicate & establish to everyone that we are in this together and the leadership will stand by you all no matter what. 

  2. Do informal and personalized check-ins with ALL your customers, partners, prospects and speak to as many, as soon as possible. If there is any room to grow your relationships by helping your customers in other ways beyond your core product/service, do it now! Via several such chats over the past couple of weeks, in our own situation, we have gained crucial and non-obvious insights which is now enabling us to proactively anticipate future occurrences  as well as optimally react to the crisis. Amongst other things, we are setting up a customized, experienced volunteer Taskforce which will provide free assessments to any business on how to optimize their Business-Technology operations to survive COVID. In general, once you have the pulse of your ecosystem, update your outreach with prospects so they will be more receptive to engage. 

  3. Continue engaging with your investors and advisors closely. Make sure to keep sharing company updates with not just existing investors but a wider network with specifics around how you are handling COVID. During the past 2 recessions angel investment activity was flat to positive(never negative)! More details on the fundraising landscape in this Pitchbook report

  4. Make sure you have left no unexplored area in terms of cost control, and equally important is to line up buffer cash that can be used to weather the storm for the next few months. In our case this meant quickly raising some a carefully planned amount of Debt capital while keeping options open for an Equity raise. 

  5. Shift messaging and how you engage with customers. This must reflect in all your communication. Set up new landing pages across media to demonstrate exactly what you are doing to help customers fight the virus, here’s a great example from one of our top partners Vend.  

Over the next few weeks at ShoppinPal (SP), we will continue to share results and do our best to help as many small businesses as possible. By sticking together, sharing our learnings and giving timely help we can all get through this. Please share your comments on any specific topics that you'd like to see covered and I'll do my best to address in upcoming posts in this series.

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