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A short business narrative (of a 3 min read) that sets the context, challenge(s) faced, the type of leadership involved and the questions to ponder about, to solve the issues. This column is to provoke the reader to think more. And to sensitise that each individual or organisation are unique, and the answers would depend on the situation, difference in organisational culture, context, etc.
To question, is to think.
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To think, is to introspect.
To introspect, is to seek.
To seek, is to be aware.
To be aware, is when the journey begins.Don’t get carried away by the glitzy and glamorous headlines in the media and social media. What one reads is the outcome called valuations/funding etc.
What one does not read is that probably for every successfully mentioned startup, there are 25,000 entrepreneurs who have failed or struggling to stay afloat or to prove their concept or potential. And with or without external investor funding support.
Now, with a slowdown in funding space, and with decreasing business margins, how does one stay competitive? How do you attract talent when good talent seems to keep moving to different platforms for higher financial rewards?
Startups do go through tough times. Some steer through them with grit and determination. Many fail, despite their efforts. Funding drying up is only one part of the issue. Hopefully, many of the startups will relearn some of their own past lessons, and learn from others, to survive the toughest times.
When everyone hears negative news all around, and they expect you to be worse off, it’s time to communicate proactively, and very actively.
Talk to your internal teams.
Talk to your supply chain partners.
Talk to your clients.
Talk to your investors.
Talk to whoever is significant and relevant to your business sustenance.
Talk to your family.
Talk to your regulators, if you have any.
Stay grounded. Convey the truth. Use factual data and not projections alone. Don’t give lofty promises.
Cut costs, not investments
Time to trim the flab, but not the relevant investments.
Simply put, investments are today’s expense for tomorrow’s (potential) revenues. It can be in talent, technology, consumer acquisition, process strengthening, etc.
Distinguish every spend from this perspective.
Relook at your personal lifestyle
More higher-decibel that you are as a founder or CXO, more public scrutiny and investor expectation your lifestyle would come under.
You cannot argue that it’s personal expenses. Every action or inaction of yours is bound to be interpreted or analysed. Be normal and be sincere.
Relook at your consumer acquisition costs
Assess the spending effectiveness & channels adopted to acquire consumers. Get your solution pitch sharper. Try to get consumers on board, even if few pay you less than the costs. Get the market to notice, attempt, and experiment with your products. Use consumer testimonials and product trials.
Marketing & branding
Increase marketing budgets (by trimming another spending), only if your strategic plan is working and you are able to acquire consumers faster than before. Meanwhile, you have to ensure that you can serve them efficiently and well. Else the spending would be wasted.
Focus on building the business
Get some quick business wins from low-hanging fruits. Celebrate every small victory with the team. Small steps can also send a larger positivity across the system.
Few founders have this obsession with media coverage and social media presence. Be careful with it.
In a crisis time, you need to be proactive and upfront with that outreach. If you really did not have any personal/professional rapport with the media, it would show!
Stay away from public statements, except those which are necessary. Focus on your business.
Reply to every consumer email or call
This is the time to increase your touch points and time with the consumers (existing & potential). Redesign or improve your consumer processes. If you don’t communicate, consumers might start believing any negative gossip about your brand.
Focus on personal health
Worrying times could add to junk calories, stress, depression and more. If you are not physically, mentally and emotionally fit, you cannot hope to last a crisis. Invest some time daily to work on a healthier you. It requires scheduling time and switching off from everything while you do it. Even a 20 min brisk walk could be a start.
Tough times don’t last forever. But tough leaders do overcome those testing times and struggles.
– The author, Srinath Sridharan is a Corporate Adviser and Independent Markets Commentator. For other articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.