As I write this today, it’s been almost two months of full-scale disruption across the world due to Corona Virus pandemic.
As humans, we always have this tendency to believe that we can control the impact of events around us, until one day something exceptional happens and it breaks every assumption and norms, we are familiar with.
With no time to realize or sync in with the change, the world was struck with a sudden lockdown and crisis. We all were only surrounded by uncertainty and were panic stricken.
On the positive side, this period has forced everyone to slow down and focus on what’s really important at the moment. The word “essential” is clearly itched in our minds for some time to come.
At individual level, our mindless pursuit of material well-being has been replaced by our inner well-being. We are celebrating the return of fresh breathing air, clear blue skies, a fresh tinge of green in plants and trees around today.
After staying in a never thought of lockdown for more than 50 days, I thought of sharing my experiences and feelings and how I, as an entrepreneur am coping up with these uncertain times.
So, I would break this entire situation into 3 phases, which I am sure most of you would be able to relate to.
Phase 1: Chaos
This crisis created a chaos which forced us to think about what the essential elements for our business are. Does it matter how fancy our offices are, or how big the lunch or dinner is for a client? So, we started looking at three core essentials.
a) Our Product – What problem are you solving as a business and is it relevant in today’s time? At the same time will it be relevant for the coming future?
We started looking at it by asking the basic fundamental question – If we have to start the business all over again today, what part of business we would like to build? This analysis really helped us figure out what’s essential for us as a product/offering and business model? Apart from above, some open-ended questions helped us reimagine the future roadmap of product.
1. What are we currently not doing for our customers?
2. What are the needs of the customers for which there are no solutions?
3. Which areas of our existing customers are growing?
b) Our people – Removing all the fringe around people we had built over the years, it’s really “them” which has become the most important aspect now. If organisations want employees to do and deliver more, then employees must feel valued as people. That’s especially critical when health concerns intersect with work responsibilities. Guarding my most critical asset—my employees—both physically and mentally is my top priority now.
c) Our Customer – What is essential with the customer right now? Empathy, ability to listen and be a 2 AM friend to your customer. Flexibility to find ways to sail together in these difficult times.
We realised that hard selling can boomerang. Companies are already facing tough time. It was important to take care of the loyal clients and invest in them more. We decided to use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them and build more trust.
Phase 2: Stabilisation
With the teams settling to the new working conditions and adapting to virtual collaboration, we focused on the things that we as a businesses can and can’t do. We knew this is going to be the new normal and we had to develop well thought out contingencies and new approaches.
a) Not to keep head in the sand:
Financially, we immediately prepared ourselves for the plan A (worst case) and Plan B (optimistic case) and Plan C ( aggressive) . We started with Plan A. Whatever cost optimisation was needed was done quickly. We decided the focus areas based on whatever signals we were getting. Almost daily monitoring of situation helped us move switch from Plan A to Plan B and finally to Plan C quickly.
b) Spark the team spirit and keep moving together:
We created focused group of people handling different areas of organisation and had discussions with them on daily/weekly basis. We have started a lot of initiatives for learning new skills which can be anything apart from work. Learning a new language, cooking, photography anything…that you craved to do all this while. Trust me, I have seen a tremendous improvement in my team’s productivity and efficiency. They are more accountable and responsible towards their work and that has led us to witness some significant success even in these times.
c) Be human. Be helpful. Show solidarity. Mindful marketing: It is high time that we come out of the notion of business as usual. This is the time when we are doing “business unusual”, and it’s likely to be that way for some time. We reoriented our sales team not to be 2AM friends to our customer, not to hard sell but empathise. We checked with our clients and partner if they need any help. Help them in whatever way you can. It’s was and still is important to keep your name out there, but make sure you’re not being tone-deaf.
Phase 3: Realisation
Now, this is the current phase I am in, and it is truly an exciting phase for me as an entrepreneur and for us a company. With the help of our customers, partners and my team, we have got a fair idea of where the businesses will begin to focus. Ours being a enterprise SAAS product over cloud, has done wonders for companies adapting to the new working culture. We have a huge growth in the month of April and it’s continuing. We have been able to clear significant product backlog with some really exciting new features. We are upgrading our data centres to be ready for increasing load. At the same time, we have started our new DC in Singapore. We have on-boarded middle management in key areas of pre-sales and customer support. Overall, lots happening.
We are also mindful of the fact that crisis is not over. Situation across the world is still fluid. It’s difficult to predict the future at this moment. So, we have to be on our toes for some time to come. We have to be agile and adapt to the situation. But last two months have given immense learning as a business and personally as an entrepreneur.
I read this quote somewhere, and it’s truly what I believe in now – ‘Out of constraints comes creativity, out of chaos comes growth, out of fear comes success’.