There’s no doubt that the current climate is challenging and uncertain. The level of financial market volatility has not been seen since moments of peak panic during the Financial Crisis in 20081. At the same time, the pandemic virus COVID-19 is bringing the term “social distancing” into the common lexicon. Companies of all sizes are instituting remote and work-from-home models in attempts to keep employees and their families safe and secure, prevent further spread of the virus and push to maintain business as usual as much as possible. In times like these, it’s important for everyone in the world to adopt the notion of being resilient.

For founders, the notion of resilience is nothing new, and is often an innate strength. Defined, resilience means “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” No one would argue that this definition is often what the life of a founder is all about: having the toughness, grit and determination to recover quickly from challenges or setbacks. Whether those challenges come from within or are brought on by external factors, a founder’s resilience is a key strength that enables them to drive to future success.

resilience definitionIn times like this, resilience is the key to ensuring that everyone – including founders – can not only manage and lead through the current environment, but also help prepare themselves and their firms for the recovery that lies ahead. 

Acknowledge the current situation

Maybe you’re in the middle of fundraising or working through an enterprise contract for a client. Whatever you’re doing, take a moment to acknowledge the current situation with everyone you are interacting with, and articulate your willingness to adapt and be flexible as you work together. Offer to move scheduled meetings out a few weeks. Be willing to defer that next pitch a month or so if you have to. Acknowledging that people may be distracted with current events will go a long way in building personal and professional credibility.

Prepare your team

As a founder, leading your team through challenging times is often part of the job responsibilities. Yet we all know this time things are different, and there was no true way to plan for what we are experiencing. Your team is likely working remote; prospects and clients are less engaged, maybe even non-responsive, and face-to-face conversations that are critical to landing the enterprise deal or closing on a financing round may not be in the cards or on the schedule you wanted. It’s important to find ways to prepare your team for this and continuously motivate them to focus on elements they can control and be excited about, even in the face of the current environment. Authenticity and transparent communication with your team will be critical in preparing them for the challenges that lie ahead, but it’s equally important to have their support in return as everyone navigates this uncertain journey together.

Lean on your strengths

As founders, you are always balancing near-term objectives while managing the business for the longer term. Leverage your team’s strengths to help perform well through the current uncertainty and thrive in the future. These strengths might be your communication, execution excellence, creativity or teamwork. Use those strengths to help your team see its way through the obstacles and be ready to take advantage of opportunities once the turmoil is over. Look to make smart adjustments to your business where necessary to ensure you are well positioned to capture the long-term opportunities as the landscape changes. 

The ability to maintain a positive mindset and overcome obstacles is the very essence of what it means to be a founder.

Keep charging ahead

Don’t let today’s uncertainty cause you to lose sight of your company’s mission and what you’re trying to accomplish long-term. Engage those in your network who can help reinforce your vision, or who can provide insights into how decision-makers are thinking to ensure you’re best prepared for your virtual conversations. Uncertainty can certainly bring on feelings of anxiousness or fear, but use it as an opportunity to think about or do things differently. Take another look at your to-do list and be open to re-prioritizing. Make sure you stay on top of any opportunities that are promising and closest to a decision — both in prospect and fundraising conversations. That day you planned to travel to an in-person meeting? Now it’s an opportunity to connect with those people virtually and – bonus – add other meetings or tasks to your day. In-person event cancelled? Embrace efficient digital approaches and host a webinar that can reach hundreds across the country!

In our current climate, resilience is more important than ever. Navigating this uncertainty is a challenge, but the ability to maintain a positive mindset and overcome obstacles is the very essence of what it means to be a founder. Focus on elements in your control, lean on your strengths and team and keep moving toward your long-term goals.

Legal Note

(1) https://seekingalpha.com/article/4332476-market-volatility-bulletin-vix-futures-curve-offers-signs-of-hope-down-road

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SEI Ventures team: Russ Kliman and Jennifer Ciotti