For Businesses: Next Steps To Take In a Crisis!

Mike Hilton

Mike Hilton,

2020-04-10

In our current “virus economy,” many folks find themselves in the unexpected position of making big decisions in a rapidly changing environment. Entrepreneurs live in this mindset all time. As the Venture Labs team at Awesome Inc, we teach the corporate world to think like entrepreneurs, and we want to share some quick guidance to help our friends and neighbors pivot amid uncertainty.

The Opportunity

First, we want everyone to understand that it’s possible to find a path through this crisis. Though the leading circumstances were much different, we can find hope in the prominent companies that launched shortly after the 2008 financial crisis. Both AirBNB and Warby Parker trace their roots to that recession. We certainly don’t make light of the fact that folks will lose their jobs and businesses because of the virus’ impact on our world. However, despite all these awful aspects, times of crisis reveal opportunity and reward the entrepreneurial thinkers who both think creatively and can test their ideas as things change quickly.

To begin building that life raft, one must first find an idea. Notice that I didn’t say “the right idea.” At Venture Labs, we firmly believe in the potential for all ideas to have an impact, and therefore favor getting them all on the paper. We’ll worry about sorting them in a minute.

List Your Assets

To find the ideas, begin by listing all of your company’s assets, including space, materials, your customer base, and equipment. Most importantly though, it includes your single greatest asset: your people; more specifically, the brains and creativity of your people. The right ideas can come from anywhere, and who better to find them than the folks on the front lines knee-deep in the problems. Once you list your assets, look for new ways of applying those assets to solve a problem or serve a need. Again, leverage all your teammates and maybe even your best customers.

As an example, we love the approach of this movie theater in Ohio. Their entire business model got disrupted by the inability to bring people together to watch movies. After reviewing their assets, though, they realized that there’s simply no replacement for movie theater concessions. Therefore, they created a drive-through movie theater concession stand and generated some unexpected revenue.

Build-Measure-Learn

Once you find a handful or potential ideas, what you do with them can make or break your success. In traditional corporate structures, senior management whittles down the idea list to the top few that align with corporate strategy. They then build project teams and allocate budgets, charging the teams with turning the idea into reality. Unfortunately, this approach moves too slow and makes the broad assumption that the idea will work.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, employ a simple "build-measure-learn" approach that refines the idea incrementally as it launches. They find the right way to efficiently test the core of an idea, review what they learned from the test, and refine the idea based on what they learned. They then repeat this cycle over and over, gradually breathing life into the idea. This approach uses facts and data to support an idea’s growth, giving it a higher chance for success.

Despite the challenges facing you and your company amid this crisis, you can increase your likelihood of surviving by leveraging the inherent creativity of your team. Teaching them to think like entrepreneurs unlocks that energy and empowers them to test their ideas in a manageable way. Whether you work through this exercise on a choppy virtual call or simply with a blank legal pad, our team is here to help. You can reach me at mike.hilton@awesomeinc.org.