Entrepreneur’s Manifesto in a time of Covid-19
My audience for this article is my fellow entrepeneurs and business owners. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know about…
My audience for this article is my fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know about the Covid-19 crisis; and if you have been living in a cave, you ought to stay there for a while longer. As entrepreneurs, we usually aren’t scientists who can work on a cure; we aren’t politicians who can directly impact public policy; we aren’t healthcare workers who can treat the sick. However, we have a disproportionate effect on society because we are leaders in our community — and this is a time that will test our mettle. I wanted to share how I’m thinking about Covid-19 and what I think each of us can do:
Be informed via evidence-based news sources. This isn’t like the usual time-wasting garbage or political crap that shows up in news daily; you have a duty to be well-informed so that you can make appropriate decisions. There’s good information about how important it is to flatten the curve, or explanations of the exponential mathematics involved. Learn how people living through the saturation of the healthcare system in Italy are warning people not to repeat their mistakes. There’s great info on how to manage social distancing from home. Go read those articles if you haven’t already.
Your first responsibility is the safety of the people who work for you and the people you interact with on a daily basis. You will have to make some decisions that are potentially unpopular and unprofitable. Each of us will need to make sacrifices. But unless your workforce and customers are safe, then you won’t have a future business — to say nothing of the fact that you won’t want to contribute to the crisis further. That means acting immediately to have your people work from home, suspending operations that bring your people into contact with the public, or even rethinking your business model entirely as the restaurant Canlis is now doing in Seattle. I realize that for many of you, your business simply isn’t privileged in such a way that you can adapt and your options are limited. It sucks; and the day may come for a reckoning around public policy, but that time isn’t yet — right now you have to protect your workforce and the public. If you need a Covid-19 policy for your business, feel free to adapt from the one we’ve used at Disruptor Beam.
Start working out new arrangements with landlords, fixed supply agreements, business partners, etc. now. Remember that these other businesses are really your business partners, and they won’t benefit if you go out of business. Start the dialog with them now to explain the impact, and whether or not it is in your contract with them, figure out how to mutually change things for your benefit. And if they aren’t reasonable, then it isn’t out of the question for you to withhold money until they become reasonable (usual disclaimer: you ought to consult with your legal advisor before acting on my thoughts here). I suspect they’re all having the same conversations on their end.
Use this time as an opportunity to rethink everything. For years we’ve been programmed to believe that in-person meetings and business travel are essential. Is it? We’ve been conditioned to expect that industrial production is just a fact of life, without looking at the benefits of limiting it. We’ve been told that destroying wildlife habitats was mostly a problem for the animals. Maybe not?
On a fundamental level, entrepreneurship is really about solving problems, scaling-up your solution, and making life better for people. This is our core competency, and this is a time that many entrepreneurs will look back upon as a time of great challenge — but also of great opportunity. We’re up to it.