Written by Abdulla Al-Fadhala, co-founder of hapondo
When thinking about the risks associated with starting a new company, I’m pretty sure most entrepreneurs would not rate a global pandemic as one of the top risks facing his/her new business. But here we are – caught in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted almost everyone country in the world. Being an entrepreneur in these uncertain times has been thought-provoking; while my first concern is about the health and safety of my loved ones, myself, and my community, I am also thinking about the future of my business.
I am a co-founder of hapondo, an online real-estate rental platform that seeks to redefine the way people in Qatar search for a new home to rent. We launched our platform in the beginning of March, and by then the COVID-19 situation was becoming a bigger threat each day. My partners and I have had many discussions to see how this will impact hapondo. While we knew that the situation was serious, and the health and well-being of our communities was priority, we also knew that it was very important for us to understand the impact COVID-19 would have on our operations.
My partners and I have been meeting regularly to monitor the situation, and we wanted to provide some insight into our discussions. Based off our experience, here are some tips we can provide to startups in these uncertain times:
1. Stay positive
While the situation facing the world right now is quite dark, it is important to remain optimistic, both at a personal level and at a business level! We have seen communities unite, and businesses offering support to their customers. Revisit your marketing activities and include messages of positivity to show your clients and customers that you care.
2. Check in with your clients/customers
See how they are doing and how they are handling the situation. Also, inquire about what changes in operations they are experiencing – are they working from home? Do they use Zoom for meetings? Always keep the lines of communication open.
3. Never underestimate the importance of risk management and business continuity plans.
We are a small operation, but this situation has really made us think about how we are assessing, evaluating, and mitigating our risks. Like most startups (and businesses!), we don’t have extra cash laying around to help solve problems caused by poor risk management. No matter how small your operations, always discuss business continuity plans within your management teams
4. Be transparent with all your employees of potential difficult times ahead.
If you have employees working for you, communicate openly with them if there will be lay-offs, unpaid leaves, or changes to operations. You owe this to your team.
5. Brainstorm different outcomes for how this situation will play out.
For the COVID-19 situation, for example, we know that it will take some months to slow the spread of the virus. The economic recovery of this global slowdown will last for time, depending how the situations evolve in the next few weeks. Based off the different outcomes, make viable models for potential business operation plans.
6. Build connections with other entrepreneurs and startups in your area.
Collaborate, learn, share stories. Having a support system is important, and there is so much knowledge transfer that can happen just by learning from others. You can also find out about unique solutions other companies are implementing by hearing from them.
7. With uncertainty comes opportunity.
The world is still coming to grips with the impact this is having on our daily lives. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 situation will change how we see things. There will be new opportunities in every sector and every field. We are already seeing how companies that offer remote conferencing services are doing so well. Kids are taking their classes through e-learning. People are working out following live videos or apps. Use this time as an opportunity to see how your business can adapt to take advantage of the changes we will see. It may also be the time to start thinking of new opportunities!