5 Key Learnings for Entrepreneurs from the COVID-19 Crisis

Entrepreneurs Erick Alvarez and Sean Smutny share that managing a crisis is easier when you stay put, pay close attention, and reassess your growth strategy

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By Julian Lim

Julian Lim
Erick Alvarez and Sean Smutny

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It's been almost a year since COVID-19 hit the globe and affected various industries and businesses as we know it. Most entrepreneurial enterprises—high-grounds of courage, potential, and creativity—had their backs against the wall, pushed to make harsh decisions and strategic overhauls. As we look forward to emerging out of the pandemic to reclaim the lost ground, entrepreneurs Erick Alvarez (CEO and founder of Big Clout Media) and Sean Smutny (Co-Founder of Truth Enterprises) share critical learnings from the current crisis and few actionable insights to grow amidst adversity.

Prepare for a crisis

Alvarez shared that crises are inevitable in entrepreneurship; they're bound to hit a business in one form or another. As long as entrepreneurs keep that in mind, it'll always keep them in good stead. In terms of what actions to take, well, it would be keeping up with the changing trends. "I believe that staying updated keeps you ahead, not only from your competition but also gives your business as much stability and preparedness to handle challenging times better than others," he added.

Smutny shares a different yet equally important perspective, "I truly believe that entrepreneurs must not press the panic button too soon. As Erick said, they can be prepared for the crisis, but since it might not always be possible to know the nature of the crisis and the perimeter of its ripple effect (as COVID has shown), entrepreneurs should not lose themselves in setting up apocalypse bunkers, so to speak, and forget to focus on the task at hand." It's better to handle one day at a time as it's the little achievements of each day and a growing sense of resilience that helps keep sanity when a crisis hits the shores.

Go digital

COVID-19 brought the shutters down on the world's markets. "The rise of digital from e-commerce to social media to health, education, and work has been paramount. While it is important to have a brick and mortar office for most businesses, online has become indispensable in the present and the future," stated Alvarez.

Diversify offerings

According to Smutny, entrepreneurs are a passionate breed. They like to invest all they have in whatever idea or company they happen to be engaged with at a given time. This is a risk to their versatility. Most entrepreneurs start as multi-taskers. However, with time they often end up getting busy with only the growth or diversification aspect of their business. With COVID-19, it has become clear to me that having expertise in more than one industry is definitely a key takeaway, he added.

Develop a strong mindset

"The deeper the abyss, the brighter the light," Alvarez finds this quote very useful and practical. "There's always a way out. Looking for that way is also the best way to keep panic at bay. It's a way of directing your energies towards finding a solution out of a crisis instead of pulling your hair out due to crisis-imbued anxiety," elaborates Alvarez.

"I completely agree with Erick. To add to what he said, I would recommend assessing the situation for what it is without sugarcoats. It will also be helpful if, at this juncture, you have a core communication team that would help you prepare strategies to share sensitive information with your employees during such a time and work towards common goals as a strong team," adds Smutny.

A viable growth strategy

Erick believes that to overcome a market Armageddon-like COVID-19, businesses must assess their current situation, brush-up their marketing strategy, and formulate a plan, and more importantly, know at what pace they need to pick-up things.

Smutny adds, "Perhaps exploring new opportunities and identifying growth pockets where your skills can make a difference is one of the growth strategies you should not miss. While some companies have performed worst during the pandemic, others have taken advantage by venturing out of their regular zones."

A crisis can be a time of introspection and contemplation. It can help us look at our business from a distance. And while this reassessment will bring a business's hidden issues to the fore, it will also pull along its dormant potential. This combination of problems and potential can help businesses not just survive but thrive during a crisis.

Julian Lim

Tech entrepreneur, researcher and editor at Startup Fortune

Julian Lim is a technology entrepreneur and researcher. Julian has graduated from NUS in intelligent systems and started his career pursuing data analytics and research. He’s also an editor and senior writer at Startup Fortune, covering technology, startups, AI, blockchain and entrepreneurship.

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