Disaster ahead? Do the work.

14 days ago

Running a startup business is far from a walk in the park. The road is bumpy and there seems to be a crisis around every corner. How to handle a crisis effectively without losing speed and respect? Just do the work.

Disaster ahead? Do the work.

Crisis emerges in all companies now and then. The big difference in a small startup is the lack of margins. The team consists of maybe less than five people, every single penny is counted and treated as gold nuggets, and every new routine or internal process has to be created from scratch. Their existence is in other words – extremely vulnerable. 

This means that common company challenges can be a matter of life and death for a startup. Critical scenarios can for example be if a person with a key role quits and worse – makes others follow, or if the runway suddenly shortens to days or if really bad technical issues hit until then happy customers. The team is sweating as if they were working in a sauna, the good night's sleep is definitely over and panic is spreading. What is the best way to handle a situation like this?

The emergency nurse is a role model

Most of us aren’t emergency nurses or doctors, but we can learn from their approach to a crisis. They keep calm, follow their checklist 1 - 2 - 3 and focus on solving the problem. No emotional reactions and no questions about how this could happen. It’s impressive. As a leader, it’s important that you try to keep your panic in check, or at least within your closest management team. The co-workers may not be as good as you to handle the unsettling situation and rumors can spread.

Act without delay

Depending on your organizational situation, reach out to someone you trust, for example a mentor, an investor or a good friend, or gather your closest team. Do not wait. Putting off until tomorrow is the worst choice. Take the bull by the horns and start outlining the alternatives and the consequences. Create an action list, allocate the tasks and make sure to act quickly. An action list usually makes everyone feel a little lighter. What embarrassing phone calls do we have to make? What darlings do we have to kill? And what tough decisions have to be communicated? Time to get to work.

Skip the seek for the guilty party 

In the middle of a crisis there shouldn't be any discussions about how this could happen or who’s to be blamed. That’s to waste precious energy on something that you can handle at the end of the dark funnel. If it’s you yourself, be transparent to keep the respect. Professionalism and 100% focus on problem-solving is crucial. 

Part of the game

Crisis occur and crisis have to be solved. That’s part of the startup game. Nice and smooth periods will suddenly turn into smaller or bigger disasters. Accept it, learn to handle it. Just do the work – without delay.

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