In many ways, you have greater access to resources for creating your own startup than almost any other time in history. The rise of the digital age has helped to ensure that you can survey the nuances of markets you consider entering, learn from industry leaders, and reach a worldwide audience. That’s not to say there aren’t obstacles, of course. One of these as of late has been the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the pressing concerns for any entrepreneur this year has been how the alarming economic downturn could impact operations and plans. The World Economic Forum reported that the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) during COVID-19 dropped at a 32.9% annualized rate; the biggest fall on record.
However, those considering starting a new enterprise at this time have the advantage of being able to design their new venture from the outset with our current climate in mind. If you use the right approach, this could prove to be a great time to start a new business.
With this in mind, we’re going to take a closer look at some areas of focus you’ll need to take into consideration. How can you use COVID-specific challenges to help your business succeed in the long term? What resources are available that can assist you along the way?
Adjusting Your Demographic
You may have already had a plan for your new enterprise in mind for quite some time now. However, this year has been one not just of obstacles, but also great change. This means that the needs and priorities of your identified demographic may well have altered. It’s important now to gain a deeper understanding of what your burgeoning business has to offer through the lens of a post-COVID world, and make adjustments accordingly.
From a purely practical standpoint, this pandemic has encouraged a greater adoption of online services. Those consumers who may have favored in-person shopping experiences are starting to discover the benefits not just of e-commerce, but also the sheer breadth of services that are available online — from entertainment to e-learning. But there have also been surprises here.
While once people had a tendency to use online services via their smartphones, audiences have recently moved away from their small screens. A recent analysis suggests that consumer behavior in the wake of COVID shows a new preference for the larger screens of computers — they’re therefore less likely to utilize mobile apps.
This kind of change can be disruptive to any business. Discover not just what technology consumers use, but how they use it, and how this demonstrates what is important to them. The more you can learn about your demographic now, the better you’ll be able to make sure your activities are relevant to your demographic in a holistic way.
Creating Your Team
Our post COVID-19 world presents challenges in finding the best employees for your startup team. The sharp rise in unemployment may cause some employees to seek stability, and be reluctant to take a chance on an unproven company. That said, the pandemic has had a positive change on the working landscape somewhat.
Since the onset of lockdowns across the planet, remote working has become a familiar feature across a wide range of industries. In fact, many businesses have begun to recognize that this approach has distinct benefits — including lower overheads and access to a diverse global talent pool — and have decided to make it permanent. In starting your business now, you have the advantage of building remote work into the bones of your company, rather than struggling to adapt to it as the result of a crisis.
In order to ensure your remote operations are successful, it’s important to implement the following:
- Utilize remote-working job sites to source employees with experience in distance working. Some — AngelList and Startupers among them — are specifically geared toward startups.
- Put strong workplace policies into effect. Though your employees may not be in the same office as you, it’s important to ensure that your standards are put into practice. Create a policy handbook or document that clearly outlines your requirements — include everything from data and privacy to harassment. Make it obvious from the outset that you have strict expectations for their conduct.
- Research the most appropriate remote tools for your business, and standardize these across all employees wherever they are in the world. Make certain everyone has access to the same project management software, and are able to share any documents via company cloud accounts. By implementing consistency here, you can prevent inefficiency.
Telling Your Story
One of the challenges for any startup is being heard above the noise. While COVID-19 may have had a negative effect on many business stories, it has resulted in a certain clarity about what both consumers and potential employees are paying attention to. This can help you better understand how to tell your story in a way that makes for meaningful engagements with today’s audience.
Safety is a key topic at the moment. Since the pandemic began, consumers are taking additional steps to maintain their health. They want to know that business owners are taking responsibility, and doing everything possible to ensure their wellbeing. Use your social media channels and website to create content that shows how you have designed your business from the ground up to ensure customer and employee safety. Don’t make this a static piece of marketing. Create regular updates, demonstrating your ongoing commitment of care.
One issue that has rightly been pulled into sharp focus of late is workplace diversity. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin is illegal, and you should become familiar with the legal rights of employees in order to ensure that you are acting ethically at all times.
But simply sticking to the law is not enough. Make your efforts to create a genuinely diverse and ethical business part of your story. Reach out using social channels to start a dialogue with the community. Seek their feedback on how you can make meaningful efforts from the ground up. This helps to engender a trust and honesty that should be the blueprint for everything you do.
Starting a new business is always challenging, and COVID-19 has thrown up some additional obstacles for entrepreneurs. By building your business with a post-pandemic mentality, you can start on positive footing. Take time to understand the changing needs of your demographic, implement a remote team, and tell your story in a way that resonates with the expectations of consumers and employees alike.