Magdalena Pawłowska

Why building resilience is critical for startups in a downturn?

3 strategies to implement

Startups can be particularly vulnerable to economic downturns, with many facing significant challenges and struggles during these periods. Building resilience in your startup can help you weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side. This post will explore some strategies for building resilience in startups during economic downturns.

The COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine serves as an example of how external forces can impact businesses. Startups that had built pliancy into their business models were more likely to survive the crisis, while those that had not struggled to stay afloat.

So, how can startups build resilience into their business model during a downturn? You may want to consider:

  • Cut costs strategically by renegotiating contracts, reducing headcount, or cutting unnecessary expenses to improve financial position & optimize operations by streamlining processes, automating tasks, or adopting new technologies to reduce costs and improve competitiveness.
  • Diversify revenue streams by expanding into new markets, launching new products or services, or exploring new distribution channels to create a more sustainable business model.
  • Build a strong team with diverse skill sets, ongoing training, and a culture of resilience.

It's important to remember that building resilience is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and innovation. By staying agile and adaptable, startups can emerge stronger and more competitive when the market recovers.

Cost-cutting and optimizing processes in startups during a downturn
One key strategy for building resilience is optimizing operations. In times of economic hardship, you need to be efficient and productive to make the most of the resources you have. This can be achieved by streamlining processes, automating tasks, and adopting new technologies. By doing so, you can reduce your startup’s costs and improve its competitiveness.

There are many specific processes that can be automated in a startup, including:

  • Invoicing and billing: Using invoicing software you can save time and money on manual invoicing processes, and help ensure accuracy and timely payments.
  • Social media management: Social media automation tools can help you schedule posts, track engagement metrics, and manage multiple accounts more efficiently.
  • Inventory management: Inventory management software can automate your tasks such as tracking stock levels, reordering products, and generating reports, improving accuracy and reducing manual labor.
  • Customer support: Chatbots and other automation tools can help you handle routine customer inquiries, freeing up customer support teams to handle more complex issues.

Adopting new technologies can also help in optimizing operations. For example, software solutions that automate accounting and financial reporting can help reduce the time and costs associated with these tasks. Similarly, implementing customer relationship management (CRM) software can help with managing sales and marketing efforts more effectively.

Ultimately, optimizing operations is about being efficient with resources and maximizing productivity. By doing so, you can improve your bottom line and become more resilient to economic downturns.

Diversifying revenue streams to build resilience in startups

Relying on a single source of revenue can make your startup vulnerable when the economy is not in your favor. So diversification can help you mitigate risk and ensure long-term growth. Of course, building additional revenue streams is possible when you have already built a steady stream of revenues from your core product and you have confirmed product-market fit. Typically the right moment to start diversifying your revenue streams is at the end of seed or from the round A stage.

There are many ways you can diversify revenue streams in your startup. Here are a few most popular examples:

  • Product extensions: You can develop new products or services that complement their existing offerings. This can help attract new customers and generate additional revenue streams. For instance, a company that offers a software solution for data analysis could extend its product line to include related services such as data cleaning or additional reporting modules.
  • Subscription models: Subscription-based revenue models can provide you with a predictable, recurring revenue stream. This could be a monthly or yearly subscription to access a software platform or service. VCs prefer monthly subscriptions as they are more foreseeable and easier to present growth.
  • Licensing or franchising: You can license your products or services to other companies or franchise their business model. This can help generate revenue through royalties or fees. Of course, this type of additional revenue will not be available for all types of businesses.
  • Partnerships: Partnering with other companies can provide new revenue streams by offering complementary products or services. For instance, a software company that offers an e-commerce platform could partner with a payment processor to provide a more comprehensive solution.

Diversifying revenue streams can also help you adapt to changing market conditions. If one revenue stream becomes less profitable or less viable, other revenue streams can help offset the loss. Furthermore, diversification can help you expand into new markets and reach new customers, providing opportunities for growth and increased revenue.

Building resilience in a startup's business model involves more than just cutting costs and optimizing operations. Diversifying revenue streams is a key strategy for ensuring long-term success.

Building a strong, complex, and diverse team – is the most important thing you can and should do

It is a truth in saying that a great team will succeed even if the product/service is not the best in the world. But when a team is not brilliant, you may have the best product/service and won’t be successful.

I've seen many startups come and go over the past years. One of the key factors that separate the successful from the unsuccessful ones is the strength of their team. In my experience, building a strong team with diverse skill sets is essential to building a resilient startup. Especially when there is no traction or no product yet, the team is what we invest in.

Firstly, it's critical to have a diverse team, encompassing not just gender, race, and ethnicity, but also a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. With a team possessing a range of perspectives and expertise, complex challenges can be approached with more creativity and innovation, and potential risks and opportunities that might otherwise be missed can be identified.

Secondly, ensuring ongoing training is in place is crucial for a team to remain up-to-date with industry trends, new technologies, and evolving best practices. Employee development should be invested in, and a culture that values continuous learning should be fostered. This will not only keep the team sharp and adaptable, but it will also show potential investors that you're committed to staying ahead of the curve.

Finally, it's essential to cultivate a culture of resilience to navigate the inevitable challenges and setbacks when building a startup. A mindset of problem-solving, risk-taking, and persistence should be instilled among team members. Additionally, it's important to foster a supportive and inclusive workplace where team members feel empowered to take ownership of their work and collaborate effectively with others.

Ultimately, building a resilient startup is about creating a team that can adapt, learn, and thrives in the face of uncertainty and change. This requires careful planning and intentional investment in your team's development and well-being. It's not just about hiring the best people, but about creating an environment where those people can grow and succeed together.

Building resilience into a startup's business model, especially during a downturn is one of the most important elements of development strategy. Resilient startups are better equipped to weather economic shocks and emerge stronger from challenging times.

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