If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that businesses often operate in a landscape of uncertainty. So how can business owners and startup founders keep investing in their companies, taking risks and moving forward, when they don’t know what is around the corner?

Ruwin Perera

:Different co-founder

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Facebook

For starters, nothing is ever set in stone, regardless of the external environment.

We know the vast majority of startups will fail, even in a good climate, so if you are not comfortable with this level of risk, don’t launch a startup.

For those up for the challenge, success hinges on how quickly your company can learn, solve problems and capitalise on opportunities. While all this external uncertainty creates more problems, it also creates more opportunities. And the startups that can quickly grasp these opportunities will thrive.

We saw this post-GFC, with entirely new industries and great startups created during a time of upheaval.

Startups need to take hold of these opportunities, and continue to invest in their businesses. Now is the perfect time to be investing.

Many businesses will tread carefully. But for those that continue to invest — in their customers, people, products and services — will be better placed to win and gain a competitive edge.

It’s the approach we’ve taken with :Different this year, and it has helped us double in size.

All in all, I’d say don’t be afraid to take risks, move quickly, and continue to invest in your company.

Winitha Bonney

Amina of Zaria founder, #ColourFULL founder, and Bounczn founder

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

The serenity prayer goes something like this: “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

You don’t need to believe in God.

But what you do need to do is focus simply on the things that are in your control today, accept the things you can’t control (like what may be coming around the corner as, let’s face it, we are not all fortune-tellers or mind readers) and keep your eyes up (not glued 24/7 to your screen).

Because when you do, and view the world through the eyes of a child with curiosity, adventure and wonder, perhaps you might be that person that offloads a bunch of uncertainty and disruption on the world.

Some call this innovation.

Gautam Mishra

Inkl chief executive officer

Website  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Medium

At Inkl, we’ve found two rather effective strategies for dealing with the increase in uncertainty.

The first has been to prioritise cashflow ahead of all other metrics such as user growth, revenue, etc.

Getting to cashflow breakeven (which we did this week) means we are less reliant on external funding, and that’s definitely a good thing in the current climate.

The second strategy has been to double down on customer insights.

We’re spending more time than ever on customer feedback and insights to ensure that we keep up with evolving needs.

What people need, especially from news, is changing rapidly.

For instance, a few months ago, we introduced a ‘Good News’ feed to combat news fatigue.

And this week we created an ‘Analysis’ section to help people understand what’s happening with some of the really complex news stories, such as the US election.

Renae Bunster

Bunsters Worldwide founder and former TV journalist

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

The world has never been more uncertain. In fact, just yesterday I told my partner to stock up on toilet paper “just in case”. We don’t know if another outbreak is around the corner, which will force another lockdown, which will force some idiots to start buying up all the toilet paper again. We just don’t know.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to just keep going.

If you believe in what you are doing and you know it will be a success, just keep going.

Amazon supreme overlord Jeff Besos said it best: “Entrepreneurs must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

What he means is if you have a vision and no one else gets it you have to keep going until the rest of them get your vision too. Like a little online book shop called Amazon 20 years ago. People laughed at him for years and thought he was crazy.

Similarly, when I started making hot sauce nearly nine years ago the general consensus was: ‘Why? What even is that stuff? Who wants to “Shit the Bed” from hot sauce? It’s just a stupid gimmick.’

But I kept going, and one by one, people tried it, got hooked and the rest is history.

I know that in five years time, every household in Australia will have a bottle of hot sauce in the fridge, even if they don’t know it yet. So I just keep going.

I know that in a matter of months every bar in Australia will be screaming for a bottle of Shit the Bed Vodka because it’s the most exciting product they’ve seen since Fireball Whiskey. Even if all the bars are shut right now, I just keep going.

If you feel like quitting, then your vision isn’t good enough. Go back to the Oprah vision board and start again.

Michelle-Akhidenor

Michelle Akhidenor

The Peers Project founder and chief executive officer

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram

As business owners and leaders, we’re often programmed to view uncertainty as an opportunity to innovate, lead, change and evolve.

Adopting this mindset is imperative, especially during tough times, as it allows us to remain level-headed and be flexible in our approach to achieve desired business outcomes.

For us startup founders, in particular, it’s important that we learn to remain positive, even in the worst of times, and never forget our ‘why’ and what we’ve set out to do.

By constantly reminding ourselves of our ‘why’ and learning to be agile, and pivot quickly, we can start to take smarter risks that not only keep our businesses afloat but push them forward.

Adam Schwab

Luxury Escapes co-founder, angel investor and former corporate lawyer

Website  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  

We’ve had a huge amount of creative destruction across the economy in the space of six months (counterbalanced somewhat by government largesse), so what we’ve experienced is simply an acceleration of what always happens in business, just quicker than usual.

As a founder or CEO, you need to be optimistically paranoid — constantly reassessing whether you are properly servicing customers and ensuring you have the right products to meet future demand.

If you look at the largest businesses from 100 years ago, few remain — even General Electric, a Dow Jones mainstay, has finally jumped the shark in recent years.

The best businesses, such as Amazon, treat every day like it’s day one. Look at how you can disrupt yourself and your competitors, look at new product lines and how you can continue to grow and evolve.

As terrible as COVID-19 has been, it has shown the leaders which have been able to turn tragedy into opportunity and reassess and future-proof their business model. Restaurants pivoting to takeaway and the growth of platforms such as Providoor are classic examples.

Risk and change are a fundamental part of business, it’s always better to embrace it rather than run from it.

Terri Vinson

Synergie Skin founder and cosmetic chemist

Website  |  LinkedIn

Despite the political, social, economic and health-related uncertainty that COVID-19 and political outcomes have presented, good business under good leadership will always prevail.

If founders and entrepreneurs can embrace the shifting and evolving needs of a market, walk in the shoes of their customers, and cater to their ‘new normal’ needs, they will flourish.

Alongside agility, the underlying factor to consider is that business must always possess a firm set of values. Every decision that a leader and a business make needs to vehemently align with those values. This will keep the company focused and provide a strong foundation to navigate the choices they make in a future of relative uncertainty.

Supply, demand and consumer needs are fundamental in any business, but these are constantly evolving, and now more than ever.

‘Pivot’ has become the buzzword of 2020!

Many markets are shifting from bricks-and-mortar to online, so how should a business respond? They need to understand all elements of change and adapt accordingly.

We have seen agile businesses adapt and flourish, while others either who could not or refused to, sadly wither.

Some might feel that nothing is set in stone, but there are certain elements that are constant. If businesses can uphold their values and set these in stone, they will have the perfect platform for making change and new choices and be able to confidently adapt to the ever-changing demands of the consumer.

Be agile and always open to change. Be resolute in upholding your business values and remember, it’s not about what you have, it’s about what your customers need in this brave new world!

Justine Alter

Transitioning Well director and psychologist

Website  |  LinkedIn

Starting a business is always almost certainly a risk no matter what. So often, business owners are born risk-takers. The saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’, is a good way to approach owning a business, so when the storms come, there are provisions available to keep investing.

Being prepared from the outset for unexpected situations can help. Nothing is ever certain, so creating contingency plans, thinking of the what-if’s and being prepared for transitions has never been more important.

At Transitioning Well (and in the words of Professor Nancy Schlossberg), we believe “Plan A, always have a Plan B”.

Having a plan that assesses risk and challenge is important. It can be useful to list the things that could or might go wrong, then write down the things you could embark upon to address these, while thinking about worst-case scenarios.

This will hold you in better stead for potential future disruption.

Understanding what you can and can’t control also allows you to let go of situations and circumstances that are beyond your control, and ultimately can result in wrong choices.

In any business, being able to ‘sit’ with uncertainty will stand you in good stead and allow you energy and resources to keep moving forward.

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