5 tips on how technology companies can reduce uncertainty
This article was first published by the VCAA in VCAA Venture News, Spring 2020.
As we continue to adjust to the new normal, there remains a number of questions. How long will this change last? Will there be fundamental changes to the economy? When will “normal” return? The list goes on, but a recurring theme emerges; we are uncertain about the future now more than ever.
For technology companies, uncertainty is not a new concept. Changes happen in the industry frequently. But what about now? What lessons can we learn from technology companies to help us reduce our own uncertainty? Can we use those lessons to navigate through these difficult times?
Have a plan
It is often depicted in media that successful start-ups, like Facebook, succeed simply by having a great idea. They write a few thousand lines of code, experience some personal drama then six to 12 months later, they are worth billions of dollars. This scenario makes for great cinema, but the overly simplistic narrative forgets the most important aspect of all good start-ups - their business plan.
A good business plan is detailed and includes extensive research on the industry, the market and competitive landscape. It also incorporates a detailed cash flow statement that accounts for all revenue and expenses on a weekly and often daily basis. Most importantly it provides scenario analysis. Rarely do things work out the way we plan. So it’s important to model and visualize the impact an event or combination of events will have.
Be prepared: hope for the best but plan for the worst
Validating a business plan through stress testing is difficult. How do you simulate or prepare for an unknown event? Successful technology companies know that they can’t prepare for everything. However, having action plans in place to address most issues helps. It gives you a leg up and allows you to act swiftly and diligently during difficult times. Don’t be caught flat footed.
Have a good team
The ability to be successful, at any time, depends on the strength of your team. But how do you retain the best talent? This requires a deep understanding of your people. Every person is different. For some, money is their number one motivation. For others, it is work life balance. Whatever these motivating factors are, it’s important to take the time and consideration to understand your team at an individual level. No matter how large your organization is, don’t overlook the power of your people. A motivated individual is often the most important ingredient in the recipe for a successful organization.
Leverage the right partners
Have you heard of the old adage “it's who you know, not what you know”? In the technology industry, this is key. Capital and talent are concentrated in a few markets. Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs.
Identify the individuals who are important to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out or ask for help. Often the best approach is to start by carefully selecting the most qualified legal, accounting and advisor. Choose individuals or firms with deep domain expertise. There are many generalists, but given the economy’s increasing complexity, industry knowledge is more important than ever. Organizations that succeed are the ones who choose the right partners. Don’t overlook this critical decision.
Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you. Never underestimate the power of human ingenuity. History is full of examples where great opportunities have emerged during difficult times. Take this moment as an opportunity to build a more resilient business, organization, or culture. Learn from technology companies and leverage the proactive things they do to reduce uncertainty and thrive despite it.