Above all else – build trust!
No matter where you look – from governments to business to social enterprise and institutions, trust is the new currency for the covid-19 crisis and, no doubt, beyond.
Whether you look at politics – you can see countries where trust is falling apart (US) and other nations where trust is being built (Greece); or if you look at business, Airbnb are helping their laid off staff find great jobs (source), whereas Weatherspoon’s founder’s rant about ‘get a job at Tesco’ will live long in the memory (source).
How to build trust!
The question then, is how do you build trust? The simple and less helpful answer is to follow the actions of the good ones and avoid the decisions of the poor examples. However, in truth, the decisions and choices we see leaders select are, in many ways, based on the strength and resilience of their organisations.
Take Airbnb for example. Their strong revenues and quick footedness to raise extra cash, means that they can be generous to ex-staff and provide resources to enable them to find new work. Equally, the Greek government’s experience of rolling crises over the last decade has brought a new approach to running the country and that slow and steady build up of trust is showing results in the current situation.
An emerging view is that trust is built within communities. So, working out where your communities sit, who they are and how to reach and reassure them is a key practical step.
Hence, it is more powerful to ask – what things do we need in place prior to being able to build trust? I call these the 3 Rs of Crisis Recovery – Resilience, Response and Revenue. I’ll explain each here, and then provide startup and scaleup resources to help you develop and build each piece:
Resilience – there are three sub-parts to resilience – personal, team and business. Personal resilience means that you have leaders in place who are comfortable in their own skin, are able to accept reasonable criticism and therefore, are able to place their team and the people around them at the forefront of any decision making. Partly, it means being individually financially solvent too, as anyone who lacks the ability to put food on the table is going to find a crisis more stressful than someone who has a basic level of survival support in place.
At a team level, resilience is the ability to look out for each other and support each other when we go through radical transformation – such as the shift to working from home.
Lastly, business resilience is about having options. If you need supplies quickly, can you get them? How short and simply / certain are you supply chains? Business resilience is also financial – so, ensuring the finances are in order and the relationships with investors or funders or customers are open and transparent and that there are no sudden ‘bad news’ moments which undermine the value of your response in an emergency.
Response – the response part of the equation is at two levels. Firstly, all crises require a response. As a leader of a team, a business or even a local club – people look to you to respond. They want to hear from you. The first response is typically to increase communication and reach out to people, to check in and to reassure. Later, the response needs to be backed up with a plan. Or, even if there is no clear plan, people want to know that you can see a way forward and that a plan is coming. Sometimes that plan involves are reverse back into startup experimentation and a ‘begin again’ mindset focused on a new product to market fit. Other times, it is more about reassurance than radicalism.
Mostly, your response and communication will be directed to people within your communities – people who already know you or know ‘of’ you – but would recognise your name or role.
Revenue – lastly, any ‘going concern’ needs a flow of income. At high points in the startup cycle, we can get distracted by the need for revenue and focus purely on growth and funding. That’s quite natural as that is how hype builds up in the startup eco-system – but, ultimately, it all comes back to revenue and how we build our cashflow from customers. The stronger the revenue flows, the more options you have. As we move from an environment of ‘just in time’ efficiency to ‘just in case’ resilience steady cashflow builds our resilience and that in turn give us greater choices in how we respond.
Success – clearly, each of these factors supports and strengthens the other. Hence, success is the ability to get all three more or less right all at the same time. If you want some help or just to talk through these themes – get in touch.
Or, check our our startup and scaleup articles and resources.