Three Startup Leaders Share Lessons Learned During a Pandemic

Overview The pandemic has posed many challenges to businesses across the world. Three small business founders and CEOs share some lessons learned from leading their teams through unsteady times.

Throughout 2020, companies everywhere have had to reimagine their businesses. Particularly for startups and small businesses, the challenges that the year has posed to staffing, business operations and more have been daunting.

But through uncertain times, business leaders have also shown great displays of resilience and compassion.

Three CES® exhibitors and Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® members shared key lessons they’ve learned in 2020 while leading their startups through a global health crisis.

Stay Real and Transparent

Due to the effects of the pandemic, many business leaders have had to make tough decisions for company operations and staffing.

“When there is bad news to share with the company, don’t sugarcoat it,” said Sarah McDevitt, CEO and co-founder of Core. “It’s important to show respect for the team by being honest and upfront, even when it’s tough, but also give everyone the next goal to march towards together.”

“The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has a good understanding of what state the world is in, and how that will realistically impact our business,” said Yee Su, founder and CEO of Sum Products.

Community Engagement Makes a Difference

Su has found support from his community as well.

“It’s been helpful to discuss strategies for how we’re all trying to stay afloat,” Su said of connecting with other businesses. “There’s a limitless amount of people out there trying to connect and share ideas, and you only have to be willing to find them and spark a new opportunity to help each other out.”

Stay Anchored to Company Truths

“When things are tough in crisis-mode, it's a very important and steadying anchor to return to why we're all here at the company in the first place,” McDevitt said. “This is one of the reasons I believe being a purpose-driven company serves business the best.”

CTA’s Small Business Road Map emphasizes the importance of connecting with customers in the ways they expect, and focusing on companies’ core missions.

“When we pivoted from Home Theater to Home Office we still focused on the technology innovation and design that are pillars of the Austere brand,” said Deena Ghazarian, founder and CEO of Austere.

Change Is Not the Enemy

In the past months, companies have quickly evolved and adjusted to help their communities as much as they could. At the onset of stay-at-home orders, Ghazarian’s team quickly repurposed materials and training from their home theater products to home office solutions.

“While we all learned how to live in quarantine, we  listened to [our customers] and helped in any way we could — reallocating inventory, new training materials or adjusting the messaging for their quickly expanding online presence,” Ghazarian said.

A change of perspective to a more positive outlook can also make a difference.

“When the only thing constant is change and plans and circumstances are changing so frequently, [celebrating being] an agile, responsive team can make an environment much more productive and ultimately open up more creativity and collaborative problem-solving,” McDevitt said.

The new business environment is fluid, but companies are staying nimble, adapting to meet the needs of their customers and showing the power of innovation.

“There's a lot that can be said for how a pandemic hurts a business, but what makes me excited as an entrepreneur is the chance to really start thinking outside the box,” Su said.

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