Much of the work we do is about the art of the possible. While we have in mind an ideal set of circumstances in which to build out our business, we have to live and work in the reality that exists, which almost always falls short of that dream. Particularly with the “Great Pause” in our world economy due to COVID-19.
It’s probably disappointing during this crisis, particularly if you have big, definitive plans that you know you could execute if only you had the money and support, but it doesn’t need to be a crushing blow to your ambitions. Few companies start out well off, and yet a fortunate cohort is able to break through to establish themselves as industry players, with enough accumulated resources to expand what they can accomplish.
Working within this new reality is limiting but those limitations are imposed upon all those in a similar position to you and your company. Neither you nor your fellow startups have as much money or as many people as you’d like, and yet it falls to you to get on with the work that needs to be done. And perhaps, in the short term at least, that is a good thing. I’m not making an argument for operating on a shoestring budget during a pandemic, but learning what we can do without money is a valuable lesson to take forward throughout the course of our venture.
Money is great for solving many problems, but there’s a danger to relying too much upon money and not enough upon your own creativity and ingenuity. Think of something like a toaster in our home — if it breaks, most of us are in a position to go out and buy a new one, given that they’re readily available and not all that expensive. But what if we didn’t have that kind of money anymore, or toasters suddenly became prohibitively expensive due to a great toaster shortage? (Not improbable given the times) We’d lack the ability to try and fix the thing on our own, and we’d be stuck paying the now sky-high rates for a toaster repair technician.
Maybe it’s a bit of a tortured metaphor, but the larger point is that if you’re ever throwing money at any issue that arises, either by buying new equipment; paying for outside help; or spraying money at advertising, all without a plan, you’re not well equipped for when money won’t solve the problem. Not having cash forces that scrappy ingenuity upon you, whether you like it or not, so at the very least you’ll have that skill set in reserve when you do come into a bit of funding, as well as an appreciation of the value of a dollar.
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To that same end, there is also a crash course in efficiency and thriftiness that comes from not having resources during this uncertain time. You learn where value is because that’s what keeps your company afloat and allows you to stretch money further. This is the time when your team learns a variety of skill sets and diversifies their accounts, as it were, both of which will serve them well in the long run. For you, you’ll get a stark lesson in the necessities of running a business; suddenly, things you thought indispensable will be luxuries you can do without.
There is, of course, another side to the argument, for not all companies and startups are being impacted negatively by COVID-19. Regardless, it’s undoubtedly easier to work and think without the pressures of having to worry about how to meet payroll or pay the bills. Many entrepreneurs would trade the hard-earned lessons of a frugal existence for a big bank account that allows them at least the freedom to offer a stable future to their employees if nothing else. It’s a fair point, and certainly none of this is to somehow romanticize the notion of poverty, in any sense. It’s not terribly controversial to suggest that the world would be much better if poverty was eradicated. But the reality is that most of us starting a business don’t have that much money to start, and so we should gain what we can from the experience.
As we are all now learning, it’s in working with what we have, not what we wish we had, that we learn about ourselves and our ability to not only overcome but think outside of the box and get creative to achieve our goals. Those are insights that money can’t buy. #onwards.