I had an opportunity to attend a webinar co-hosted by Cyber Bytes, a nonprofit organization focusing on cyber security in Stafford, VA and SCYTHE, an information security company in Arlington, VA. The event was sponsored by GRIMM. An amazing team assembled to discuss a topic relevant to our community.  “Is now, during a crisis, the right time to start a business?” 

For those familiar with RIoT, you know Executive Director, Tom Snyder’s opinion here — there is no better time than right now to innovate and reinvent! Panelists Martin Roesch, Ron Gula, and Caleb Sima all seemed to agree. Find your beacon during the storm! 

When asked by moderator Liz Wharton, what should startups be doing right now instead of panicking, Martin quickly responded that instead of panic, plan! Take an in-depth look at your cash and formulate a plan. Caleb agreed and said once you have the cash flow understood, you need to initiate Phase two and start finding ways to look at the crisis as a positive and figure out what you can do to capitalize. Finally, Ron echoed what his two other panelists said and added that Phase three is the perfect time to take stock of your goals and your strategic outcome. 

All the panelists agree that the normal cycle of business challenges founders with many personal and public crises. It’s the cost of doing business and founders that are comfortable during crises are set apart from the rest.  Caleb noted that a crisis forces prioritization and confronting difficult decisions – something founders should be doing even in good times. Those who have difficulty leaning in during a crisis are perhaps not the right people to start a business, current situation or not.

Wrapping up the webinar, each panelist was asked what advice they would give to a founder launching a business right now, and the answers were telling of the years of experience and both the successes and failures of their careers. Here are my favorites; 

Find local funding. When you can’t travel or meet in person, look to your friends, family, and local angel networks. 

Evaluate your sales process and cycle. If you rely on a traditional ‘boots on the ground’ salesforce, you may need to rethink and reinvent. 

Focus on your fundamentals. Go for talent. Look for those who can work remotely – it will open up the candidate pool. Innovate. 

Live and breathe your cash flow.  A smaller cash flow forces you to learn how to conserve and spend less which will help you down the road. You’ll understand how to make hard decisions.