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Our Dear Founder columnist’s advice to entrepreneurs facing the pandemic

Maynard Webb counsels leaders to take a page from Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and overcommunicate.

Our Dear Founder columnist’s advice to entrepreneurs facing the pandemic
[Source images: cundra/iStock; Barbulat/iStock]

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb dearfounder@fastcompany.com

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Q. What best practices are you seeing founders deploy to get through this coronavirus? What smart steps have you seen founders take? Any tips you can share?

 —Founder of a consumer website

Dear Founder,

First and foremost, founders should assess where they are and where they need to be. I’ve seen smart founders consider a few different scenarios, including mapping out best- and worst-case possibilities. Everyone needs to understand how much cash they have and adjust their business plans to have enough runway to ride this out.

Communication is more important than ever. Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has always understood the necessity to communicate—or to overcommunicate, he would say. Salesforce is having weekly all-hands as well as wellness sessions, which have given employees tools and resources to help deal with the crisis including meditation classes and opportunities to speak with a psychologist. Visa also does a weekly all-employee video call, and I think everyone really appreciates seeing each other.

Generally speaking, check in with your people more. Show a lot of empathy. Also, give people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is dealing with a lot. There’s sadness for what’s going on, anxieties about what could happen, and people are consumed with things they likely didn’t do before, such as homeschooling their kids or locating, procuring, and sanitizing their groceries.

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For those with people coming into work still, we are seeing these best practices:

  • Make sure everyone is healthy. Have everyone do a temperature check before coming to work.
  • Expect there to be disruptions and put methods in place so that work can continue to get done. For example, working with multiple factories in different locations rather than one big one is a good precautionary measure.

We are going to make mistakes; don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you need a North Star, it’s that the health and welfare of our people and customers is what’s most important. We are going to survive this—and we will come out stronger. How do you make sure that your company will be as well? Keep learning, keep growing and keep getting stronger.

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