Entrepreneurs are an independent bunch, but no one can build a thriving business or organization alone. Not only do we all rely on the hard work of those who have gone before, but it’s also important to have a dedicated support team. When times are difficult, all the members of a support system can work together to keep going even when it’s tempting to give up.
Below, eight members of Fast Company Executive Board share how a dedicated team can lift each other up during a crisis to emerge stronger on the other side.
1. CENTER ON YOUR CUSTOMERS
Always center yourself on your customers’ needs, and always remember that you know your business better than anyone else. We launched at the beginning of COVID-19, which came with challenges—we had to drastically cut costs and were faced with many doubts. We decided to stick to the need our customers kept expressing and re-launched in June. In just six months, we generated an incredible run rate, and we completely sold out in December. Our story is one of resilience not just because we are excellent operators or because we are passionate and dedicated, but because when we have doubts we always turn back to our customers. We listen, challenge assumptions and stereotypes, and focus on the real safety needs of our customers. – Quinn Fitzgerald, Flare
2. REMEMBER THOSE WHO HAVE WALKED THIS PATH BEFORE YOU
My business teaches early-stage Black small-business owners who are navigating the process of starting an enterprise. One of the greatest challenges they face in building a resilient company is learning how to be the hand that feeds themselves and their customers: They are both the creative who makes their products and the investor who funds their projects. I encourage them to think about how other Black entrepreneurs thrived without the benefit of privilege. I teach them about crowd-funding, bootstrapping, mental fortitude, reframing success metrics, and partnership. Most importantly, I teach them about Black entrepreneurial history. The aforementioned has worked for me, as a Black entrepreneur, and has helped me turn obstacles related to race into opportunity. – Kezia Williams, The Black upStart
3. KNOW THAT OTHERS WANT TO SEE YOU SUCCEED
In the early days of starting a company, I have learned to rely a lot on my network—to tap into it whenever I find myself in a crisis, as well as actively seek out those I admire and believe could help. The biggest lesson I have learned is that people are generally eager to help because they genuinely want to see others succeed. Overall, I’ve noticed that it is helpful to have a network of people who support you and your mission through both the smallest breakthroughs and the challenges. As a mentor of mine once said, “It takes a village to build great companies.” – Bethany Edwards, LIA Diagnostics, Inc.
4. RETURN TO YOUR “WHY”
Consistently go back to the vision and mission of your company—let it ground you and remind you why you are doing what you are doing. If you focus on the purpose, it will help you power through difficult times. Additionally, create a solid support system of people in both your personal and professional lives. As a founder, my professional support system is a combination of other founders who have been through what I’m going through, as well as trusted advisors. My personal support system is made up of friends and family who can help me to see the bigger picture and support me through tough times. – Greta McAnany, Blue Fever
5. EQUIP YOUR TEAM WITH INFORMATION
As a leader, I find we often get stuck in a spot of how we lead others. Some choose to be an inspirational leader, while others choose to be the “Rah-rah” motivator type. I choose to lead with information by being as transparent as possible. During a crisis, it is important to equip your team with the information they need to better prepare themselves for the challenges ahead. Along with that, I keep mental health and emotional health at the top of my mind. – Harold Hughes, Bandwagon
6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SMART, TRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE
Leaders are only as good as the people they surround themselves with, and to build a resilient company, you need to surround yourself with smart, trustworthy colleagues. You need to listen to their input and consider it, even if it may not align with your own beliefs. The first rule of thumb in navigating a crisis is to remain calm: You need to be clear-headed to effectively think through the situation and determine the best course of action. It’s also important to lean on your colleagues, trusted advisors, and network; tap into their expertise, even if it’s just to bounce ideas. If you’ve done the upfront work to create a collaborative and supportive team, you’ll be better equipped to weather any challenge that comes your way. – Lauren Salz, Sealed
7. SUPPORT YOUR TEAM MEMBERS’ MENTAL HEALTH
We are committed to supporting the health, safety, and resilience of our team members. We encourage staff to protect their personal time and support each others’ mental health through initiatives including mental health days and providing free subscriptions to the mindfulness and meditation app, Headspace. In a time of crisis and increased isolation, we lift up our teammates, communicate, and foster connection through all-hands meetings, a new weekly email to celebrate team wins, several topical Slack channels that re-create “lunchroom chats,” and a stipend to help all our staff brighten up their remote workspaces. By prioritizing the happiness, comfort, support, and recognition of your staff, you create a working environment that enables your company to be more resilient. – Amit Paley, The Trevor Project
8. THINK ABOUT HUMAN BEINGS, NOT JUST ROLES
Leaders don’t always take the time to figure out how their organizations and teams deal with stress. Communicate with your team to understand what kinds of things cause stress for them and how they work best when under stress. In the middle of a crisis, showing that you care about the human being in the role can go a long way toward keeping the team motivated and connected to the company’s mission when things are hard. – Selina Troesch Munster, Touchdown Ventures