Why entrepreneurs can’t give in to COVID-19

Opinion Pieces 2 months ago - Tue, May 5, 2020, 7:00 AM

Why entrepreneurs can’t give in to COVID-19
Author: Ammar Akhtar, Founder and CEO of Final Rentals

Almost 3.4 million people have been infected by COVID-19 now, and it is a sad possibility that by the time you finish reading this, the number of infected people will be even higher, considering the pace of the pandemic. 

As entrepreneurs, this pace may also be affecting many of your plans, projections, and forecasts for 2020. But, we have to keep fighting for our businesses and for our people, we can’t give in or let this win. 

It is not just about our immune system anymore

The world is in strict lockdown, and that means it’s not business as usual anymore; neither are relationships, life, or the world in general “as usual” anymore. While the presence of COVID-19 on our surfaces and in the air is testing our cleanliness, discipline, and certainly our physical immunity, social distancing is also testing our social immunity — it’s testing our ability to absorb the pressure of being alone and working alone. It’s taking a toll on our mental health, and the damage goes far beyond even human life.

For example, the number of people seeking mental health support is increasing, as is the number of people filing for unemployment. These increases are worrying, but we have to try to continue living our lives as best as we can, whilst continuing to boost our entrepreneurial spirit... 

COVID-19 vs. the Entrepreneurial Spirit

I have always believed that entrepreneurship is about caring for people.

- Caring enough to create great products
-  Caring enough to provide great customer service
- Caring enough to create a great work culture
- Caring enough to create a community of growth and best practice
- Caring for people beyond your own monetary benefits

These are difficult times, and I understand that the COVID-19 crisis must be hurting your bottom line. All those 2020 projections, forecasts, and fantasies have now been delayed and pushed to the side for the foreseeable future, but...

Quitting is not an option

While things might look gloomy, and you might be thinking about quitting, take a deep breath and instead, look at the following:

- What was working two months ago can still work; all you need is to work on stretching your runway again.
- It is OK to roll with the flow and try to reinvent your business model,  partially or entirely,  there is no harm in that.
- Cut costs. Take a little more responsibility on your side, and see how you can optimize your costs.
- You are working from home now; if your team is okay with this, do away with the office space for now. Work rent-free for six months.
- Are you an online business, spending a lot of money on digital marketing? What is your SEO strategy? Where are you placed in the organic rankings? Revisit these strategies.

When business is down to zero, I imagine the first thing that comes to mind is downsizing. But it may not be the best option to terminate those who you trained for years, who know the business and understand your systems. It is always better to have clear communication and open discussions between yourself and your team about how best to handle the current situation in terms of economics. Try to negotiate the numbers with them. Instead of downsizing, try to come to some sort of agreement that e.g. that for the next three to six months, salaries will be cut by a certain %. This could be a better option for everybody concerned, rather than total job loss.

We are all in this together, and employers and employees understand that. Successfully weathering the storm will take a lot of hand-holding on both sides. The real test of an entrepreneur is when the clock is ticking during critical times and you have people that need to be taken care of. 

When things improve, the market will bounce back

Circumstances WILL get better, and the entrepreneurs, companies, and startups which were able to ride the storm and keep sailing, even if very slowly, will take off and reap the rewards of embracing truth, being adaptive and agile, and keeping themselves immune from COVID-19.

It’s not easy. These are unprecedented times; the only way to manage it is to manage our expectations. So how about playing lean for a quarter or two?

Entrepreneurship is about fighting a battle for people. It just so happens that this battle is against an enemy that can attack you at any time, and the only defense you have is to keep your distance.

Keep fighting and we will get through this.


COVID-19 further suppressed the number of deals in MENA-based startups in April but total funding increased by 202% as EMPG joined MENA’s unicorn list by raising $150M from existing shareholders. Learn more details in MAGNiTT’s April 2020 Dashboard.

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