Strengthening Startups & VCs Resilience in Coronavirus Days

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

8 really good reasons why both Startups & VCs need a Performance Coach in their teams, especially now, when the corona is not the beer we used to drink during the the happy-hour and resilience & resourcefulness are what it’s actually all about

A lot has been written or said on the current global crisis, and the various forecasts as for how it will look like the day after. Aviation, manufacturing, investments, hospitality, education, high-tech - it will impact all. Side by side with the negative outcomes of workforce firing & cost reduction and industries that will struggle to exist, new opportunities, markets and technologies that yet to be discovered, will rise as a result of this crisis. Respected investors wrote about their point of view and tips for the entrepreneurs to deal with this crisis, new designated funds are raised to support the entrepreneurs, and even a call for action to other investors to keep the industry up & running.

Did you know that in the forest, a fire is mandatory once in a while in order to enable its growth? Some seeds can be open only after being exposed to an intense level of heat. Sometimes, a dramatic change is the foundation for many new beginnings - both physical and spiritual ones. It leads us to the core, to the essence of things. It sharpens our way of curating what really matters.

One thing that still retains the image of Atlas, standing tall amongst men and maintaining his foothold against the crushing waves, is the image of a startup CEO. Sometimes, even the easy access to all the tech tools & investors knowledge in the world, may not be enough for the CEO to run his startup smoothly, especially when the waves are high. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going'' - I think that is true both for the founders & investors. Resilience - is being measured on both sides. It’s not only up to the startups to be agile, react, fine tune and lead their companies - it’s also about the VCs to support, invest money and make sure those new technologies can continue to help this world be a better place, a resilient one.

That is where a Performance Coach fits in, helping both the CEOs and the investors, to lay the framework for their business and giving them the competitive edge. Uncertainty, instability, elastic thinking to leverage opportunities, focusing everyone in the right direction - that’s where founders’ leadership is being tested. That is also the best ROI they can provide to the VC, as the VC's most important parameter for investment, is the startups’ human capital. The Team. The Founders. And here, in the middle of all crises, lies the opportunity to ensure this ROI, by supporting the founders and giving them the right tools. To borrow the words of J.F.K: “Ask not what your country can do for you..” But what a Performance Coach can do for your portfolio company? Hopefully, what comes up next will help to explain how invaluable a function such as Performance Coach can be to a startup and the VC that funds him.

It is a well-known axiom that entities are shaped by their leaders and modeled by them. What helps to separate the wheat from the chaff, and makes the difference between good startup to an excellent one is a fresh point of view from the outside that helps to focus, prioritize & fine tune, in the image of a Performance Coach - the likes of John Mattone, William Campbell, Peter Chee and Connie Dieken who are legendary in their field - just google them for their list of clientele and of their impact.

What can a Performance Coach do for the CEO?

1. Reveal blind spots

As a CEO, you know how to run your company, you know what you want. You might even know there are things you don’t know, but you don’t know how much you don’t know. Confused? Sometimes, it’s not easy to look inside and find the right answers by yourself. A Performance Coach brings knowledge, experience and a wide point of view to the table, and can map out the dark spots and show you the way. A Performance Coach can assess the situation and help you see the whole picture, to make you see the long term view, and calibrate your actions in the short run.

When you strike a cul de sac, or pass through the world in a tunnel vision, feeling you’re in a stalemate situation, a Performance Coach can illuminate an ocean of possibilities.

2. Multiple personalities

Like a jack of all trades, the CEO is busy being all over his business - raise funds, recruiting, product manager, marketing… it can be exhausting. It is a slippery slope. A Performance Coach helps the CEO recognize the critical objectives that are crucial to match the long term strategy. He enables the CEO to shape a culture of efficient performance management throughout the organization.

3. Wide point of view

Many CEOs are very experienced, but more often than not, are limited to a specific domain (tech, marketing, sales, product), and when it comes to telling the story and communicating it effectively to the public (employees, customers, investors and even board members), they tend to come up short.

A Performance Coach can mitigate the gap and shape the narrative to show a panoramic view of the market, trends and customers needs. An excellent coach can further communicate the message both internally and externally, shaping a core message to accommodate a myriad of audiences.

4. Strategy

The transition to strategic thinking could prove to be difficult. The CEO of a startup is busy keeping the boat afloat, fighting the waves and navigating his.her ship to stay afloat for another day. In early stages, the CEO worries him.herself between the here and now and the future. The switch to long term strategic planning is an entirely different and new ball game. It demands a new set of skills to be developed. And time - it does what it does best - it is moving, and a Performance Coach can help the CEO, so he.she doesn’t lose sight of the objectives and the company’s strategic goals.

What can a Performance Coach do for the VC and its entrepreneurs?

VCs can assess a good investment, go over the numbers, the market potential, see one’s experience and try to evaluate the mechanism of the founders. But the most important thing to my opinion to evaluate, is how resourceful the entrepreneur really is. Resourcefulness is a mindset. It’s the ability to always fall on your feet and continue with all your might. It is especially relevant at times of uncertainty when the goals are difficult to achieve or the vision is blurry as the reality changes. With a resourcefulness mindset you are driven to find a way. A resourcefulness state-of-mind entitles an elastic thinking mindset, the generation of new ideas, and the ability to visualize all the possible ways to achieve them. Resourcefulness combines the right entrepreneurial spirit, energy, decision-making mechanism and leadership. So how a Performance Coach can help the VC in curating and empowering the right entrepreneurs?

5. High Self-Esteem

Entrepreneurs need to believe they are capable of handling any problem placed in front of them. Our inner-dialogue and self talk is a crucial part of the belief that we are competent and adequate enough to achieve what we desire. Our inner strong belief is the first step we take in getting things done. When the entrepreneur is self-confident and appreciates him.herself, it’s easy for him.her to like and trust him.herself. Supporting the entrepreneur in evaluating his.her value and helping them appreciate their strengths, talents, work ethic and ability to deliver - are super important steps to help them build their resilience. Their resilience is the best ROI for the VC.

There are many methods and coaching tools to do so, and that's what I do when working with my entrepreneurs. One of the startups I’m coaching, has recently launched their new app - GG Life - based on a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is the most researched psychology treatment nowadays. Using the GG Life app, is another beautiful tool for entrepreneurs to use in times of uncertainty, before key performance or making tough decisions. The technology behind the app addresses exactly this aspect of our self-talk, and how to change our inner beliefs into positive ones. It’s a beautiful example of how technology, performance and startups’ coaching - all combine together and provide a pure value.

6. Elastic Thinking

As a VC, you want to make sure to keep and enhance an open-minded entrepreneur, one who is passionate about breaking boundaries and redefining what is and is not possible, one who remains open when considering new ideas and differing thoughts from his own, one who is passionate about his.her solution, but don’t fall into a blind love and fall behind, one that thinks with his mind & heart, and not driven by ego.

Being open-minded makes your entrepreneur both rich and able to reach; Rich in opportunities and ideas, and reach out to various employees, partners and customers. That keeps him.her vigilant and with the ability to function under any circumstances. This is how a resourceful entrepreneur attains success while the less resourceful give up on their dreams. As a VC, you must help your portfolio companies stretch out of their comfort zone and expand their inner resources.

7. Proactive

You must act! That’s the spirit you want to educate your entrepreneurs. The way I see acting is with a wider perspective; Acting is also a conscious decision to stop, be present for a while and re-evaluate the situation. Then, a physical action will happen - this way or another. Being proactive, is our inner ability to observe, feel - use all our senses to map out the situation, and then, choose the right way to address it. Being proactive is to lead, not to wait for others. Being proactive is not to be afraid, but allow yourself also the ability to make a mistake. And then, again, observe, have insights and fix it. I like to call it “Modus Operandi Circle” - our ability to be proactive in every sense of our entrepreneurial lives. There is no waiting. It’s our mission to engage, create, get things done and improve. React to external circumstances and not freeze. The way we cope, act, deal - is as good as our resourcefulness level. And this is a significant indicator to our venture’s growth & success. Being proactive is being solution orientated, but a smart solution - one that its value is unique. That is why, I believe that being proactive is exactly this - it requires the ability to pose, be present, map & asses, and then - act.

8. Get Things Done

As a VC, you want to work with the entrepreneur who will never give up. Not when a global crisis is in the air, nor when the path is not crystal clear. You want to work with the kind of entrepreneurs who will never stop trying till the problem is solved. Young and restless/ older and experienced - you want to make sure they have this inner drive that will always find a window when the door is closed, always find a crack when the window is closed. It’s not always easy to maintain this state of mind and to be able to get the lessons and understand our gain. That’s what a Performance Coach is doing. A Performance Coach helps them to pursue their success, fall, try again, fall and try again in a million other ways. A Performance Coach helps them to keep and strengthen this inner drive that generates a win, help them be persistent, committed to succeed and take every failure as a lesson and an opportunity to do better. Coaching the entrepreneur to discover his.her inner motivations, and shape his.her discipline - is a fundamental part of building the entrepreneur’s DNA and skills at, so does his.her ability to cope with failures.

To develop a resourceful mindset, one should be willing to constantly improve him.herself, and be open to learning new things and do all his might to keep up with what is happening within the industry and global trends. That’s true both for the VC and its investors, and the startup and its founders. Being resourceful is the key to building resilience. This resilience is a key factor in the success of the startup, and as a result - the success of the VC.

Being a CEO is a very lonely ride with many stressors affecting his.her actions & results. Stress comes from those who are the closest to us - our investors, peers, spouse, family & employees. Sometimes, it also comes as a tiny unseen virus that impacts our whole business. Without a proper support system, he.she might collapse. Having a Performance Coach the CEO can lean on, consult with and have someone who really sees him.her, the real him.her - is an essential part of the startup’s growth. That is a pure value to the CEO that will lead to better results & a wonderful ROI for the VC that believed and invested in him.her.