April 24, 2020
Delivering During the Storm
Recessions are hard on startups and you learn a lot going through them. While many lessons learned from the past provide value, we are all finding new best practices brought to bare by the Covid Pandemic.
I’ve been fortunate to have access to amazing mentors, peers, and friends who have helped me gather focus and define an approach to this situation. I also learned a lot from experience and making many mistakes over the years. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few things that we are trying to implement within the SKALE Labs core team. I hope it adds value to your efforts. Also, we are all still learning, and I hope to learn more lessons and best practices from all of you.
It is about the people
In software, it’s easy to focus on the code and the product, but especially during times like these, it’s critical to remember that ultimately, people make up the company. Creating resilience requires a focus on the team, a focus on people, and a focus on the emotional side of how they will get through this. We are in a moment that is unlike any other global downturn in recent memory, with people across the entire socio-economic spectrum being affected. Take care of the people and the people will take care of the company.
Have the right perspective and know where you’re going
Focusing on the task or problem at hand is good. However, as a team, it’s always essential to take the long term perspective of where you are going. If you focus only on the short term, in times like these you can find yourself becoming unmotivated and overwhelmed pretty quickly. By thinking about where you’re going, while not hiding from the current state of things, you can find your “north” and rally towards a motivational goal.
The French have a saying - “head on the handle bars”. It refers to a cyclist that is so focused on pedaling hard they forget to look up and see the mountain they are about to summit. They lost the opportunity to be strategic and prepare energetically for the ascent. The saying holds true for all of us in this situation. Know where you are going and be sure to take in the changes as they come into perspective.
Apply the fundamentals
It’s always a great idea to think about and apply business fundamentals, they never go out of style. The most important principles at this time are the center on focus. If you’re wondering what I mean, it’s the startup principle of focusing where and how you spend time and money to get the biggest bang for your buck.
If you have an internal effort that’s experimental and not-critical to the success of the company or project, it's the first thing that needs to be shelved. If you need to pivot to survive, make sure to put every ounce of effort into the critical pivot/experiment. Don’t half-ass it.
During tough times go back to the basics, optimize time, optimize effort, and optimize financial resources.
Don’t forget to keep team building
One of the nuances of this particular downturn is we have to “social distance”, which has also means that office buildings have closed, trips have been canceled and people are working from home full time. Even in these virtual times, creating good team dynamics is absolutely critical to a healthy organization. That means you will have to create a “workplace” where people have the opportunity to meet consistently. HOWEVER - please be careful to not go overboard while doing this.
In other words, don’t spend way too much time together on what really isn't a part of a regular workday. There is a lot of value to doing those things, but you have to be very careful to find a balance. Focus is the higher priority but also needs to be balanced with team unity.
I think of it like seasoning. You don't want to dump the whole jar on a chicken and throw it in the oven. A chef understands you need to apply the right amount to make it work. Make sure you are connecting as groups for non-work events, but be careful not to overdo it.
In crypto, there is a lot of talk and not enough action. What matters most now is to continue building and educating. We need to double down on supporting the real users of networks. In most cases that means developers. We have to keep building the code base and ultimately give consumers and business users access to the amazing experiences possible with blockchains and cryptocurrencies.
Focus on the fundamentals of writing great code and creating great value added content for developers and consumers. We can't see each other right now, but we can keep building and educating for a decentralized tomorrow.
In closing I want to thank all of the mentors and friends that have supported me through this time. I hope this knowledge share is valuable for some of you tackling the same issues I am. Onwards and upwards!