How to Survive an Internet Economy Existential Crisis

A leader can’t predict when a crisis will strike or from what direction the blow will come, but in a hyper-connected digital world, you can count on it coming.

Startup founders and CEOs who work day-in and day-out to bring their companies to market know that no two days will ever be the same. That’s particularly true in the rapidly shifting world of adtech and martech. Among the operational leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit that it takes to motivate an entire company to get behind a vision, the time may come when he or she may have to lead them through a crisis.

Businesses have always relied on other businesses to make their company a success. From wagon wheels that enabled products to be delivered farther, electricity so a factory could have shifts of workers, or a steady supply of semiconductors for manufacturing smarter electronics, collaborative synergy isn’t just a business strategy, it can be the foundation. The Internet economy has ushered in an era of extreme hyperconnectivity between businesses and a change at any link in the supply change can send a company into an existential crisis.

That day came for my company, Buzzvil, in December of 2017, when a Google policy decision removed lockscreen advertising SDKs from apps in the Google Play store. While the move was to stop the nefarious high jacking of lockscreens which other apps had begun doing to unsuspecting users, Buzzvil was thriving on providing brands with lockscreen content their users wanted and valued. As the proverbial baby that got thrown out with the dirty bathwater, our company took pause.

There is no playbook to follow when the startup game changes. In pulling Buzzvil back from the brink, however, we did see that there are fundamental steps any leader can take to ensure their startup comes out of crisis mode and hopefully relatively unscathed.

Don’t Panic – Plan!

Crisis by its very nature sparks a fight or flight reaction that can lead to a full-on panic. When a crisis hits one of the first steps should be to plan rather than panic. While many may agree this is easier said than done, planning is necessary. Plan how to react publicly, and then plan the course of action internally.

Communicate

After mapping out the team’s next steps, senior leaders must have open communication to their entire organization. Without open communication, the team does not know truth from fiction, and may not act accordingly. Transparency is key. If the internal team does not know the facts, those outside your organization certainly will not either.

Resolve the Issues

There aren’t any shortcuts to building a business and there are definitely not any shortcuts to maneuvering out of a crisis. Expect long hours and lots of dedication from the team. You should be leading the charge. But don’t forget to message the company to celebrate small wins along the way. Just because you’re going through a dark period doesn’t mean that light doesn’t shine through.

Manage Morale

Confidence and doubt will always seep through. Even (especially) within the management team. This is normal, don’t let it cloud your judgement and always bring it back to the task at hand. Focus on the next step, not the top of the mountain.

Celebrate!

If you make it through, don’t forget to celebrate and reward your team for a job well done. It isn’t likely the last time the team will be called on to solve a crisis.

The Internet economy isn’t likely to change course. As the very fabric of operations continue to be woven with the threads of many businesses, businesses that can creatively mend the holes can find the strength to endure.

Robert Seo

CEO, US at Buzzvil

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