Builders Conference / Business / COVID-19

When the economy stops, how should growth-stage companies change?

Growth is slowing for most businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. These successful founders and execs offer advice on getting through it — and putting people first.

Clockwise: Rick Nucci, Michael Vaughan, Rakia Reynolds and Julie Zeglen. (Screenshot)

What does a growth-stage company do when the economy all but stops? The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented enough that there’s no playbook, so we got some top tech and business leaders together to discuss it.

On May 7, hosted its first Introduced|Virtual conference, the first all-online version of our annual conference that introduces the ideas, people and opportunities that build better companies. (Look for the IRL version to return during Philly Tech Week 2020 presented by Comcast this September.)

During the “Economic Outlook for Growth Companies” panel moderated by Managing Editor Julie Zeglen, over 200 live attendees heard from Philly-area biz leaders answering hot Qs about changing revenue plans and prioritizing people.

Couldn’t attend live? Watch the full panel below and read a few highlights below:

It’s time for tough decisions.

Everyone talks about businesses pivoting during the pandemic, which can be relatively small changes, such as holding client meetings virtually, to overhauling the whole business model.

“Do you react, do you adjust your business temporarily to help out, because it’s an opportunity and you can meet that? Or do you not want to react too quickly on it so you can stay focused on your longer-term plan?” said Vaughan. “Those are tough decisions, especially if you were directly impacted by this, like someone who was supplying directly to restaurants.”

Some of the adjustments businesses are making today may become permanent.

Put “values over selling.”

With unemployment rates sky high, customer-facing businesses have to be sensitive to the fact that, statistically, many customers are going to be at least temporarily out of work at this time or facing other hardships. It’s not business as usual.

“One thing at the macro level, as a communications agency: We’ve been paying attention to a lot of consumer-focused companies,” said Reynolds. “As you can imagine, looking at unemployment rates, we don’t want our clients going out with a message to buy something or do something.

“It’s values over selling — putting ourselves into the shoes of the folks that are being laid off.”

Focus on what you can control.

A year ago, growth-stage businesses could make plans and set goals for the next few years. Now, most can’t be sure about what the business will be doing in a few months. Focusing on the uncontrollable isn’t productive. We can assume new growth will slow for most businesses. Look at what you can control at this moment. Help clients out now if you can, and they won’t forget it.

“Let’s not try and wrap our heads around [maybes],” said Nucci. “Let’s offer more help and heavy lifting.”

Take advantage of opportunities, not people.

A major thread in the panel was putting people first, being helpful and being empathetic. That doesn’t mean that businesses can’t take advantage of the unusual opportunities that come with unusual times, said Vaughan. You can find opportunities that don’t exploit people.

Catch the full day of panels on YouTube.

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Philly Tech Week 2020 is more like Philly Tech Year, with more virtual events like this coming throughout the next few months. Get updates on speakers, sessions, attendee specials and more by signing up for #PTW20 emails today:

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Companies: Guru Technologies /
Series: Coronavirus
People: Julie Zeglen / Rakia Reynolds / Rick Nucci
Projects: Builders Conference / Philly Tech Week

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