Covid and the Winter of Our Discontent

Photo by Malin on Unsplash

Now, as Shakespeare said, is the winter of our discontent.

Covid keeps on coming, creating a third wave of infections that put the earlier upswells to shame. We are hunkered down, tired out, fed up, and strung out. People fret and businesses suffer.

What is an entrepreneur (last time I looked, entrepreneurs are people, too, subject to all the slings and arrows of human experience) to do during a dark moment like this? How can an emerging business move forward when everything is locked down?

Every entrepreneur is unique and every business different, but here are a few thoughts on how to traverse terrible times.

Focus on your core. In challenging times, startups should cut away all the clutter, pare back big dreams, and pay attention single-mindedly to their core. This means core activities, like lab research and software development. Or core customers: keep every buyer you have today satisfied, occupied, and ready to expand in the future. It means pay attention to your key team members and to your most critical investors. Make a list of essentials. Tighten that list down to only the most central requirements. Pay attention to those. And leave everything else for later.

If you can’t act, prepare. In some cases, with all the restrictions now in place, action is impossible. You can’t go to the office. The lab is shut. The customers are closed. The factory is inaccessible. The supply chain is sundered. In this case, be the farmer in winter: Paint the barn. Clean the root cellar. Muck out the stalls. Do all you can to prepare and improve your foundations so that when action becomes possible again, you can take the greatest advantage of it.

Remember the Shawshank Redemption. In this classic story, an inmate chips away at a wall with spoons day after day for years. The task of escape seems impossible, ridiculous. But they persist. Imperceptibly, they make progress. Until one day, unimaginable when he began, the prisoner is free. Be that guy. Do what you can no matter how small. Keep the faith. Believe in yourself, your plan, and your tomorrow. Even if progress is minuscule, that is still progress and worthy of your effort.

Recognize that winter ends. Vaccines are here. In Britain, inoculations began yesterday. In the US it may be weeks before they begin. But that is weeks, not years. The Covid crisis should ease over the spring and some degree of normal socialization should return by summer. It has been a long, dark nine months, but the end is in sight. Take a deep breath, adjust the heavy pack on your back, and just keep doing. Even if you can’t see it yet, the brilliant sunshine of the summit is only a few switchbacks ahead. Truly, this nightmare is almost over.

Don’t forget yourself. Focus on your team, your customers, your prep, your tech. But don’t forget to focus on yourself. You are human, too. All of this is taking a toll on you, as it is on all of us. Stay as close as you can to those you love. Reach out and do the things that bring you joy and comfort. Workout. Eat and drink so your body and mind are ready for the marathon ahead. Cut yourself some slack; in one way or another all of us are a bit off our game during this conferment.

Nietzsche said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In our current malaise, this is literally true.

Be strong.

By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart

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