We are in the month of August and the year 2020 has been one of the roughest years in centuries. We’re talking an upcoming election in November (some would argue the most important in history), an ongoing debate over whether or not to reopen schools, an ethical dilemma in sports as an escape from the conditions today, an ongoing social justice movement that began with the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, mass unemployment, and of course an unforgettable global pandemic that’s just consuming everything around us.

With all this happening, one would ask where’s the light at the end of the tunnel, or who is winning at a time like this? Wealthy billionaires and trillion-dollar corporations could be winning, but I digress. In the entrepreneurial world we’re wondering how to build a winning startup culture in 2020. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this piece is an attempt to lay out possible measures that confront the challenges facing us today, particularly in business. Upon overcoming these challenges, we may then be able to shape a better culture where modern-day startups can succeed.

Challenges in Startup Culture

Portrait of multi-Cultural startup team in 2020 office
Portrait of multi-Cultural startup team in 2020 office

First off we need to establish the challenges facing us today and be aware of them. The social justice movement and civil unrest are challenges. Mass unemployment across the nation is a serious challenge. Parenting around the conditions facing us is another challenge, then we have the forthcoming political elections and of course the pandemic. While these are all legit challenges, the focus at this point is simply being aware that they exist among us. As you’re forming your enterprise, you must know these things are around you.

Your customers are losing their unemployment benefits. Business partners are having a hard time finding daycare for their children. Your staff are showing up in “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts, masks, and jackets. The purpose here is to simply be aware that it’s around you. The winning strategy here is to be open to what they have to say. Be willing to hear your customers out. Listen to your staff and why these events matter to them. Make them feel that albeit in the workplace, they are free to express themselves and know that their viewpoints matter.

Managing Your Startup Financially

Entrepreneur founder calculating startup finances in co-working space
Entrepreneur founder calculating startup finances in co-working space

I just discussed how one way to build a winning startup culture here in 2020 is to recognize that, at such a time as this, there are serious challenges around us and we must do our part to be aware of them and their influence on the business. The next is how to keep your financial house in order. Remember, as a startup you’re in a unique position where you’re just beginning to grow a business amid all the challenges you’ve been made aware of from colleagues, customers, etc. Now money has to be made.

You’ll want to ensure your business idea is feasible during these hard times where businesses are closing left-and-right. Services are being reduced and due to health and safety reasons, you’re limited in how you can reach your customers. That goes without saying for your business, the customers and clients are the most important source to reach. You can have the most incredible business idea in 2020, but if you struggle to orchestrate a sound business concept, it will be hard to acquire customers.

The point here is to create a business concept sturdy enough to survive the pandemic, social justice movement, political controversy, and ensure it does not cause divided interests between you and your staff. It is also of utmost importance to minimize the likelihood of losing business or closing down due to the coronavirus. There will not be much of a startup culture if your enterprise goes down as quickly as bars and restaurants are, per se; you’d want it to be as “closure-proof” as possible, so you can keep the revenue coming in and you can keep everyone and everything compensated.

How to Conduct Startup Business in 2020

Entrepreneur live streaming presentation
Entrepreneur live streaming presentation

Now that we have established the challenges around us and the importance of financing the enterprise despite those challenges, now we can articulate how to conduct business around the obstacles and within budget. This is where the core values and overall vision for the enterprise play a more significant role, except that it’s very important to ensure everything is done in accordance with COVID-19 trends and the political climate, for starters.

For example, let’s say your business is a dog grooming service. Your business model calls for you to provide a service to dog owners within your zip code. For this startup to have a winning culture in 2020, you’d want to do things like base your location in a zone unlikely to experience riots and heavy foot traffic, know which “Phase” a dog grooming business falls under, make sure your hours and staffing are feasible and commensurate with your clients’ ability to get to and from your location in a decent time frame. So far, so good.

As it pertains to creating a winning culture, we build relationships with staff, customers, people around the area, and go so far as sharing photos of your best work, creating an environment where customers feel free to visit on occasion. One interesting trend in professional sports, is the emphasis on “mic-ing” athletes – that is, increasing the amount of microphones on the court or field during a game. To that, I’d encourage you to invest in developing an app where dog grooming clients are allowed to view your business via webcam and understand the camaraderie between you and staff to see how a winning culture is built. Be open and transparent with the customer base while at the same time being socially distant. This gives the work you do a high amount of credibility, while also providing assurance to your clients that their pets are in very good hands.

Another thing to touch on regarding the overall vision and core values – a recent source I referenced stated how in building a winning startup culture it’s important to lead by example. I wish to agree with that by putting the following spin on that suggestion: the team around you will take notice of how to do it by watching your actions, as you lead by example. Because you are chief executive of the vision and core values in the workplace, everyone is looking at and counting on you to show how it’s done, and from there they realize how it’s done. The average individual in 2020 is not going to devote much attention to the mission statement on your office door or the core values you lay out next to the OSHA and wage law posters, but they will absolutely observe your movements and interactions with keen interest, and from there see what it takes to build a winning startup culture in 2020; all eyes will be on you.

What is Considered “Winning” as a Startup in 2020?

Entrepreneur cofounders high-fiving after successful online sale
Entrepreneur cofounders high-fiving after successful online sale

We have addressed understanding the climate around us, making our business financially feasible, and establishing core values influenced by those matters. Now we move to my last suggestion in building a winning startup culture in 2020, which is outlining what you consider as “winning” for your enterprise and going for it. By now you’ve already accomplished half the battle by establishing the core values and vision and creating an economically sound business model that will get you there; now we kind of need benchmarks. What exactly is winning to you? What are your targets for getting there? At what point are you willing to acknowledge whether you have or have not “won?” These are all things to consider at this phase. In a word, you and your team have put in the work and put to practice everything it takes on a daily basis to get the job done, but to what end?

I have several suggestions here to answer the questions I posed above. Winning could be studying the competition around you, measuring sales and customer volume and recognizing yourself for being ahead of everyone over the course of a month. To get there, you may set your own goals of say approximately $50,000 in sales a week (in COVID numbers, unless your startup instantly becomes the next Costco), or sell out 75% of your inventory at least twice in the next 3 months. It could be at the point where your startup realizes at least a 3% gain in profit for the 3rd straight month when you acknowledge you may be winning – well, that and when one of your competitors shut down and propose to join you!

Recognizing where Your Startup is in 2020

Happy coworkers interacting with dog in co-working space
Happy coworkers interacting with dog in co-working space

It’s important throughout the startup culture business cycle to recognize whether you’re ahead or behind your own expectations so you know how to adjust moving forward. You also allow yourself a “free time-out” evaluation period so the entire culture around you can pause, re-adjust, and shift focus accordingly. Further, to recall suggestions made in a recently reviewed article on startup culture, it’s at this point as well where rewards, special recognition, pizza parties, and bring-you-dog-to-work day are all warranted.

What have we learned throughout this article regarding how to build a winning startup culture in 2020? We’ve learned that four aspects should be considered:

  1. Understanding that starting up at this time comes with having to establish these are challenging times that may impact the business.
  2. Realizing that although your business idea or concept and core values are very important, neither will be achievable without implementing a sound financial strategy.
  3. Crafting and articulating how to act on those core values and vision within the constraints of a budget and other limitations.
  4. When and how to decide on whether you’ve “won” or “lost”, as a startup culture. Because of the many challenges facing us today—particularly the global pandemic, you must take note this is a peculiar time to start a business or implement a winning culture. However, as I mentioned in a recent article, the entrepreneurial spirit makes things possible. Stay focused, passionate, hungry and motivated on your way to building a winning startup culture here in 2020.

Have any more tips on building a winning startup culture in 2020? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.