Ask most women in the start-up world and they recount the inherent struggle they face in getting funding and scaling up as female entrepreneurs. Women-led startups raise less than 3% of all VC dollars globally, according to Fortune magazine, and that too in areas such as consumer or retail rather than deep tech or enterprise.
But all that is changing, thanks to Covid-19. Crisis management requires a lighter touch and I see women entrepreneurs winning hands down as they ‘Lead their companies with Empathy’. So as a women founder, now is your time to shine. Here are 6 key traits that you can deploy to lead your companies through crisis and cement your credibility with investors:
- Put Your People First
I strongly believe that people and not the balance sheet are a company’s strongest asset. Startups spend most of their resources building markets and product diversification, typically operate on thin margins and leaving little room for contingencies like workforce salary payouts in times of crisis; hence we are seeing significant layoffs. But think carefully, true talent is rare. Can you get your key people back when business gets back to normal? Think of creative payouts and interim projects to keep your people afloat and ensure long term loyalty. Your job is as much to ensure that your people (and their families) don’t go out of business as much as your company.
- Sensitivity Not Sterility
Women are raised to foster a culture of nurturing that is crucial in an organization during a pandemic such as this. Create an environment of trust within your work force, with your counterparties, with your clients and with your vendors. Does a young mother need to take a few days off because she is locked in at home with no childcare? Do you clients need to renegotiate contracts as their business is impacted? Handling this with sensitivity rather than a pure eye on the bottom line with go a long way in establishing your start-ups’s credibility.
- Conversations Are Key
All corporate leaders need to make tough decisions during crises, but how you communicate them is important. Explaining your decision proactively, with compassion and sensitivity, will win you the respect of employees and clients alike. Also, ensuring that your senior management is actively listening to your employees and clients, and relaying them in a timely fashion will help significantly with the right decision making. Build a weekly Zoom Call in your calendar to ask all team members to share their fears, triumphs and emotions while working from home; it is a great way to build a ‘work family’.
- Multitasking – Your Natural Ability
Data shows that women are evolved multi-taskers as they are programmed to manage homes, kids and works from an early stage. At a time when businesses require firefighting on multiple fronts, this skill is a real asset for women leaders. Pivoting your business, keeping an eye on competitors while researching new markets and talent for the future, should be equally important on your daily agenda.
- Show Passion, not just Compassion
Displaying true passion for your business and a real belief in your mission is crucial for Employee Morale and Client Confidence in the moment of crisis. A true leader needs to prove their ability to motive all stakeholders to continue believing in the business or the mission, however hard the times are. And that comes from genuine passion for your work – a trait common amongst all female founders. CEOs that run the rat race for, say purely financial gains, will not survive this downturn.
- Vision – To Power The Great Reopening
This is an excellent time for all start-ups to rethink their “Need to Exist.” What did you start out to achieve at the outset? Do you need a different path to get there now? Which sectors, areas will be most in demand after Covid-19? Which technologies can you adopt to power the Great “Back to Work” and “Safety at Work?” Many clothes manufacturers I know have moved into Personal Protective Gears space. Many factories are adopting technologies like touch-less entry systems, contact tracing and thermal scanning to help reopen safely. As female leaders, trusting your intuition and finetuning your Vision for your company will take you a long way.
Most importantly, this is an opportunity for all women entrepreneurs to become a catalyst for change and prepare their organizations for a more empathetic world of tomorrow.
Aradhna Dayal is the Founder & CEO of Access Alts Asia, an Asia-focused investment club that brings together the world’s largest Family Offices and Institutional Investors to invest in transformational ideas across borders. She is also the CIO of her Family Office, based in Hong Kong. Aradhna is passionate about Women in Corporate Leadership, Impact Investing and Migrants/Minorities issues. Having read Global Strategic Management at Harvard Business School, Aradhna is a proud mother of two feisty and independent-minded teenagers.