How Startup CEOs Navigate a Crisis

A CEO has one job during a downturn, and it’s not the one you think

Joe Procopio

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image by mindandi on freepik

Will your company be able to hang on to its most valuable employees through the toughest times?

It’s no secret that holding on to top talent is difficult right now, for a variety of reasons:

  1. The pandemic lockdowns started a series of economic earthquakes that led to panicked companies shedding worthy employees.
  2. The mainstream adoption of remote work opened up new opportunities for all kinds of talent at almost every level, otherwise known as the Great Resignation.
  3. Now the pressures of rising inflation mean even more employee shedding, whether those employees are good, bad, or average.

The common thread through all of these scenarios is that loyalty on both sides is at an all time low. The result is that the most skilled people are incentivized to go elsewhere, usually for the most money or the most freedom.

I’d say it’s time to throw out the rules and do whatever it takes to retain your best people. Because they’re the ones who are going to navigate your company through the storm, not you.

“They’re All Going To Leave”

It doesn’t necessarily require major economic turbulence to light this fire.

In fact, you only have to look at one good-problem-to-have to see how the problem manifests itself.

And how it gets solved.

Last week, I got a question from a startup CEO who had made the decision to take an acquisition offer rather than try to raise a necessary follow-on funding round. The offer was solid, if not life-changing, and it would give his company the runway it needed to fulfill its mission.

Provided, that is, he hung on to the 10-or-so extremely gifted and passionate people who had gotten his company this far.

This startup CEO had been through acquisitions before, and was no stranger to the fact that they never quite work out the way either side intends. Usually, the employees of the acquired startup are the ones who feel the most pain. And as you might expect, they often don’t hang around for long.

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com