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Tips for Keeping Your Company Grounded During a Crisis

Sara Schaer

Sara Schaer

Co-Founder and CEO at Kango
Sara Schaer is the co-founder and CEO of Kango, an award-winning, app-based ride and childcare service for busy families. Schaer is a Silicon Valley veteran who helped grow the Snapfish global product team from a team of two product managers through the company’s acquisition by HP in 2005. Previously, Schaer worked as a senior consultant for Accenture and as a product manager for InsWeb (later sold to Bankrate) through its IPO. Schaer received a B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University and an MBA from ESSEC Business School in Paris, France. Schaer currently resides in San Francisco with her husband and two sons. In her free time, she is an avid traveler and volunteer mentor at Technovation, an organization that encourages STEM learning in young women.
Sara Schaer

Being a business owner is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had the opportunity to embark on. The endless cycle of personal and professional growth and learning makes for a truly life-changing experience. But surviving a global pandemic can quickly become one of the most stressful times of any entrepreneur’s career. The shift of customers’ and employees’ needs can be sudden and drastic.


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While every business is different, here are a few tips for how to pivot your company to succeed during times of crisis:

Strategize quickly

Understanding your customers’ needs is essential in order to change your approach quickly. When the pandemic hit, the need for our main service vanished overnight. I knew that we would have to completely shift our operational focus, and we had to think fast.

As the co-founder of a ride-sharing service for children and families, health and safety have always been our top priority. However, with school closures and activity restrictions, I was aware that parents’ behaviors would change as schools shifted instruction to entirely online learning, and all extracurricular and sports activities were cancelled.

We surveyed our customers to see what we could do to help them during the new reality, and we asked drivers what kind of services they would be willing to provide. The solution was contactless food and grocery delivery, and the introduction of tutoring services for kids struggling to learn in virtual classrooms. We wanted to ensure that during one of the most stressful shifts of our lifetimes, families could continue to trust Kango to help them when and how they needed us.



Know what to shift internally and implement it

Once you have determined how you need to adapt your business, it’s important to execute quickly. In our case, once the COVID-19 lockdowns of families and schools occurred, we knew that we had to anticipate 12 to 18 months of sharply reduced ride volume.

We immediately knew we had to both reevaluate the business and determine how to keep our drivers and passengers safe. As many of our drivers and HQ staff are working parents, we had a good understanding of what most families were struggling with during the pandemic, but we surveyed them anyway. Delivery and online tutoring were new needs, so we adapted our procedures and our mobile apps within less than a month. We also sought outside medical expertise for a review of all our operational procedures, and implemented new health and safety protocols.

Support company morale

Although it can be difficult to promise anything during uncertain times, it is extremely important to make sure your employees feel heard and are taken care of to the best of your ability.

First, it’s important to show that you sincerely care about your team as individuals. They need to know you have their best interest at heart.

Second, outline next steps for the company, communicate it and stick to the plan, even if things need to be adjusted. Uncertainty is uncomfortable for everyone.

Third, increase your accessibility and communicate often. Your team should feel supported as much as possible on a one-on-one basis.

Last but not least, find appropriate ways for the team to support one another and feel connected, whether in interactive meetings or team building activities that feel appropriate for the moment you are living through.

Stay grounded

As an entrepreneur and business owner, your employees look to you when a crisis occurs. During such times, it is critical to remember that we are all human and have human emotions, including leaders. Allow yourself to acknowledge the challenges at hand. Then, make space for yourself to manage and recover from the stress you feel; not only as a result of the crisis itself, but also due to the responsibility you bear as a business owner and leader. Being healthy and well-rested sets the right example for your team and will help you keep perspective.

Finally, remind yourself of the mission you set out upon when you founded your company. Preserving that mission will give you the reason and the strength to persevere through adversity.


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Be prepared for future crisis

Entrepreneurs should always have a crisis plan in place.

Rule number one is to be informed. Staying abreast of news and trends (both within your industry and at the macro level including global health, economics and politics) is even more critical than before. Leaders must anticipate the future and aim to be in the right place at the right time, but it’s also our responsibility to avoid or mitigate foreseeable dangers.

Rule number two is to remain calm in the face of adversity. Your team, customers and investors will respect you for that, and you’ll need to be able to think on your feet.

Rule number three is to make sure you structure your costs and your product in a way that is as flexible as possible. Minimize fixed costs if you can and avoid large brick-and-mortar sources of overhead.

Last but not least, rule number four is to learn from past crises or even more minor challenges. Even if no crisis is the same, you can develop a decision-making framework that helps you in the next battle of “survival of the fittest!”

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