Ball in court

By James Hirst, COO and Co-Founder, Tyk

COVID-19 isn’t going to go away anytime soon and its impact on businesses and society is far-reaching. For some in the start-up community, the chancellor’s recent announcement of a package of measures to support businesses driving innovation in the UK will have been a welcome relief.

Our start-up ecosystem, particularly in the technology industry, has grown to be the biggest and best in Europe and we sit only behind the US and China for creating and producing the largest number of tech ‘unicorns’.

This growth seemed unstoppable – until the coronavirus hit. Many start-ups rely on investment from elsewhere to fuel their success, and these capital injections are likely to have been slowed or even cut off amid the pandemic.

The government’s intervention in the form of a support package, which some will need and others may not, sends a clear signal that the UK plans to remain one of the best places in the world to start and grow a tech business – and that the progress made by recent innovators will not go to waste.

Now the ball is in our court. What can we do to navigate the impact of COVID-19 as entrepreneurs and start-ups?

Ensure continuity

The challenge for all businesses is ensuring continuity of service over the coming weeks and months.

My first piece of advice to other start-ups during this time would be to put strong quality and security controls in place, and to ensure that technology is an assistant, rather than a blocker, to the work that needs to be done.

Particular attention should be paid to customer data – ask yourselves where it sits, how it is accessed, and ensure systems are in place so that there are no risks in this taking place outside of the office environment.

You also need to remain readily available to communicate with clients or customers, should they need any assurances or information. Champion the video call. With careful planning, and team training, this can be a much better way of building a relationship with your users, compared to an annual “account meeting” in an office. It really helps to understand your customers’ pain points and how you can help.

Embrace the newfound ‘remote-by-default’ and maintain your company culture

Our business has been a remote-first organisation from day one, and the approach was originally born out of necessity with us living on opposite sides of the globe. The structure benefits us and our customers greatly. We are truly global – we’ve got team members in 25 different countries including Paraguay, Tanzania, Nigeria, Serbia and Ukraine. Since our inception, the remote set-up has provided a flexible environment for teams to collaborate on projects and work streams and it also allows staff to connect and network outside of the traditional office environment.

With remote working becoming a large part of the foreseeable future for many businesses, thinking more laterally to how you facilitate this through your remote working tools will not only help businesses stay productive but also ensure your staff feel connected and supported.

When the lockdown restrictions are eventually eased, businesses will be fully acclimatised to the benefits of working remotely and thus will likely be in a good position to put the employee at the forefront as the ‘new normal’ moving forwards.

Finally, it’s important to maintain your company’s unique culture whilst we navigate these uncertain times. This could mean using a video conferencing service such as Zoom to host social gatherings that boost morale – such as a virtual café, where staff come together over a cup of coffee and talk about hobbies and their lives, or a team quiz night in the evening.

There’s no denying that the current situation presents many challenges to start-ups and businesses. Those that are able to embrace change quickly, being agile and flexible as customer demands shift while supporting employees with new ways of working, will be in the best position as we enter this “new normal”.