We find ourselves in some of the most tumultuous economic times that I’ve seen in my entrepreneurial career. Even the largest and most successful companies will be tested by changing capital markets, interest rates, geopolitics, and inflation. However, these times also create some of the greatest opportunities for entrepreneurial teams.
For example, my first company, Dotloop, launched in 2009 right in the middle of the global financial crisis–a time of drastic change in the U.S. mortgage market. By conventional standards, this was not a great time to start an online real estate service. Despite the incredibly challenging macro environment, this was the best time that we could have ever started that business, and I attribute much of our success to being alert to opportunities amid a crisis. We remained focused on efficiencies and how we could introduce better processes to the real estate industry. Our focus paid off and Dotloop became a widely used product to streamline the agent to admin transaction and was later acquired by Zillow.
Now, with my current business, Pacaso, we raised our first round of funding in February 2020. Just a couple of days later, the pandemic started to change society in ways that we couldn’t imagine. But what I didn’t realize at the time is that the pandemic would usher in a new definition of “freedom of place,” with remote work and nomadic living becoming more mainstream, a phenomenon that has significantly contributed to Pacaso’s early momentum. It just goes to show that change can lead to new opportunities that often can’t be anticipated, and has the ability to fuel great innovation and creative thinking.
Allow me to share my four keys to identifying and unlocking big opportunities in this period:
1. Find clarity.
Fluctuating market conditions force clarity around your priorities. During uncertain times when resources are scarce, you must prioritize the most important things and stay laser focused on the mission and long-term company goals.
Do you really need that new hire right now, or could the existing team be organized differently to unlock efficiencies? Is the company invested in strategic bets that are too far from the core mission? Are you overspending on vendors providing services that could be brought in-house?
2. Be resourceful.
Embrace the challenge of doing more with less. When resources are abundant, it’s easy to throw money into people, problems, and opportunities. But when your resources are limited, you’re forced to find a way to deliver on your goals and exceed customers’ expectations.
3. Embrace creativity.
Challenges force creativity and thinking outside of the box. A common example is performance marketing. When you have a large budget as a startup, it’s easy to invest capital to acquire leads through performance marketing. But solely investing in performance marketing does not make for a diversified and sustainable recipe for success.
It’s important that a great marketing strategy also has a blend of organic customer acquisition channels. Moments like this also force a lot of opportunities to unlock some of those channels in new and interesting ways.
In anxious times, it can be tempting to see only what’s in front of you and get lost in what seem like intractable problems. As a leader, people are looking to you to take control and be a calming, steady presence. But in times of crisis, it’s even more important to be the one to pause, take a breath, and make sure to anchor the work being done in the company’s mission, rather than just reacting for reaction’s sake.
At the end of the day, life in business is just a compilation of highs and lows. It’s in the lows where the magic happens. Those are the moments where we build character and we experience great breakthroughs. When you look back years and decades from now, those are the moments that you will remember. Embrace the struggle and leverage this time of uncertainty and challenge to unlock new opportunities in your life and business.