Get your business ready for the recession
Loop North News

Howard Tullman

2019 is going to be a bumpy ride especially for businesses that produce technology-based goods and services. Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Howard Tullman’s advice is to trim your sails and reset your course to weather a storm that could last at least a year.

21-Jan-19 – I am almost 100 percent in cash and I feel pretty good about it. Whatever you happen to believe about equities always appreciating over the long haul, the first half of 2019 is going to be a bumpy ride at best and the days of an explosive and expansive tech sector which had run the stock market to such incredible heights aren’t likely to be seen again for some time.

I see months ahead of seesawing ups and downs which may be great for traders but don’t do much for consumer confidence or any sense of stability in a time of insane political instability throughout the world.

Other than Microsoft, which I expect to continue to creep slowly and steadily upstream, I can’t see a single one of the other big five or six – however you count them and whoever you choose to include – that isn’t facing product, market, regulatory, or serious competitive issues that are far more likely to drive distractions and detours than any new initiatives or sustained and profitable growth. As the politicians gear up for the next election cycle, it’s hard to imagine any lower-hanging fruit for the media-sick morons to pick on than the big guys in the tech sector.

Albo / Adobe

Unlike the NRA and the big pharma folks who know how to buy off and hold off the pols, the techies are political babes in the woods and easy pickings. So, I’m not looking for much in the way of good news any time soon and frankly, an Uber IPO or an Airbnb buyout isn’t going to really set the markets on fire, either.

Relative to their crazy and over-inflated private valuations, I’m betting that a public offering in this environment for almost any of the tech unicorns is going to look like a down round if you know the internal investment numbers and prior valuations. And that’s before giving any effect to embedded repricing rachets and other downward pricing protections that were undoubtedly built into these deals.

In my review of these deals in general, the entrepreneurs were almost entirely focused on keeping ridiculous levels of voting and board control and, because everyone told them the sky was the limit in terms of their stock prices, they paid very little attention to the prospects and consequences of any kind of falloff in the prices of their company’s shares. They were smart, but not smart enough.

All of this doesn’t make me any too optimistic about the funding future for startups and early-stage growth businesses, especially those which are still chasing profitability, and so my advice is very simple – get your business ready for the recession. It’s coming and it’s no longer really a question of if but only one of when and how bad it’s going to be.

Now’s the time to start trimming your sails and resetting your course for at least a year. In a market and a time as crazy as today, there are far fewer penalties and downsides overall to waiting and hunkering down than there would typically be.

Stephen VanHorn / Adobe

Doubling down on your commitments and speeding up expansion activities when no one knows what direction we’re heading makes no sense.

Don’t be doing things – especially deals – just to keep busy. “Busy-ness” is a lot different than taking care of business. Random and reckless activity for activity’s sake is a poor antidote for whatever actual anxiety you may be experiencing.

Here are a few suggestions about what needs to be done. But first, I want to modify a few of my own prior pronouncements. Not because they’re wrong in the long run, but because they’re not right for right now. So, think yes, but rather than yes, and for a while.

Market share expansion occurs mainly in tough times

Yes, it’s easier to grow your piece of the pie when the competition is down-and-out and you’re blessed with a recently-acquired war chest – at the moment – and some pricing flexibility that lets you take advantage of the situation and make some very attractive offers to customers.

PxHere

Or maybe, because the channels are less crowded and there’s less demand, you’re able to secure better deals, placements, exposure, or even long-term partnerships that wouldn’t be available to you in happier and healthier – but also more competitive – times.

These are definitely tantalizing prospects, but most young businesses aren’t bragging about their solid balance sheets. Cutting your prices to grab customers will almost surely come back to bite you down the line. And there’s no guarantee that, if things continue to slow down and get worse, that you may also be looking at some tough times and choices. So, you have my permission to be penny-wise for a while.

Don’t try to do something cheaply that you shouldn’t do at all

Yes, I’ve always been a very strong advocate of avoiding anything that amounts to “putting lipstick on a pig” or “steak sauce on a hot dog.”

It’s usually smarter to just say no to these temptations to try to get by with less than your best, but, here again, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. Right now, my motto for your business – whether it’s dollars for development, money for marketing, a new ad and branding campaign, or growing the team – is simple: Go for good for now, great can wait.

Just because you’ve grown and even if you’ve got some bucks in the bank, take a breath and a moment to remember the old days when the only choices you had were to be guerilla and down-and-dirty and get things done with smarts rather than simply more shekels. And try to get back to those days and those times.

BillionPhotos / Adobe

You can’t save your way to success

Yes, but saving a few bucks right now may be the way you get to stay in the game. The only sin you can never come back from in a startup is running out of cash because then they send you home. So, it’s never worth the risk of cutting things too close or not making sure you’ve got enough for Plans B and C if it comes to that.

Right now, I’d say the exact things you want to be doing are clear – conserve your cash, shorten the length of your commitments, and stick with the team you have instead of making a bunch of additional bets on unproven players. Don’t let your mouth or your ego write checks that you can’t cover.

In the end, it all comes down to money. Money doesn’t really care who makes it. It’s always there, it’s just the pockets that change. And it does talk. You just want to be sure that it doesn’t say, “goodbye.”

By Howard Tullman | Loop North News | h@g2t3v.com

Published 21-Jan-19 2:48 AM

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