Sure, the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in modern times. But we’ve had our fair share of crises.
The dot-com bubble, 9/11, the Great Recession — for many, these are recent memories. In every one, leaders found a way to do what they do best: lead.
And one thing they all say about weathering these storms: If you can survive, you can thrive.
My guest today is Godard Abel, Co-Founder & CEO at G2 is one such leader. He got his start as an entrepreneur in the dot-com bubble and hung on until after 9/11. He came out of the 2008 recession stronger than ever before.
He thinks you can come out of the current crisis stronger, too.
And he came on today’s episode to share how.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- What leaders can learn from prior crises
- Why leading through uncertain times means focusing on your customers and your team
- Why leaders need to be more visible
This post is based on a podcast with Godard Abel. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.
Learning from prior crises
Godard: I started my first company, Big Machines, in 2000 and eventually the company was very successful — it was acquired by Oracle in 2013 for almost $400 million. But it was a really long, tough journey.
We lived through 2 big crises. First, there was the huge dot-com bubble burst and then, subsequently, 9/11. And, really, that was the toughest crisis I’ve lived through by far.
It really was nuclear winter in tech and my company almost died, but that’s probably when I learned the most about leading in a severe economic crisis.
The whole internet economy had been written off. And that was really hard for me. Everyone was facing their own economic crisis, so no one wanted to commit to new projects.
And that was the most painful experience I’ve had as an entrepreneur. I had to scale down my team down from 70 to 20 people. We just decided to hunker down and go into organic growth mode.
That was really the only choice.
Then, we also lived through the 2008 financial crisis.
And that was very different for us. I was also very scared at first — I thought it would be like 2001 or 2002 — but what we saw was that companies did keep buying and we were able to grow.
If you can weather these kinds of crises, if you can grow, then you can really benefit.
I’ve seen both. I’ve had to go into survival mode, barely survive and focus on customers and my team.
Focus on your customers and your team
Godard: It’s easier to keep your existing customers who are already spending with you. You’re very close to them.
Make sure they love you and make sure they feel your love because they’re the ones that will keep paying the bills.
I think we have good fortune being in B2B. We can embrace our customers. We have subscription customers and I think if they’re happy, they’ll keep spending.
That gives us a baseline to grow with those customers. Obviously, new customer acquisition will be harder for some time because companies will be scrutinizing any new line-item and spend, so we need to really love our existing customers.
And the same thing goes for our teams.
We should embrace our high-performing team members because all their families are in crisis. There’s so much fear now in the whole world.
Leaders need to be more visible, especially in a crisis
Godard: As a leader, I think the number one thing to do is become more visible — and now, it’s via Zoom.
So, frankly, I’m working on showing up for more meetings. I think we’re lucky today to have all these digital working tools, but I think our team is accelerating it.
We’re using Confluence more. We’re using Zoom more. We’re using Slack and email more.
Lead from the front and show your team that you’re more engaged than ever before. You’re bringing more energy and you’re moving forward.
Because that’s what everyone wants to see: their leaders taking them forward in the midst of a crisis.