Financial Steps This Leading VC Is Telling Portfolio Companies to Take Now
If demand for your product is not strong enough, careful cost-cutting could be in your startup's future.
Currently, there are enormous leadership challenges amid the pandemic and hostile markets. Unless your company happens to be selling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or video-conferencing, your leadership-- and especially your financial decisions-- is likely being tested as never before.
What should you do? For practical advice, I turned to venture capitalist Jason Green, founder, and general partner of Emergence Capital. Green has prevailed through tough times. He started Emergence during the dot-com bust of 2002, then seeing an opportunity to invest in the enterprise cloud, Emergence backed companies that grew to become unicorns such as Salesforce and Yammer.
Green told me how he is now advising Emergence's portfolio companies, given the current landscape. Here they are below, as I think these six ideas could help your company navigate the turbulent times we're in.
1. Maintain the right mindset.
Your employees are probably worried about whether your company will survive so you must project the right mindset to inspire your people to take the actions needed to come out stronger after the current crisis has subsided.
"Be calm but cautious. You can't stick your head in the sand. Do what is positive for success in the long run and be prudent about managing risk," Green said.
2. If you have enough revenue but are unprofitable, spend less on marketing and sales and become cash-flow positive.
If your company is large enough to make a choice between growth and profitability, you should cut back on marketing and sales expenses so you can become cash-flow positive.
As an example that this move can work, consider Emergence portfolio company and cloud-based HR software provider SuccessFactors which went public in November 2007. During the 2008 financial crisis, the company cut its marketing and sales expense -- becoming profitable within one quarter. (SAP acquired SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion in December 2011 at a 40 percent premium over its stock market value.)
3. If you lack scale, are unprofitable, and planned to raise capital in six months, raise it now.
If your startup is too small to have a choice of continuing to grow while cutting back on marketing and sales, you will need to take more drastic steps. If you had planned to raise capital in six months before Covid-19, Green urges such portfolio companies to raise the capital now.
4. If you lack scale, extend your cash runway by cutting costs carefully.
If your company has enough cash to last for the next 12 months, you should extend your cash runway.
Green recommends you cut costs carefully by balancing your short- and long-term investments in the future of your company. For example, do whatever you can to keep from losing an existing customer. Let go of experienced salespeople who keep missing their quotas. "Make sure everybody is delivering. If you have to top-grade, get rid of the bottom 10 percent," he said.
5. Get better information and make team decisions.
You should get more up-to-the-moment, accurate information on your company's performance and prospects, such as whether key current and potential customers are likely to maintain or cut their spending on your company's products.
As Green said, "Get your team together every day. It is so hard to project all the potential outcomes. Don't over-react. Make decisions as a team."
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