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Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship

How should entrepreneurs react to COVID-19 with Marysia Czarski

  • Marysia Czarski and Janice Byrne
  • |
  • Mar 26, 2020
How should entrepreneurs react to COVID-19 with Marysia Czarski

Marysia Czarski, HBA '90 has coached hundreds of entrepreneurs throughout Canada and the US over the last 17 years, during periods of high growth as well as economic downturn. Her latest entrepreneurial output is an on-line community for entrepreneurs, which offers free resources, access to conversations with entrepreneurs and experienced advisors  at

Marysia shared her thoughts with Entrepreneurship Faculty, Janice Byrne, on how entrepreneurs can best react and respond to the current COVID-19 crisis that Canada, and the world, is currently grappling. 

Entrepreneurs are making many important and vital decisions for the future of their company inside of the uncertainty and ambiguity of this tumultuous period. I’ve been sharing and working with my clients in the following areas to ensure they have the fitness to navigate decision making in a grounded and timely way. Here’s some of the key ones.
  1. Reconnect to your company’s Purpose, Vision, and Values.

    These are critical pillars to reference as you make so many important decisions in the coming days and weeks. Share them again with your team and reference them in important conversation if need be. Many of my clients have drawn upon their Purpose, Vision and Values to curate communications to their clients and to give feedback to employees who need redirection. If you’ve not got these important pillars clarified and in place for your company, it will be worth the time you invest to do it now.
  2. Practice empathy.

    Empathy means deep listening and turning off your filters of judging and assessing based on your set of circumstances, and leads to a better understanding of others. It is understandable that in crazy times you’ll only see the world through your eyes. However, it is more important than ever now to understand and share the feelings of another. That includes your employees, suppliers, and your customers. Everyone is scrambling to adjust and, in some cases, survive. Take the time out to connect with stakeholders in these areas and find out how they are doing and what they need.  I am finding everyone is suddenly so open to new ways of working that if you take the time to understand those stakeholders you may find new opportunities together. For your team, something that will go a long way is to set up a video conference with them weekly to find out how they are doing personally.

  3. Know your numbers and statistics. 

    More than ever, you need to know that your financial numbers are accurate and reliable, and that you know how to use them beyond a cost cutting exercise. Do you have a clear picture of your margins, fixed and variable costs, and your company’s break-even? Ensure you have it in an excel spreadsheet, so you can do some analysis and scenario planning with it. Another very important structure to have in place is a customer pipeline or a mechanism to see easily who your customers are, and what their status is. Finally, ensure your company’s Dashboard of vital numbers and statistics is in place and updated with frequency. Remember, this is a combination of data that gives you a snapshot of the past, present and future health of your business. It can be both quantitative and qualitative in nature. In these times, I’d recommend updating your Dashboard daily. Having a strong and confident relationship with all of your numbers and statistics in your business is vital.

  4. Be Creative.

    I define creativity as developing novel ideas that are useful and desired.  Good ideas can come from anywhere. Keep bringing in your team to help develop ideas to the problems and challenges you are facing. In every good creative process you need to be very clear on the problem you want to solve. Solve one problem at a time. Ensure that when you are diverging, you develop lots of ideas, (probably via brainstorming), and that you just let that free flow of ideas emerge. Don’t judge them-yet!  Once you give everyone the chance to put their ideas forward, and they are captured on a flipchart (virtual where needed), revisit the criteria to pair down and assess those ideas. After clustering similar ideas, you can vote on the best ideas, and take the top 3-4 ideas and turn them into a plan for action. This can all be done virtually through Zoom, Google Doc or Stormz.

  5. Be transparent with stakeholders and don’t over-rely on email for communications.

    A client sent me an email she was going to send out to her team about some important company information. She was being transparent – check that box, however, email was not the right platform, and too impersonal for this. I encouraged her to get a video conferencing call going as soon as possible. Guaranteed, while you are dealing with what you are dealing with, your team is trying to figure out what is going on in your head! Provide honest, transparent and compassionate communications in real time. They know these are unprecedented times, and this is also their opportunity to show you they are with you. Of course, email and other non-synchronous communication tools will continue to be used, but don’t over-rely on them. We still need to feel connected in real time.