Proudly Supporting Entrepreneurial Minds Since 2008

What Every Small Business Owner Can Learn From Startups

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_custom_heading heading_semantic=”h6″ text_size=”fontsize-160000″]By Joey Gonesh[/vc_custom_heading][vc_custom_heading heading_semantic=”p” text_size=”fontsize-193992″]

We are in a time of crisis. During a crisis you take strict measures, right? Right! … Kind of: this is also a time when you shouldn’t be easily fooled. Sometimes there are more options available than you might think. If you just take the time to zoom out, stand still and consider the possibilities.

I am a small business owner. I also saw almost all of my assignments canceled this month. Yet I’m not panicking. I actually feel calmer than usual. Here’s why.


First, I observe myself. What exactly is happening? Do I really need to be in a survival mode?
· 1st question: is a hungry lion roaring in my face right now? No.
· 2nd question: will a hungry lion roar in my face anytime soon? No.
· 3rd question: Will a hungry lion roar in my face tomorrow? Again, no.
Okay, now I know I don’t need to be in survival mode.

These questions make me aware of 3 things: My feelings, my thoughts and my actions. These three things determine my mental state and thus my ability to make the right choice. Or the wrong choice.

A Toxic Cycle

In recent years I have experienced the toxic “feeling, thought, action” cycle a number of times. Here’s what happened:

I felt panicked because I thought:
“If I don’t get a new assignment NOW, I’ll have to sell my house tomorrow. Shit! Then I’m not a good father and husband. Then I completely failed.”

So I  called everyone I knew and begged them for work, pretending everything was fine, which no one was buying. Result: no deal. Resulting in more stress, even more desperate measures, and still no success. And so the cycle continued.

This cycle is toxic and self-reinforcing because it doesn’t really matter whether you start with your feeling, your thought or your action, everything influences each other in a negative way until you can’t make heads or tails of anything anymore.

A Startup Perspective

In order to overcome this cycle I borrowed a method from the startup world to force my brain to relax and take action calmly during times of crisis. The reason being that you are more powerful and effective when relaxed, than when you are panicked. Panic causes a hyper-focussed state, which may sound good, but is only useful when a hungry lion is in front of you and all you need to do is run. It is not helpful when you need to be mentally flexible and generate creative solutions).

In the startup world the principle of “runway” is well known. In essence, your runway is how long you can keep everything running until you can’t pay your bills anymore. Startups are often pre-profit, i.e. they aren’t generating revenue yet, so this sum is both simple and necessary to calculate.

What’s Your Runway?

If you translate this thinking into the finances of a small business owner like me, it works like this, imagine you have the following (all numbers are fictitious):

A payment account with a balance of EUR 500
A savings account with a balance of EUR 1,000
Monthly costs of EUR 250, –
In this situation, your total cash position is 1,000 + 500 = 1,500.
Your runway is then: 1500/250 = 6 months

Your Runway and You

What does a 6 month runway mean for you? Simply put, If you don’t receive any assignments in the next 6 months, you will have to take a measure once your 6 months runway is up to continue living in your current situation.

So, how high do you think the chances are that you receive 0 new assignments in the next 6 months? In the next 6 months you have 24 weeks, 120 days and 960 hours for product development, marketing and acquisition. What are the chances that, if this does not work, you cannot come up with 1 idea, action, or result (selling a car, borrowing money from your parents/friends, finding a new market, getting a different type of client, selling a boat, canceling a holiday) that allows you to live in your house just a little longer? For myself, the chance is small, and I suspect I’m not alone.

Brain Food

Bear with me and say to yourself “If I don’t do anything at all, I won’t have to change anything in my life for 6 whole months”.

When I tell myself this I notice that I relax immediately. I experience a feeling of calm, and from this calm I zoom out and options begin to arise.

So what’s the best thing to do in a time of crisis? Calculate your runway, then go on the hunt, like a lion with 6 months worth of confidence.

Joey Gonesh is a speaker, innovation specialist, football coach and owner of Friday Out Of The Box. His writings can be found on his Linkedin profile: and his blog

Translation by Peter Powell[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Find out how Team Academy can help you launch an international career at our next introduction event.

"Team Academy alumni are different: We think in opportunities, dare to embrace change, adapt quickly, and get the work done!
Stay up to date with Team Academy's events!