Opinion: Rising from the Ashes of COVID-19

Opinion: Rising from the Ashes of COVID-19

Opinion: Rising from the Ashes of COVID-19

Entrepreneur Voices: Lyndon Johnson

“Entrepreneurs are used to managing uncertainty—many of us thrive on it and I expect long-term it will build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem, in Canada and around the world.”

Lyndon Johnson is an entrepreneur, founder, and PR coach who helps startups and small businesses to build actionable relationships. As the host of #StartupChats, Lyndon is one of the most active voices in the Startup Canada ecosystem, so we were grateful he took the time to share his personal perspective and insights on the state of Canadian entrepreneurship amidst COVID-19. 

He was also generous enough to share his contact info at the end of the article, for anyone who would like his support directly.

Describe your business before COVID-19. How has it been impacted?

There are two parts to my business—THINK DIFFERENTLY—a research and development business that works to make public relations and marketing advice affordable, accessible, transparent and measurable, and COMMS.BAR which is a walk-in clinic service that works like an Apple Genius Bar helping entrepreneurs create strategies to build, sustain and grow their businesses. 

The physical walk-in clinics have closed, but the business has always provided online Strategy Sessions, which has enabled us to continue to support entrepreneurs throughout COVID-19.

What is your biggest concern right now? What is your biggest concern looking into the future?

Right now, my biggest concern is helping as many startups and small businesses to survive the shutdown. It appears that many startups and small businesses are not getting the financial support they need. 

Founders don’t qualify for EI, and startups and small businesses don’t have the payroll required for federally-backed loans or wage subsidies; many have irregular incomes, so they won’t be able to access CERB and I’m trying to do what I can to help address this.

Looking ahead, my biggest concern is to be able to scale fast enough to support entrepreneurs that need our help—not only in Canada but around the world as we emerge from the current situation.

How has the entrepreneurship ecosystem been impacted by COVID-19?

I think it’s too early to really know how the Canadian ecosystem has been impacted. Clearly many businesses are closed, and the situation has added significant uncertainty for entrepreneurs around the world. Entrepreneurs are used to managing uncertainty—many of us thrive on it and I expect long-term it will build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem, in Canada and around the world.

One thing that is clear is that there will need to be a shift from VC-backed startups to ones that are able to build sustainable businesses from revenues. VC money will not be as available as it was pre-COVID—and for the long-term economic success in Canada, that won’t be a bad thing.  As a result, we will likely see many of the startups in cities like Toronto failing, but I have no doubt that many new startups will rise from the ashes.

Are there any recommendations or solutions that would be helpful for the government to understand from the perspective of entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs building businesses need as much support as small business owners. They are the future small business owners. They’re potentially the next Facebook or Google. They are also the most vulnerable right now. In many cases, they’re self-funding and have irregular incomes because the majority of their revenue goes back into building the business. They have no external investment.

What opportunities do entrepreneurs have as we navigate the next few months?

There are so many opportunities. Every entrepreneur has a blank piece of paper and the opportunity to reboot their businesses. From fixing a business model to identifying new revenue streams—fine-tuning systems and processes and building or strengthening relationships with the people that will be central to building a sustainable business as we emerge from the shutdown in what will be tough economic conditions.

The short-term opportunity is to develop a strategy that will enable entrepreneurs to be ready when things start to normalize.

After COVID-19 is over, what do you think the world will look like?

I don’t think that anybody really knows. I think it will be so different from the pre-COVID world that we won’t be able to go back to ‘normal’. 

I do think that there will be a shift in the way we fund startups and also a realization that we need to build sustainable businesses from revenue, rather than the focus in recent years of raising huge amounts of third-party money. We’ll be better prepared should something like this happen again.

How can entrepreneurs come together to support one another right now?

I think we already are. I think that there is a shared sense of purpose by entrepreneurs to help our peers get through this. It’s not like this is only impacting one region, country, industry, or business type—we’re all impacted, so we have a shared understanding of the current challenges.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs (aspiring and current) in light of the current situation?

Get a clear picture of where you are right now—it’s the only way you can build a strategy to navigate the current situation. Figure out who the key people are for navigating the shutdown and develop a strategy for building, maintaining, or strengthening those relationships and—most importantly—ask for help if you need it. 

I’ll talk with anybody that thinks I can help them in any way. I can be contacted on +1 647-773-2677 [voice, SMS or WhatsApp] or lyndon@comms.bar

Micah Rakoff Bellman
Micah Rakoff Bellman

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