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Sloan Gaon
Sloan Gaon

Weathering the storm: Finding focus in the midst of chaos

Sloan Gaon is a respected and experienced tech executive serving as CEO of NY-based PulsePoint. He is a popular speaker at Lazaridis ScaleUp Program workshops at which his sessions on leadership, company alignment and the Rockefeller Habits are highly rated.

Learn more about the Lazaridis ScaleUp Program, including how to apply for Cohort 6.

“We are in a crisis situation,” asserts PulsePoint CEO Sloan Gaon. “As a CEO, you have to react appropriately.”

Even in the best of times, knowing what is ‘appropriate’ is difficult. “The entrepreneurial journey is a challenge, with many storms along the way,” says Gaon. “Our job is to weather the storm and end up stronger on the other side.”

And, as far as storms go, we’re getting battered by a Category 5.

Even Gaon, who has led companies through the economic fallout of the dot-com bubble, 9/11 and the 2008 recession, admits the ultimate impact of the global pandemic is untold. Despite the uncertainty, Gaon is steadfast in his approach for dealing with the current situation based on his past experience. Here are Gaon’s best practices for startup and scale-up CEOs on how to lead companies through turbulent waters:

Reduce stress, increase structure - Stress is the silent CEO killer. It's also an integral part of the job. It’s stressful because it’s chaotic. In a CEO’s world, things move quickly and change often. It’s not about making the right decision, but making the best decision with the information you have. Today, the ‘information’ part is severely lacking. My key advice for reducing stress is to reduce chaos by increasing structure. Focus on your short-term strategy, key initiatives, coaching and your people.

Enact a three- to six-month strategy - This is not the time to work on your strategic plan for the next three years. Develop and implement a short-term strategy that puts your company in the best position to survive the pandemic. Focus on key initiatives only. Your primary objective during this time is to come out intact.

Protect your balance sheet - For every dollar that you have today, assume you won’t be getting another. Even a positive cash flow will eventually decline. The number one thing for a CEO is to have cash on your balance sheet to pay your people. If you don’t have the means to do this, all bets are off.

Focus on your core key initiative goals for Q2 - Set aside anything not related to your core business. Focus your best people on three key initiatives. These initiatives need to be specific, concise, measurable and reiterated within your organization whenever possible. Does everyone on your team know what these initiatives are? If they don’t, you're not doing your job.

Coach your teams - Many managers don’t know what to do during a crisis. You need to keep your executive team engaged, informed and aligned. People are isolated and the longer this goes on, the more complicated and difficult it will be to keep everyone unified. Figure out how to coach your senior team on the best practices and then they can go deeper into the organization and communicate those same best practices, strengthening unity across the company.

Treat your people well - Everyday people are at home trying to focus on your business when they are also focused on their loved ones. You have to empathize and think of them as people, first. They’re the ones driving your business forward today and they’ll be the ones driving it forward tomorrow. What you do now will determine how loyal they are later.

Develop ideas for a post-COVID world - Think about what your company looks like after all this, but don’t act. Make sure your core is strong. Your energy and focus needs to be on your core. There’s nothing more important than that. Once your core is strong, you can start developing ideas for a post-COVID world.

Remember, there will be sunshine at the end of this - WhatsApp, Slack, Airbnb, Pinterest, Uber and Instagram are part of a group of organizations that started during the 2008-09 financial crisis. They are now a ‘who’s who’ of companies. As dire as things seem, there are amazing opportunities for companies that can navigate the crisis successfully. You need to harness the skills, techniques and tools to overcome this.


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