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How Founders Should Communicate in a Crisis

Do you have tactics that can be deployed to help manage during a crisis? In this episode of Startup Therapy, Ryan Rutan and Wil Schroer talk on the crisis’ they’ve dealt with in the past, what works in managing during those instances, and beneficial communication tactics.

Updated on May 27

Key Smash Notes In This Episode


Whether it was the 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, or the Covid19 pandemic, business always goes through the same predictable cycles.

At first, there is silence, and no one is reacting to the collapse. Then, some clients start to put deals or hold. First it's just a few clients, but soon enough your phone does not stop ringing, and everyone is cancelling.

Once the crisis is over however, people inevitably return back to business. Their focus shifts to being more sustainable and more cautious at first, but before you know it, everything is back to business as usual.

As a business owner it is important to recognize that this cycle will always happen, and to react accordingly. Your job is not to come out of it the same way that your company looked like before it, but to emerge alive.


Talk straight with your team, be raw and empathetic. If you try to hide and spin the truth, you are just going to lose credibility.

You should also be detailed in your communication because anything that you don't talk about will be filled with the worst version of people's imagination.

Outline your decision criteria and your options in the context of what's happening. Explain the cause and effect of how your business will react to external events.

If you are on a Titanic that is hitting the iceberg, there is no point in pretending that you are not going to crash. The worst thing you can do during an external crisis is to communicate poorly and to create an additional internal crisis.

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In dire time, you win by focusing your entire team around one focal point. Explain that survival comes from a certain objective, and focus everyone on it.

Wart-time management isn't the same as your day-to-day management. Set the objective, explain what everyone is to do to achieve it, and crucially important, outline exactly how success and failure is going to be measured.

You may not win, but you can put your team in charge of their own destiny.

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