THE SEVEN STEPS
When I did Basic Safety Training prior to becoming a merchant marine, we were required to learn the 7 steps to survival. They focus the mind to what to do next during an emergency as it shifts from one crisis to another. I've been contemplating how this relates to running a startup. Here are the steps:
- Recognition: Realize that your circumstances have changed and you must face new challenges.
- Inventory: Take time to consider your available resources and the issues that you may face.
- Shelter: You need to stay out of the weather and conserve heat.
- Signals: Identify ways to help rescuers find you.
- Water: Secure a safe source of drinking water.
- Food: Eating isn’t an immediate survival need.
- Play: Studies of survival situations show that having a positive attitude is key to success. It’s important to play and stay busy while waiting for help. People survive often because they believe that they will survive.
Recognition is easy to understand - but hard to put into practice. It's easy to recognize that there is danger. For the mariner and the start up, it's always present. More important is to recognize that the situation has changed. For the mariner, it might mean there's a fire, and now we are also sinking. For the startup, it's that the burn rate has shifted up, but run rate has shifted down. Or someone is sick. Or there's an unexpected bug. Or sales are lower than expected. This is the signal to review everything else in the 7 Steps.
Inventory: what are your resources. This is a major blind spot for someone in a physical crisis -and in business we often don't do a full inventory. The start up mentality focuses on burn rate. How much cash is on hand? How long is our runway. But it's even more critical to ask: who do I know, who can I count on, what are the skillsets available to us and even what are our credits?
Shelter: stay out of the weather and conserve heat. Well... practically - it is important to make sure the physical plant is well maintained - is the workplace functional? While it's romantic to crowd into a coffee shop - it's also critical to maintain a work environment where people can work. I'll take some liberty with conserving heat and say conserve money. Every time the situation changes - you should look at spending.
Signals: Communicate, blog, go to meetups, talk to your friends and advisors. Get the word out - not necessarily that your in crisis - that's probably will scare off potential rescuers. But you have to get the word out that there is an opportunity for someone.
Water: Ok... this one doesn't seem to fit. Although you should have adequate drinking water.... maybe this should be changed to coffee in 7 steps for the startup to survive.
Food: Eating isn’t an immediate survival need. Same with startups. Tighten your belt.
Play: It's when things are darkest that it's critical to have fun. Nothing sinks the ship faster than a poor attitude.