Entrepreneurs are one of the most nimble groups of professionals working today. Quick to pivot, always on their toes, and prepared for constant change, entrepreneurs are agile and flexible. And with entrepreneurship rates trending upwards for each of the last 20 years, being ready for change can be the difference between survival and failure.
It is no surprise, then, that successful entrepreneurs are embracing operational agility as a core philosophy that is driving success. For entrepreneurs, key tenets of operational agility – such as preparing for faster decision-making and flexing and adapting to change – are driving success during these turbulent times.
The entrepreneurs that recently joined our Age of Agility podcast provide great examples of the positive of that embracing operational agility. Across industries, including VC-backed start-ups and passion projects turned ventures, entrepreneurial success in 2020 into 2021 is driven by being ready for change.
Here is what our recent Age of Agility guests had to say about entrepreneurial agility, and how their ventures have needed to be resilient with the times.
Adapting and flexing at market speed
Mateo Vega-Sanz, co-founder and CEO of Lula, had built a car-sharing app that expanded onto 500 college campuses, including all 50 states. But when Covid-19 hit, the uncertainty on college campuses caused Mateo and Lula to need to pivot.
As the sole company renting cars to 18-year-olds, in building their insurance policies, Lula had to have a unique pitch to connect with insurance companies and insure its drivers. And while the prospect of renting cars to 18-year-olds is frightening, Lula drivers saw incredibly low accident rates early on.
“We had such low accident rates because we had developed this vetting system to make the insurance companies feel more comfortable,” Mateo said. “We got really good at figuring out who should be on the platform.”
After trying to navigate the toughest months of Covid-19 early on, while still looking for additional funding, an investor reached out with an opportunity to help build out a car-sharing service in the military. They also are supporting insurance for other organizations following this growth.
“We just knew it was an opportunity,” Mateo said. When word got around about that program, additional organizations reached out about their insurance methodology – driving 500% growth since August. By being ready to adapt, and by keeping relationships alive for this opportunity, Lula was able to find its key value point and double down on it.
Follow the growth
In early 2019, regulatory coordinator in the neuro Oncology group at Dana Farber Mia Lavallee was simply making pasta to embrace her Italian heritage and logging it on Instagram. But as friends and a growing network kept asking her for tips on making the dishes she was showcasing, Mia’s passion project, Mostly Pasta, continued to adapt into in person classes, then Covid-friendly online classes, and then a way to sell pasta and support important social causes like Black Lives Matter with the proceeds.
In her journey with all of these flexible changes, Mia saw the constraints and challenges of 2020 as “an opportunity and not a limitation.” Mia was not following a path to what is next – she was following her passions with her skillset, and adapting to the changes of the marketplace.
“From my experience, agility has been just as much about resilience,” she said. “I’d worked really hard on trying to turn [in-person workshops] into a thing. And when that didn’t work out, I was like, ‘Okay, well, what else can I do, because I have found this thing that I’m really passionate about, and I want to keep doing it?’
Disruption-proof your business
Up until March 2020, commercial real estate startup Squarefoot was helping growing organizations solve their office needs with a trusted advisor. When the pandemic hit, office space was no longer viable or important. And as organizations began to plan to go back to the office, Squarefoot CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum made sure his organization understood the ever-shifting changes that they will have to help customers solve.
“What companies need to figure out, is how much space do you need? How do you get your employees comfortable with coming into work some of the time?” Jonathan said. And as this answer is different based on geography, company size, and timing, organizations all have different real estate needs based on their situation. So Squarefoot sought to help organizations optimize for people in the office as much as possible, but not all the time.
For Jonathan and Squarefoot, agility meant being prepared for upcoming projected trends, such as an increasingly flexible office space, showing up sooner than anticipated. “Agility means the ability to adapt, to change in situations or rather not be so set in your ways and set in your processes so that, um, you can move on a dime.”