10 “New Normal” Startup Lessons from Warren Buffett

The world has been living with COVID-19 and the “new normal” for nearly two years now, and no business has come out unscathed. Things have changed—some for the worse and some for the better.

What hasn’t changed is that there are still plenty of people looking to start new businesses and test their entrepreneurial skills.

It’s certainly a tricky time to work on new business ideas and create your own start-up. However, with the right planning and focus, it can still be done. Even in these uncertain times. We’ve looked to one of the greatest investors and start-up gurus of all time for some inspiration on how to navigate this new world.  Let’s see how lessons from Warren Buffett can be put to use:

Always Look To The Future

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.—Warren Buffett

Without planning and foresight, no start-up will survive in the long term. We might be able to argue now that the future is so uncertain thanks to the pandemic, making it almost impossible to look to the future and plan for it. This is a recipe for disaster if you go into your new business thinking this way.

Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Focus On What Makes You Different

We want products where people feel like kissing you instead of slapping you.—Warren Buffett

Having something unique about your business will help you to weather any storm. It can be any element of your business that is different or original. This will be what makes you stand out and keeps your customers coming back, even in times of recession or financial difficulties.

In good times, it’s easy to start a company and be just like everyone else. If you haven’t taken the time to differentiate your business, you will likely suffer when the next big disaster hits.

Discipline Is Better Than Confidence

We don’t have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined than the rest.—Warren Buffett

A general personality feature of most entrepreneurs is confidence in their abilities, sometimes moving towards overconfidence. This is a vital trait in the start-up world, but it can also be your downfall if you aren’t disciplined in your approach to your business.

In these more uncertain times, having the discipline to say no to opportunities that are too risky can save your company and keep it running for years to come. It’s also important to have the discipline to keep showing up every day, even if things are getting harder and the market is getting constricted due to things outside of your control.

Your Reputation Is Everything

It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it—Warren Buffett

This is still as true now as it was the day Buffet made this comment. If your reputation isn’t strong and positive, you will not survive tough times. When the chips are down, people only want to work or do business with other people who make them feel positive.

Investing In Yourself Is Worth It

Invest in as much of yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.—Warren Buffet

It’s important to keep working on your skill set and improving your capabilities. This will help you differentiate your start-up and help you pivot in challenging times.

For example, Buffet knew early on that he would need to win over the best investors he could when starting out. In order to give himself the best possible chance, he took a course on public speaking, as this was something that terrified him.

Operate Below Your Means

Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold.—Warren Buffett

It’s tempting to go straight from invoicing your clients to seeing how you can spend the money on growing and pushing forward. This is not the route to success or wealth.

You need to constantly put money aside for the tough times. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that big changes can happen overnight and you need to have savings in your back pocket to keep your business alive.

Take Time To Analyze

I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business.—Warren Buffett

Acting on impulse is a quick way to kill a fledgling business, especially in a constricted market and economic downturn.

It’s never been more vital to sit on a decision, weigh up the pros and cons, do your research, and make a considered choice for your business. By all means, listen to your gut instincts, but don’t act without consideration.

Age Is Just A Number

Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.—Warren Buffett

This one isn’t strictly something to learn from the “new normal”, but we can say that the pandemic has shown us that life is short and we need to take chances when we get them.

The world is so focused on what young people are doing. Social media is showing us billionaires who got there at the age of 18. Just because you’re no longer 18, doesn’t mean it’s too late to start your own start-up. Warren Buffett didn’t achieve major industry success until he was in his 60s.

Be Happy With What You’re Doing

To be happy, you should work with people you like and do something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy someone, there’s no amount of money that would make it worth working with them.—Warren Buffett

You aren’t always going to love the daily slog of working and building a start-up. However, if you aren’t passionate about the work and love the idea of your business, you will find it very difficult to keep your motivation up. This will be increasingly difficult in tougher times. In the “new normal”, it’s largely those who had the will to keep their companies going that are still standing.

Create An Ecosystem

Surround yourself with people that push you to do better. No drama or negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bring out the best in each other.—Warren Buffett

The nature of a start-up is that you are going it alone. However, it doesn’t have to be just you all the time. There are plenty of other entrepreneurs working on their own too.

Reach out to them and build a support network. You can help each other when times are tough and cheer each other on when things go well.

All in all, we can learn a lot about making a success of a start-up from a man who has a net worth over $100 billion.

Covid-19 and the new normal has changed the business landscape for startups for the foreseeable future. If you want more more lessons on how to survive and thrive in the current marketplace, follow @TopRightPartner on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedInsubscribe to my blog, and buy a copy of my latest book published by Harvard Business Review, Strategic Analytics.