Why we should embrace a startup mindset in today’s volatile economic climate

How do I ensure my company survives through this uphill battle and continues towards success? That’s an area that we can look to startups for


There is no doubt that economy has never been more volatile. Since the pandemic, the business world as we know it has never been the same. Everything from our business operations to our working environments has been shaken up and the choice was to either toughen up or give up.

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While the Singapore economy seems to be getting an optimistic forecast, it is not time for us to slacken our efforts. With the unpredictable nature of the economy, businesses continue to face a daunting question:

How do I ensure my company survives through this uphill battle and continues towards success? That’s an area that we can look to startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for. 

UOB SME Outlook 2021 Study showed that three in five SMEs who embraced going digital are expecting a growth in revenue and seven in 10 SMEs feel more confident in their business recoveries after adopting digital initiatives.

The startups and SMEs in Singapore have managed to stay afloat regardless of the economic situation and a large portion of this achievement can be attributed to their entrepreneurial mindset and methodologies. 

Here is the lowdown at three practices that encompass the startup mindset.

Taking risks in pursuit of achievement

Often, we hear that success is a journey and not a destination. This couldn’t be more true. By now, it is common knowledge that challenge is not an avoidable part of the journey.

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As more youth are showing interest in entrepreneurship, it is important that we equip these young entrepreneurs with the tools they need to embark on their journeys. A study showed that the success of these young entrepreneurs are being held back by their low appetite to take chances. 

If there’s anything that the past year has taught us, it’s that being risk-averse can be more beneficial than harmful. Hence, it’s important, now more than ever, that we de-stigmatise failure and highlight it’s silver lining.

This is something that we can learn from startups, which are essentially the product of risks-taking decisions. Behind all of their successes are tons of failed attempts and lots of improvements but lots of perseverance.

The products and services that you see them offering are the result of pivoting, which is a very common practice among startups.

It’s about working with a core idea and learning to make the right adjustments to improve your product. As expected, making these adjustments does not come without a risk of a failed product yet again.

Just as challenge is an unavoidable part of the entrepreneurial journey, risks are essential to help improve your ideas and could potentially lead to even bigger successes. Remember, no one ever became successful without taking any chances.(startup)

Staying nimble in a volatile environment

The ever-changing nature of the corporate world creates a pressing need to balance traditional mindsets and out-of-the-box thinking in order for our society to move forward. In the past year alone, digital acceleration can be seen everywhere.

In fact, 73 per cent of the organisations in Singapore have initiated digital acceleration in response to the pandemic. This creates a pressing need for us to be adaptable with new advancements in order to facilitate progression.

In a world where stability is largely valued, change can be scary but unfortunately, unavoidable. Thus staying nimble would allow us to be flexible and adaptable in any situation. This quality is important not just in entrepreneurs but also in players in the corporate world.(startup)

According to NTUC LearningHub‘s Employer Skills Survey, it was noted that the top three adaptive skills that workers lacked were innovation, analytical reasoning, complex problem-solving, and creativity. 

Additionally, 84 per cent of leaders believe that employee training during this period will help their businesses to develop stronger resilience during this downturn.

Some of their training priorities include improving soft/adaptive skills (65 per cent), improving relevant technical skills in their roles (64 per cent) or beyond their roles (53 per cent). These are just some areas that we can work on in order to promote adaptability.

Also Read: The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail

It is high time that we learn to be on our toes in such an economy where change can happen at any given time.

Relearn and re skill

With all the advancements in technology and optimisation of operational procedures, concerns regarding the need to upgrade ourselves have been raised. As the economy continues to prove its unpredictability, it is understandable why business players everywhere are pushing for versatile players.

Since the pandemic, 71 per cent of the business leaders and employees surveyed felt the urgency to upskill and reskill in order to remain competitive in the job market.

84 per cent said that it was necessary for employees to pick up new skills due to changes in the businesses.

Additionally, the 2021 LinkedIn Future of Talent report reveals that businesses also need to be ready to support their team members for personal development courses.(startup)

Improving and adding new tools to our skill set are an essential part of business growth. Due to this, while the pressure to upgrade on individuals is high, businesses also face the responsibility to encourage and facilitate it.

As being more proficient in multiple areas can result in an overall improved efficiency, self-improvement can almost directly impact the overall business performance.

Be it through government schemes or internal employee training, there’s no reason not to constantly improve ourselves.

Nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem

In summary, we have grown too comfortable and accustomed to the structured and conventional nature of our society. Since the volatile economy leaves no room for settling, there is a need for a mindset shift within our community. 

Based on my experiences as a startup leader, I believe that there is a need to provide proper mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs especially the youths. As a founder just starting to play the field, it is common to find yourself lost and have almost no idea of what to expect of the startup journey.

That’s why at Phay & Partners, I have made it my mission to give back to the startup community through my own boutique agility consultancy where we are driven to create an open-minded community and that starts from the young.

Along with humility and courage, our entrepreneurs – young or old – have the power to make waves in the ecosystem. 

As the economy’s volatile nature continues, it has become increasingly important for us to adapt and advance with it. Afterall, the startup ecosystem is growing rapidly and we trust that we need to shape our mindsets in tandem with these changes.

Han Phay

Han Phay

Award winning tech entrepreneur, researcher and educator.