Sequoia Capital knows a thing or two about making money.
As one of the most aggressive vampire cockwaffles (or whatever ‘VC’ stands for these days) in the world, they back companies that control $1.4tn of the total combined value of the stock market (for now…).
When Sequoia sneezes, everyone gets a cold.
So their delivery of four presentations to company founders in their financing ecosystem in May of this year had everyone reaching for the Kleenex.
Titled, respectively, ‘Adapting to Endure’, ‘Forecasting & Scenario Planning’, ‘Extending Your Runway’ and ‘Leading In Uncertain Times’, the decks are effectively doomsday manifestos designed to help companies meet one objective: don’t go bust (and lose all our money) during the inevitable recession.
So, not really heart-warming stuff – it’s like reading Orwell on a rainy comedown.
It’s no coincidence that the business press (and my own LinkedIn feed) have been littered with a litany of bad news in recent weeks, in the vein of ‘X startup loses Y% of workforce’.
Get acquainted with the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ and march through them as quickly as possible. Lick your wounds rapidly and try to get to acceptance by lunchtime.
The Sequoia presentations are well structured but ultimately terminal assessments for the utopian thinking of the startup technology world.
Looking at the third deck, ‘Extending Your Runway’, Sequoia specifically calls out the need to cut headcounts, reduce marketing costs and consider minimising market reach in order to increase life expectancy. In summary, it reads like the death knell for aspirational technology businesses:
“We don’t want to sugar-coat this: It’s going to be hard. Of course, a people-related cut is the hardest decision any leader makes. Beyond this, you may face many challenging and nuanced decisions:
“If you’re a global company, you might need to re-evaluate certain markets.
“If you’re a company that’s relied on a marketing or sales investment in order to grow, you might have to re-evaluate your strategy.
“You might have to increase pricing.
“This is scary, especially if you don’t have time to fully test the value proposition.”
Speaking with a startup founder this week, his interpretation of the manifesto was clear. Startups and scale-ups need to dig a hole, store whatever nuts they have left and pray that they’ll emerge like a hibernating bear some time in 2024.
Take a practical approach
There’s no way to polish this turd – it’s a piss-poor prognosis.
There will be a number of people reading this in Marketing Week who have already been hit by this economic tsunami. For you, I can only hope for a swift and painless return to work.
I’ve been on the wrong end of redundancy rounds three times in my career (including this year) and, if I may, there are some recommendations that might help you go from the depths of despair to an exciting new role faster:
- Don’t mope. Make a tea, get acquainted with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s ‘Five Stages of Grief’ and march through them as quickly as possible. Lick your wounds rapidly and try to get to acceptance by lunchtime.
- Face up to your fears. If money is a worry, don’t bury your head in the sand. Speak to your bank/landlord/partner and restructure where your money needs to go first. Talk to your friends and colleagues; a problem shared, etc, etc. And don’t drown yourself in a bottle. Shame is the nemesis of pragmatism.
- Treat job hunting like a job. Get up on time, prepare for your day, document progress, learn from mistakes, learn from others, use your contacts, have breaks and enjoy good weather.
- Exercise. It’s free (well, walking is) and propagates endorphins, so it’s an invaluable use of your new-found free time.
- Look for the upside. Were you thinking about making a change anyway? Could this be a happy coincidence that allows you to pivot into the job you wanted but were too apprehensive to seek out?
- Plan your attack. Job hunting is a military exercise: update your CV (three pages max), and create Google docs of a) your recruiter contacts and b) jobs you like the look of.
- Send an introductory email with your CV for applications. Less is more here, so don’t just spam people with your CV with your fingers crossed. Spend a few hours researching and crafting your cover letter, and make your CV bespoke to each role. One well-crafted application will have a better hit rate than a hundred lookalikes. Competition is stiff for good jobs – more so now – so you need to do absolutely everything in your power to put your name at the top of the pile (and beat the filters on applicant tracking software, too)
- Prepare for interviews, starting with the recruiters. Even jobs you don’t get can add value to the process by acting as interview training, so always ask for as much feedback as possible.
- Head down, train up. There are plenty of free and low-cost digital marketing courses available from Google and the CIM – great for learning new channel skills from scratch or refreshing those talents that have become outdated as technology has progressed.
- Be realistic. Those Bali-dwelling influencers sipping mojitos in a hammock on Insta are likely living off a blend of credit debt and some self-esteem-crippling small change from OnlyFans. A marketing career is a long road, so focus on finding good businesses with nice people and a desirable product or service offering, in which progression is a proven part of their modus operandi.
Losing a job isn’t easy – and there’s no denying it’s deeply unpleasant. Between Brexit, lockdowns, rising costs of living and now this, it likely feels overwhelming. But focusing on clear objectives – and looking after yourself – is the best way to get back in work and back on track as soon as possible.
Harry Lang is 20-year marketing veteran and author of ‘Brands, Bandwagons & Bullshit’, a guidebook for those starting their career in marketing, advertising, PR and media. If you are a marketer affected by redundancy and would benefit from a sympathetic ear/pragmatic advice, you can contact him at @MrHarryLang or connect with him on LinkedIn.