Starting an AI business can be both fun and a nightmare. Here’s my story to inspire and to learn from.
When I first started Label Your Data, I thought the hardest part would be putting together a talented team, breaking into the market, and finding some solid long-term leads.
Little did I know, however, that the biggest challenge I would face was an unprecedented pandemic, followed by a devastating war in my country, a massive power outage for five months, and now a stormy crisis gripping the IT industry.
It feels like one headache after another… But when it comes to challenges, I always say, “Bring it on!” Here’s how I kept pushing through and making sure my company comes out on top.
My CEO Journey That Could Have Been Yours
To me, no crisis lasts forever, and every difficulty can be overcome. Our data labeling company is 3 years old now, and we are currently entering our third crisis. But let’s take it one crisis at a time and really dive into the nitty-gritty details.
Starting the Company Amidst the Pandemic
Label Your Data started with a conference in San Francisco, which I visited back in February 2020. At that time already, I saw people wearing masks at the airports and temperature measurement control everywhere. Those were the clear precursors of the future global, lingering pandemic.
But despite of that, we flew back home to Ukraine very inspired and with hundreds of collected leads.
Soon after, the pandemic hit, and most businesses were forced to adapt to a new remote way of operating. Speaking of COVID-19, my team didn’t perceive it as a crisis. Instead, we saw it as the circumstance in which our company was born, and we forged ahead with our beliefs.
In our first year, we took on this massive project of fitting 100 people into our office space. We launched it within a month during a total lockdown. Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
I had to deal with all kinds of challenges, like figuring out how to get everyone to work without public transport (we paid for taxis) and implementing strict hygiene standards to keep our team safe.
Plus, we were measuring the temperatures of the entire personnel every hour like clockwork.
Hence, in one year, Label Your Data has endured three full lockdowns. But the best part is, we still managed to keep our expert service going with a team of 100 awesome people.
Reaching the Peak Right Before the Full-Scale Invasion
The outbreak of war is a devastating and unpredictable event. However, if businesses take the right steps beforehand, they can survive any storm that comes their way.
When our company faced the realities of a full-scale invasion of our country and unprecedented Russian terror in 2022, our minds were steadfast and clear. We were ready for it. Although I must admit, it was hard to come to terms with the war unfolding in my country until the bitter end.
My team had a solid business continuity plan in place, all of our projects were on track, and we made sure that everyone had a backup person who could step in and take over some responsibilities if needed.
Of course, it did take us a few days to adjust to the new reality, but thanks to our well-organized work and necessary arrangements, it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as it could have been.
One thing that really impressed me during this time was the understanding and support we received from our clients. Owing to this, not only did we manage to maintain our operations during the darkest of times, but we also exceeded our strategic goals for 2022.
Our clients were extremely supportive, and my company emerged from the conflict stronger and more resilient than ever before.
While it’s tough to acknowledge missed opportunities due to the war, I try to remain optimistic. I may never know what clients we could have gained, but there’s no point in dwelling on the past. Instead, we’re moving on with our global expansion and diversification efforts.
Our team is growing in other countries now, while our services continue uninterrupted in Ukraine, thanks to the many additional sources of electricity and communication now available.
Today, we’re offering accessible training to anyone without experience, empowering them to work from anywhere, anytime. To me, it just goes to show that with a bit of planning and a lot of perseverance, anything is possible.
Moving Forward Through the IT Crisis
Looking ahead to the future, we’re preparing for whatever challenges may come our way. While it’s early to talk about the potential IT crisis of 2023, I’m already taking proactive steps to ensure the Label Your Data team is well-equipped to handle it.
That is, we are automating our processes, optimizing our expenses, and all teams are working at 100% capacity. And you know what? We’re keeping everyone in the loop and being totally transparent about everything.
That way, when tough times do come our way, our team is ready to face them head-on, together.
With that said, to achieve successful crisis management in an unsteady IT landscape, I prioritize two things above all else: Fostering crystal-clear communication among my teammates and inspiring their unwavering dedication to our shared goals.
My Advice to You (or Proven CEO Tactics, If You Will)
To all CEOs out there, try your best to embrace the new realities that are coming your way. Instead of resisting change, adapt and optimize your team performance to find new ways to excel. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back from taking risks and pursuing your dreams.
Reframe failure as a learning experience. See challenges as chances to learn and propel.
Another piece of advice from me is to prepare for the worst. I’m not saying you have to stay pessimistic, but acknowledging the chances of hard times in business will help you stay sane when they come (and they will; trust me).
Be adaptable: Don’t be afraid to pivot, and make changes to your plans as needed.
Learn from setbacks and use them as stepping stones toward success.
The final tip is to build meaningful relationships within your team. The truth is that success in business often comes down to the relationships you build with your teammates.
Take the time to cultivate deep connections with others, and focus on building relationships that will support you in the long term.
Always stay connected with your team.
When Life Gives You Lemons: Making the Most Out of Tough Times in Business
Navigating a single crisis can be overwhelming for any technical start-up. Imagine tackling three? That was the case for Label Your Data and the journey that we conquered with grit, determination, and a can-do spirit, against all odds.
As someone who has weathered the storms of CEOship, here’s my advice to future entrepreneurs or the ones struggling right now: Instead of dwelling on the uncontrollable, shift your focus to what you can influence.
Be proactive in finding solutions, and surround yourself with a team that shares your passion and dedication.
By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to tackle any challenge that comes your way — and emerge stronger on the other side. Trust me, I’ve been there!
This article was originally published by Karyna Naminas on Hackernoon.