Graham Truax, Innovation Island

Graham Truax is the Executive Director of Innovation Island, a start-up accelerator based in the mid-Island. He has over 30 years’ experience working as an entrepreneur and executive in start-ups and small-medium-sized business, and has founded, co-founded and advised dozens of companies; realizing 7-9 figure revenues and raising over $150 million in venture and institutional financing.

How is Innovation Island coping right now?

With respect to the many businesses that are facing serious challenges right now I’ll opt to saying that we are doing okay. We’re used to running things remotely with clients who are spread across the Island and Sunshine Coast and our core business activities have not changed; albeit the focus of our work is being adjusted as circumstances demand. We’ve also launched a new program called Digital Economy Response Program (DER3) to help businesses who want to consider entering or expanding in the digital economy.

How has the crisis affected your clients, and how do you anticipate it will continue to affect them? 

I think it’s fair to say that every business is or will be impacted by COVID-19; some more some less, but some will do very well given consumer behaviour changes. Negatively, this includes many tech-sector businesses whose customers or markets are directly impacted, near-term or longer-term. On the positive side of things businesses in some fields are experiencing double-digit growth (certain advanced sciences, digital services, EDU applications or gaming, etc.).

I also think that there are essentially four phases that we’ll go through over the next 18-24+ months, impacting businesses and the economy overall. There are clearly products and services that fit within the active crisis phase (which we’re arguably still in), but we’ll then go through a transition period (hopefully soon) where things will open up again and markets will struggle to catch-up or adjust. This will then lead to an exuberant recovery phase, in race to get back to how things were, but I think we’ll find that the “new” normal will be different than the old normal. The ripple effects of something this big could be larger than we think …

What advice are you giving yourself and your team for riding this out?

Slow down. Measure twice and cut once. Focus on situational awareness. A crisis often triggers hypervigilance, and that’s called for in certain circumstances, but for things that don’t have quick fixes, it can waste energy and lead to even greater negative impacts, mentally and physically. In times like these, both real and perceived threats have equal value, and since the threats are outside of our control, we must consider things differently, and take action accordingly.

What is the opportunity in the challenge for you and your business? 

I think the opportunity for all of us is to seriously consider what we want the “new” normal to be. We have had a forced “opportunity” to reconsider many of our core values, use of time, and business focus, etc. However, like with anything worth fighting for we’re going to have to work for it!

What advice have you applied or are you applying from previous experiences coping through crises?

I started my career in the early 80’s as a young programmer. I was in Silicon Valley during the Dotcom crash, and I faced some trying times in the 2008 financial crisis. In retrospect, those were tough experiences but great teachers. However, those recession periods were vastly different than what we are going through now, and I think we’ve got to be careful thinking that we’ve been there done that. “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic” — Peter Drucker.

What are your resources right now? Do you have a mentor supporting you, peer group, books you read?

Time in nature. Listening to music. Personally, much of my work is somewhat extroverted, fast paced with constant streams of new and exciting information. I normally read a lot of books, and I love audio books (driving to see clients) but for the past few weeks I’ve really tried hard to push myself to slow down and make sure that I get some downtime, while trying hard to not work 12×7. Rather than focusing on self-improvement I feel that now’s the time for extreme self-care. Live to fight another day!

What advice do you have for others experiencing this alongside you?

Pay close attention to your own situational awareness. What’s working for someone else may not work for you because of subtle differences in your own circumstances. Guru advice or generalized best-practices work well when things are essentially normal, but these are not normal times. Listen to yourself but be careful to not let your emotions become your central decision-making mechanism, and don’t get sucked into FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Intuition, and gut-responses, can be life-saving and powerful; however, in business these feelings can sometimes lead us astray. Take an inquiry-based approach to decision making or problem solving. Take care, stay well.