When one day the news headlines mention global trade talks are stalling resulting in a several hundred point market dip and then the next day there is a several hundred point surge in the market from those capitalizing on the dip, it’s hard not to be concerned about the global economic volatility.
Add to this uncertainty that we are in the 10th year of the longest bull run in history and both cavalier and prudent leaders are being protective and cautious with their businesses and their people.
But as you shore up your resources and take a conservative approach to your forecasting and planning, ask yourself this:
- Do you have to sacrifice growth for predictable safety?
- Do you only have to react to a recession or can you get ahead of it and capitalize on the downturn?
Traditional resources are mixed on this answer. But more progressive business leaders say no, you don’t have to sacrifice growth in an anticipated downturn—especially if you plan ahead, think differently than the herd, and seek the beacons of opportunity light in the economic darkness to get ahead.
Here are 6 tips to ensure you not only survive in a downturn, but put yourself and your company on a path to growth ahead of your competition:
- Nurture your network before you need it
This may seem obvious and even cliche, but it’s often the first practice that gets forgotten when the marketplace gets churned. But if you are proactive about maintaining and growing your network, you can tap your already developed network when you need it. Speak at conferences, lead thought leadership masterminds, hold mentor events to nurture future leaders and help others. Always look like you are the connector in your industry, which increases the need for you and what you do in challenging times.
- Always think and look for possible opportunity in chaos
Specifically in economic downturns, there is always a pocket of opportunity to do things differently than everyone else. For example, brick and mortar retail stores are suffering from a lack of foot traffic due to online shopping. One example of forward thinking is back in 2017 Kohl’s decided to allow customers to manually process Amazon returns in person for shoppers—bringing foot traffic to their store! These are creative solution opportunities capitalizing on their industry’s decline. Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom of the downturn, center yourself to identify where the need is in your field amidst the negative news. Inventive solutions will come from this mindset.
- Don’t assume it won’t happen and as a result fail to prepare
Instead, prepare as if a downturn could happen and then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t. Stock pile cash whenever possible. Lock in long term contracts with clients. And if the downshift doesn’t happen, your organization is sitting on cash reserves that can be used for R&D, acquisitions or key talent hiring. Whether the market is up or down, your organization will be prepared to grow.
- Be the source of hope employees and industry leaders want to follow
No one wants to follow a leader who is unrealistic or forever in the doldrums. Focus on the positive—but not in some Pollyanna manner. Be realistic and transparent. Be an inspiration in such a way that gives people something to work towards and hold on to during an economically challenging time.
- Attend conferences and stay visible
Let vendors, customers, affiliates, and competitors see you in the forefront of your business and your industry. The limited business that exists in your field can have a greater chance going to your company if companies see you as a stable force among the sea of competitors. Additionally, when you are in the presence of decision makers regularly, you will often be a preferred point of contact for business, advice, and direction. This leads to being made aware of opportunity before others.
- Grow your people and train them to think in the way presented in points 1 through 5 above
Your company will benefit two fold from taking this step. First, the burden of creating a company that grows in a downturn won’t solely rest on you. Ideas will come from your management and staff, too. And second, employees at all levels that think this way want to be with a company that encourages this way and recognizes them for taking action this way—so they will be less likely to leave you for a better opportunity. Your company will be its best opportunity.
Frankly, any one and almost any company can be a rock star in a rising market. Boats rise with the tide. A true leader in any industry is one that can still grow their company and their people in a down market. That’s the true challenge that breeds a great leader.
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