Business Transformation

What Good CEOs Do In Uncertain Times: Uncertainty Is Not Your Enemy

economic uncertainty

I’ve shared many inspirational quotes from legendary coaches and athletes. While I’m typically more of a team sports fan, I find myself thinking about the Mike Tyson quote: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Because, recently, the world seems to be getting punched in the face. A lot. A global pandemic. Political unrest at home. A war in Europe. A recession.

Business growth strategies rarely consider “punches to the face” because they are unpredictable. Enter the great enemy to every business: uncertainty. Few would have predicted the course of the last three years, but those who’ve been business leaders long enough know there’s always something. And that’s what we need to be comfortable with: the uncertainty that something will jump out and punch us in the face, without knowing what it will be, or exactly when it will happen. It’s important to anticipate uncertainty, be reflexive in our responses, and know that we can remain standing after.

We must remain confident in our missions in good times and bad even when we don’t yet have enough information to fully respond to specific threats or events. As a CEO, I embrace and encourage this philosophy of confidence without evidence through three guiding management principles: Fearlessly confront uncertainty. Continually seek efficiencies. Always make necessary investments.

Confront Uncertainty

As human beings, we are paralyzed by uncertainty. Mundane or extraordinary. Good or bad. Uncertainty is the great growth-killer that absolutely decimates our focus, productivity, and momentum. We value certainty so highly that sometimes we’d prefer bad news to no news. The important thing is to develop comfort with uncertainty, and the ability to adapt to the world around us.

The two industries our team deals with, enterprise software and logistics, are in a constant state of change. Our resilience comes from knowing that uncertainty is a form of certainty. There will always be surprises, and we will frequently alter our immediate courses of action.

Our strategy to seek the evidence rather than panicking and either abandoning our mission or freezing like a deer in headlights the moment things veer off course ensures we can respond to uncertainties quickly. But this requires a team with the right mindset and the right tools to make rapid shifts and quickly act when evidence presents itself.

Seek Efficiencies

Efficiency is more of a mindset than a goal. And it’s a practical one, about consciously balancing the spending of time and money. I encourage my team to amplify the effects of the good times and minimize those of the bad. Technology is key – whether there’s a hiring frenzy or a hiring freeze, the right HR software helps us more efficiently support our team. No matter the pace of sales, the right CRM lets us efficiently give each customer and prospect the individualized attention they deserve.

Just like uncertainty, the quest for efficiency should remain perpetual. Efficiencies can reduce losses in the worst of times, but they also multiply wins in the best of times.

Invest in Growth

With all this talk of uncertainty and efficiency, you might think I would advise conserving resources wherever possible. Instead, I urge you to consider the difference between spending and investing. Necessary investments are imperative, regardless of what is going on around you, or where else you may need to cut back, because they propel real, sustainable growth.

The definition of “necessary investments” might change relative to the broader industry and economic climate. What is “necessary” to accommodate an influx of customers during good times is different than what’s “necessary” to boost morale during bad ones. Some investments are always necessary, and you make it happen. You don’t sit there, trapped in an endless cycle of “analysis paralysis” wondering “but, what if..” If I put a dollar in a jar every time, I found myself saying “should have done that last year” and took a dollar out every time “wish we’d waited a year” popped into my head, the jar would never be empty.

Building Resilience

Building an organization confident enough in its convictions, strategy, and mission to confront the uncertainties that lie ahead is imperative in today’s unpredictable climate. Focus on building a team that’s always looking to notch 1% improvements because it would be unnatural to do anything else and adopt a vision that lets you concentrate available resources on the highest priority growth initiatives.

I’ve spent my entire career in enterprise software, while barely a fraction of it in logistics, and can say confidently that these driving principles apply to both. In fact, they arguably apply to any business, and are shared, or could be adopted, by great organizations irrespective of industry.

About 3G: As a trusted leader in transportation and shipping software, 3G removes the obstacles that stand between our customers and their success. Our fully integrated solutions include 3GTMS, our multi-modal transportation system, and Pacejet, our advanced multi-carrier shipping software. By streamlining the movement of goods, 3G helps logistics companies, brokers, and manufacturers across industries ship more products and reach more people, with nothing in their way. To learn why 3G is recognized as a Top Software and Technology Provider, and a Top Supply Chain Projects award winner, visit www.3Gtms.com


Written by Paul Brady, Chief Executive Officer, 3Gtms.
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Paul Brady
As Chief Executive Officer, Paul Brady is responsible for working with the board, his leadership team, and everyone at 3G to provide our customers with exceptional solutions and service. Paul has nearly 30 years of working experience as a CEO and senior executive. He has led a wide range of technology organizations, from traditional software and SaaS to managed-service business models. Paul’s leadership style is driven by his passion for fostering strong teams and customer-centric organizations.

Throughout his career, Paul Brady has a long track record of success working with start-ups, growth companies, and complex multinational businesses. Before coming to 3G, Paul most recently served as CEO of Unitrends, a private equity-backed data-management software company. Prior to that, Paul was the CEO for ObserveIT and also led executive teams for Mazu Networks, Guardent, Cohesive Technology Solutions, and Business Technologies, an organization he founded. Paul holds a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.


Paul Brady is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.