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5 Critical Business Steps to Brave the Storm of Recession

The Buffalo is an amazing creature. Here in Colorado, I see them often. They are amazingly majestic and resilient creatures, but I recently learned a fact about buffalo that inspirationally motivated me. The plains where buffalo roam (stop singing, lol) are treacherous places with little tree cover. Storms can kill a heard of livestock in a few hours if they can’t find shelter. Other herd animals, when a storm comes, will try and find shelter or move out of the path of the storm – seems like a great idea..

But the buffalo is different. The buffalo, instead of running for cover, will head directly into the storm and push through it. I don’t know if somewhere in the buffalo cerebral cortex is an instinct for survival that tells them that if they go through the storm, they will eventually come out on the other side, but nevertheless, this is what they do. Yes some of them die, but what heading into the storm does is shortens the lifespan of the storm itself. So, I took this concept and started thinking of the storms that may be coming to soak and slow our economy.

What a difference 365 days can make… 2021 gave us hopes of returning to real life after the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to be in the rear-view. The housing market was going crazy and interest rates were at historical lows. So many, me included, were holding our breath in anticipation of what COULD happen. “This is all going to have to come to an end at some point”, “We can’t just keep writing checks we can’t cash”. These were the recurring themes I so often heard in consulting meetings as we talked about what Hybrid work should look like for their companies. The writing is seemingly on the wall, so what can we do now to soften the blow of a pending recession?

I started to come up with a bit of a framework based on some research I was conducting for a recent chapter I wrote in an academic book about the high price of the best tech. As I plowed through research and history, I began to see some emerging themes. My findings aren’t anything new, but I put them in a simple framework that I am personally going to look at everyday over the next year or so. So, here it is…

As responsible people of business, we have to PLLAN for what may come. Yes, I am a former Active-duty Marine, so I made it into an acronym…

P – Prepare: This should be top of mind for anyone with any interest in the business world. Whether you are looking at a potential investment or trying to figure out what the market is going to do (or not do) being prepared for the next year is critical to success during a recession. Take a good look into sectors of business that could be considered “recession-proof”. For example, if you are a Managed Security Services Company (MSSP) who manages other companies’ cybersecurity architectures, you need to look at industries that will brave the storm of recession (education, government, utilities, etc.), and potentially shift resources toward those sectors.

L – Lead: This is how you are going to get through this. You have to lead your team, your peers, and yourself in a way that is contagiously positive and with the mission and vision of your company firmly in mind. This is going to be a difficult time for so many. This is probably the most important part of this framework. Treat your people with outrageous fairness, kindness, and integrity. Show them that they matter and that they are seen, heard, and valued.

L – Learn: History tends to repeat itself. Take a look at your industrial growth over the past 20 years and learn how the industry has braved previous recession storms. In 1948, Winston Churchill synthesized a quote from the philosopher George Santayana by saying, “'Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” I encourage you to take a look at the trends of your industry, look back at what industrial success looked like during crisis, and see how you can shape your business moving forward.

A – Adjust: Start making financial adjustments now! Take a look at your spending and see where you can make things more efficient. I will caveat this with an important note. THIS DOES NOT START WITH FIRING PEOPLE! This starts with everything BUT personnel. Look at your budget lines and see if there are ways to save money. This is a very tangible way to thrive during recession. Can you get rid of real estate by moving people to remote or hybrid positions? I would argue that you can! But I’m the hybrid guy, and that’s what I do.

N – New: Here’s the mindset that you can shift into. This is a new opportunity to streamline my business and make sure that I’m spending the right amount of money in the right places. Think of this as a new business model for your organization. Get pumped up about change! Take charge of it, organize it (Kotter’s 8-steps is a great place to start), and execute it. Find ways to save money and to make the money you spend go further.

Whether our country dives into a recession or miraculously recovers just in the nick of time, these concepts should be used to re-evaluate your industry and business. It could be just an exercise in confirming that you are doing the right things, or it could be the baseline for a complete organizational shift. Either way, make sure that you are taking care of your people, whether it be through recession or economic boom. If you take care of your people and are responsible with what you have in front of you, you will survive whatever storm comes your way. Connect and/or follow me and let’s continue the discussion.

Start strong, and finish well!

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