By Marc Sellouk, Founder and CEO of Flewber
Economic downturns, like many things in life, usually happen in two phases. The first phase is best visualized by the slow crawl of ivy onto the back of the fence that surrounds your yard. The indicators of future troubles are there, but only sometimes visible to the eye, and as such, the long-term effect is too often overlooked. This can, and often does, continue on for years until one day, you find yourself in the second phase, where seemingly all at once, your fence is covered with invasive vines, as are many of the trees and plants in your garden. The key to continued growth of your business is not letting the angst blind you to the opportunities that may exist once you’ve entered the “all at once” phase of an economic downturn.
Not long ago, our country was in the midst of a booming economy, with the occasional warning light. Until all at once the catalyst, a virus that no one saw coming, triggered a massive recession. The 1957 flu epidemic killed more than 80,000 Americans and launched the beginning of the 8-month long Eisenhower recession. It was also in 1957 that Jay Pritzker bought the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles airport – all on the thought that business executives would one day flock to hotels that were conveniently located near airports. As fate would have it, December 20, 1957, was also the first flight of N708PA. The Boeing 707, that would later be delivered to Pan Am, took to the skies that day for a 7-minute flight and the 707 family went on to rule them for decades.
Obviously, most of us don’t have the means of the Pritzkers or Boeing Corporation but as entrepreneurs and executives, we should all be driven to succeed and grow our businesses in both good times and bad which brings me to my first rule for growth in a slowing economy:
Invest In Marketing
Necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe you recently shelved a marketing plan or put off a product improvement or service augmentation. Now is the exact time where you should be taking those plans out of mothballs and pushing yourself out more aggressively into the market. During a lethargic economy, most of your competition is going to contract spending on marketing and product development. The companies that do the opposite always stand a better chance of coming out of the downturn stronger.
Maximize Value For The Customer
Maximizing customer value should be a key tenet of every business but it’s of critical importance during a poor economy. Too often, companies singularly focus on price as the only way of maximizing value. The truth is that customers find value in many areas other than price alone. They find it in the buying process, the customer service experience, and the overall prioritization of quality of service and product expertise. Even in bad times, your focus should always be on not just sustaining but continuing growth of a positive brand perception and experience.
Prioritize Partnerships Where Possible
The world of business never ceases to move at breakneck speeds, even during an economic slowdown. As a matter of fact, I’d put forth that the ability to be agile and fast carries even more importance during these times. As such, strategic partnerships should always be at the forefront of your planning. Yes, we all start out with visions of organic growth leading to mergers, acquisitions and being the next big thing in our market. But we live in a world where there are so many choices, giving buyers so many options; a world where new ideas don’t stay new for long. The right alliance not only may save time and money, but it can also set you on a path to quicker sustained growth than you may have imagined.
Always Be Mindful Of The Mood Of Your Team
As you started your business, you hired individuals that would make up a team. The people that we hire may not be the most expensive assets on our balance sheets, but they are indeed our most valuable. During times of economic insecurity, it’s only understandable that your team can develop a constant sense of waiting for the ax to fall. This steady drum beat of uncertainty can lead to lost productivity and creativity at the exact time where you can’t afford to have either wane. This is the time where it’s up to you to reassure your core team that you will stand by them, and they will in turn stand by you.
Be Driven By The Challenge
Most people only see the perceived rewards of the corner office. What many don’t realize is that many executives lead a solitary existence of first one in and last one out. Often, it’s during that time of solitude where we do our best work and most creative thinking, but it can also be where we stress the path forward. For those times, embrace the challenges ahead by both reflecting on how you got to be the success that you are and also on companies like GM, Burger King, FedEx and Airbnb. Each of them started conducting business during a recession. Look where they are now and how many economic downturns they’ve come out of. It’s never easy but if you can let yourself be driven by the challenge, your company can come out stronger too.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.