Friday, March 25, 2011


Managing Through Tough Times

Let strategic thinking propel your actions, not fear.

That the world around us is shifting in terms of the economy and our markets is not in question. What is questionable is how we address the challenges that face us. It is too easy to bunker down, close the hatch, and take a month by month view of the situation. However, this would not be the most opportune approach.

Focusing on immediate or short-term survival is crucial. But coupled with that is the need to have mid-range and long-term, at least five to ten years out, views that will ensure a balanced strategic approach moving forward. Too often long-term growth, or even sustainability, is sacrificed for short-term survival or gain. To take actions to keep the doors open now, only to close down in 12 months time does not make good business sense. A strategic approach would be to address immediate issues, together with long-term concerns, so the two strategic action plans are implemented simultaneously. Let strategic thinking propel your actions, not fear.

If in survival mode, a company has to take all the necessary measures quickly and decisively in order to ensure that the immediate pressing needs are met, especially with regard to access to capital and the presence of positive cash flow. The retention of existing customers becomes pivotal.

If a company is in maintenance mode, it does not mean it can continue with business as usual. There needs to be constant striving for continuous improvement; whether that means focusing on cost reduction, taking customer service to the next level, enhancement to technologies or processes, optimization of resources, or finding the next new idea.

Sometimes in a downturn, there is the opportunity for an organization to be in a growth mode. This is the time to test new ideas, create strategies to greatly differentiate your company and its products or services in the marketplace, go after market share, or manage the risk while pursuing new approaches.

To fully navigate through the tough times, the focus needs to be both outward and inward. Looking outside your company means focusing on your customer base, choosing new markets, creating strategies, and following through with communication.

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