Prepare and embrace challenging times

– Sai Kumar Chandran

Political, geo-political, economic, sociological and environmental shifts and upheaval are common to the world today, and to a great extent our recent experience too. In times of looming upheavals, business leaders are often found at a crossroads, pondering over the fate of their dreams and enterprises. Their worries are only depend by the responsibilities they shoulder from employee to supplier to customer commitments. This is when survival, revival and thriving all become burning enquiries and dire need.

Have you, too, found yourself at this junction, questioning how your organization can navigate through the storm and come out on the other side not just unscathed, but rejuvenated and thriving?

This pressing question stands at the core of this discussion, aiming to chart a course for resilience and growth amidst adversity.

A case:
Our journey begins with an anecdote that encapsulates the essence of determination and adaptability. Cast your mind back to the 2008 financial crisis, a period that tested the mettle of businesses worldwide. During this time, a small tech firm found itself grappling with the turbulence that swept across global markets. However, instead of succumbing to the pressures, the company’s leaders focused on agility in decision-making and a commitment to transparency within their ranks. This strategy of open communication and nimbleness allowed them to pivot quickly, capture emerging opportunities, and ultimately expand their market share. The firm’s story is more than just a survival tale; it’s a source of inspiration, demonstrating that with the right mindset, companies can turn a crisis into a launching pad for expansion and success.

Toolkit #1: Harness the power of Communication

  • Never underestimate the power of what your people know, or what they can do with what they know
  • Share information and discuss options with your teams
  • They may come-up with the best options for you to then choose from
  • Even if they do not have options, they can then be made partners in the journey to revival

Toolkit #2: Practice agile Decision making

  • Decision cannot always be known to be right, before you make them
  • Hence, in crisis make small / required decisions with better probability of success
  • Then, go on making more decision with the best probability of success, to continue progress
  • Do not stall

The current business environment is brimming with complexities that signal impending challenges. Recognizing the shift in market dynamics and consumer patterns can be daunting. The undercurrents of an economic downturn bring an uncomfortable but necessary realization of the volatility that surrounds us. In these moments, it’s not merely understanding that we seek, but a connection, a collective acknowledgement of the hardships that possibly lie ahead, tempered with empathy for the shared struggle of our peers.

Another case:
A mid-sized retail chain faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic as foot traffic vanished overnight due to lockdowns. Rather than shuttering, they swiftly transitioned to an e-commerce model. They utilized their physical stores as local distribution hubs, enabling quick delivery to their customers. The company also expanded its product line to include DIY and home improvement items, tapping into the new needs of their housebound customers. This agility not only helped them survive but also gain a stronger online customer base.

Toolkit #3: Sign-up with adaptive strategy

  • When challenging times challenge the business idea, can you repropose your business?
  • Can you take the available expertise and resources and remodel your business?
  • Can you do this partially or completely?
  • Can you do multiple alternate things, and get really good at them? Instead of worrying about running the old / existing business during challenging times?

Prioritize financial fluidity
Our roadmap to enduring and outlasting this storm hinges on transformative action. The cornerstone of this transformation is a well-structured financial strategy that emphasizes rigorous cash flow management and the establishment of a solid contingency plan. History has shown us that organizations that maintain a lucid understanding of their financial standings, diversify their revenue streams to mitigate risks, and operate with efficiency are more likely to navigate through economic downturns with finesse.

Another case:
Take inspiration from a quaint neighbourhood café that, when faced with a declining customer base during an economic slump, ingeniously reimagined its business model. By transforming into a multi-functional community space, not only did they offer takeout options, but they expanded to provide grocery essentials and delivery services, becoming a lifeline for the locals. This strategic pivot not only salvaged the business from the brink of collapse but also solidified its role as a community cornerstone, weaving its presence into the daily lives of its patrons.

Toolkit #4: Hone-in into sentiments and customer preference

  • Challenging times, challenge not just businesses but communities and people
  • Be alert to these emerging realities
  • While toolkit 3 asks you to adapt, another option is to do something totally new or out of league
  • Great businesses are born out of crises
  • Here, you are not only creating a business, but actually growing a business out of customer need and hence naturally earning their loyalty

Prioritize financial fluidity
At this juncture, pause and ponder over the latent potential within you, your teams and your own enterprise. What inherent strengths does your business possess that can be adapted to align with the evolving demands of the market? How can you pivot your existing resources to carve out new opportunities in an uncertain economic landscape?

Drawing from the well of psychological resilience theory, the ability to endure and prosper during challenging times is deeply connected to our mental fortitude and outlook. Positive psychology encourages us to adopt a growth mindset, one that views adversities as arenas for development and learning. This approach is not just theoretical but has practical implications for business strategies as well.

Another case:
Reflect upon a manufacturing enterprise that utilized a period of economic slowdown to recalibrate its operations. They invested in their workforce, enhancing skills through training programs, streamlined their processes for efficiency, and embraced technological advancements. When the tide of recession receded, they were not just ready but were positioned as forerunners, capturing the pent-up demand with newfound vigour and capability.

Toolkit #5: Use the time to repair & heal

  • Each crisis ends
  • And in this time, if you have the wherewithal, you could do things that a running business couldn’t afford to
  • From building specialization to refining capability to adding capacity to R&D, you may have several options
  • Why not ‘Build the Businesses Capability’ instead of the usual ‘Built by the Business for Sales’ focus

In conclusion, the essence of navigating through a period of challenging factors is the tenacity to seek and cultivate resilience. By embedding the principles of adaptability, innovation, and mental fortitude into the fabric of your organization, the storm can be weathered. The actions taken today are the foundation stones for the successes of tomorrow.

Hold fast to these pivotal takeaways as you chart your path forward:

  1. Harness the power of Communication: Talk to your team and make each other your strength
  2. Practice agile decision making: understand probability of success each decision, and make a lot of good probability decision to manage outcomes
  3. Sign-up with adaptive strategy: Embrace the chaos – utilize this tumultuous period as a crucible for innovation and reinvention
  4. Prioritize financial fluidity: foster liquidity and explore avenues for diversifying income
  5. Hone-in into sentiments and customer preference: build a new business if that’s the right thing to do
  6. Use the time to repair and heal: cultivate a resilient ethos—embrace the winds of change as catalysts for organizational and personal growth.

In the spirit of continued learning and evolution, immerse yourself in the insights of “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Antifragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Both offer profound insights into the philosophies of enduring success and the beauty of thriving in disorder.
There are other resources that will serve as guiding lights, illuminating the path for those who seek to transform challenges into triumphs.
Keep learning, keep evolving, and most importantly, keep forging ahead with determination and foresight. May light be upon you!

Sai Kumar Chandran is the founder of OrbitShift. He is a coaching and consulting practitioner and an entrepreneur at heart. He can be reached at

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