Market downturns are inevitable, but how a business leader chooses to navigate them is not. Some leaders view them as setbacks and “hunker down,” and others see them as opportunities to focus on new or different opportunities. Pivoting or expanding products and services can help a business not only survive a downturn but thrive — while failing to seek out new opportunities could lead to ultimate failure.
With a little time and effort, business leaders will likely find there are plenty of ways to identify and embrace new opportunities for growth during a market downturn. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some effective ideas.
1. Look for ways to help others succeed.
Evaluate your services and products and determine how they meet a need during the downturn. Perhaps you are saving clients money or allowing them to do something with fewer people. Position yourself to help others achieve success during a downturn and opportunities for growth will come. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
2. Use cash reserves to make investments.
If a business has cash reserves and can afford to make investments during a down market — whether in human capital, tools of the trade, talent acquisition or any other relevant tangible or intangible assets — it’s the perfect time to do so. Coming out of the down market, that business will have a leg up on the competition and can hit the ground running while others are dusting off cobwebs. – AJ Ansari, DSWi
3. Evaluate your competitors.
A market downturn, sadly, may be the best time to put a competitor out of their misery. They may be having trouble staffing or just be struggling, so find your competition and their clients and reach out. This may also be the perfect time to buy a competitor. Depending on how “ruthless” you want to be, this is a chance to remind folks that your business will continue to serve X, Y and Z. – Rodger Roeser, The Eisen Agency
4. Train and upskill current employees.
During a market downturn, a business must maintain a growth mindset while being mindful of its bottom line. One way to do this is to look internally and seek out opportunities to train and upskill current employees. By doing so, a business will create a loyal and agile workforce that is nimble and ready to act when presented with new opportunities. – Brantlee Underhill, Project Management Institute
5. Stay adaptable and flexible.
I started my first business during the recession in 2006 because I was young and naive. But since I didn’t back out and pushed through, I learned a very important lesson in the process. The businesses that manage to survive any crisis are not the most creative, most affordable or whatnot — they are the most adaptable. As long as you stay flexible, you will stay relevant. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Expand your network.
Turn your efforts to networking and building up your book of contacts. You can find partnership opportunities, mutual referral opportunities and so much more. Also, it is a great opportunity to see how other people are dealing with the same situation that you are going through. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
7. Grow into new markets.
We’ll use this downturn to spread out and grow our business! We plan to stay on track with our current revenue level by growing into new markets, so when the economy returns, we’ll be loaded for exponential growth. When times are tough, the tough get going, and we ought to be working harder than ever during a market downturn so that when things come back, we’re stronger than before! – Preston Dunn, Discount Dumpster Rental
8. See if you can reposition your products and services.
When faced with a market downturn, businesses should look at their products and services and assess whether those products and services can be repositioned, perhaps to a different market segment or application. Naturally, this process should be done outside of a market downturn, but organizations typically focus on their current market and customers. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC.
9. Be the ‘rock’ in your market space.
Be the rock among other companies in your space for clients and employees. With strength and consistency, you can take market share and see more opportunities while others are riding the ups and downs. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
10. Research how your customers’ needs are changing.
Talk to your existing customers and understand how their priorities, needs and strategies are changing in response to the market downturn. Adapting your business to changing customer needs will help you keep current customers and attract new ones by providing a product that’s in demand in the new market. It is likely that others are facing the same reality as your existing customers. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor
11. Talk to decision-makers about their challenges.
Whenever there is change, there is opportunity. Start by understanding the challenges the downturn has created in your market. What are companies struggling with? If you can be proactive about talking to decision makers about these issues and how your solutions address any them, they will want to talk to you. You need to adjust your messaging and process to take advantage. – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC
12. Communicate the realities of the downturn.
Whether it’s a real estate or stock market downturn, it always causes the news cycle to heat up and more negative news to float around. Increase your communication — with your staff, with clients and via social — and explain the reality as it relates to your industry. This will calm people’s fears and help them to see you’re still working on their behalf. – Shanna Tingom, Heritage Financial Strategies
13. Consider pivoting to prove brand value.
Understand your customer mix and the golden rule that 20% of your customers make up 80% of your revenue. Downturns can create opportunities to pivot and prove value (as a brand or service). Customers are more hyper-aware and conscious in times like these, making value judgments with each decision. How good is this product’s quality? How healthy is that food choice? Downturns amplify this behavior. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners