Surviving the 2020 Business Economic Crisis

For most of us, the speed of this business and economic crisis has been unprecedented. Many businesses are finding opportunity in these turbulent times, but many are struggling. These 12 strategies and tips to guard your company future are especially relevant now, but they can be utilized at any time for any business.
1. Find someone to talk to. This is not business as usual. You don’t have all the answers, even though you think you might. Reach out for guidance, support, critique and someone to challenge your assumptions.

2. Exploit opportunities, not the customer. Don’t overcharge, don’t lessen service, don’t violate your company’s purpose or values.

3. Offer temporary benefits, such as extended PTO, that the company can afford but don’t put the enterprise at risk. Provide what your employees need but manage for the long term.

4. Be a leader, not a dictator. In our zeal to respond, we can lose sight of what our roles and responsibilities are as business owners, CEOs and department heads. CEOs have 4 primary responsibilities: Formulate and execute a strategic plan, build a great team, keep the company liquid and be an ambassador to your customers. Leaders are:

  • Able to set and achieve challenging goals and take swift and decisive action even in difficult situations.
  • Encouraging and inspiring, helping others overcome their self-limitations.
  • Able to outperform their competition, take calculated risks and persevere in the face of failure.
  • Self-confident, have strong communication skills and a willingness to embrace change.

5. Maintain high emotional intelligence and awareness. How you come across affects how others behave. 

6. Your company is only as good as your team. Remember, they are as anxious, if not more so, than you are. Most of them do not have the economic safety net that you may have. Keeping your team positive, challenged and enthusiastic will translate into less conflict and distraction for all concerned.

7. Conserve cash. One day, this will pass. Your ability to preserve cash is critical, not just to survive this crisis, but also to meet projected, pent up demand once this is behind us. When managing through any downturn:

  • Cut unnecessary overhead and discretionary expenses. 
  • Turn fixed assets into variable to lower your breakeven. 
  • Focus on what matters most and have a Return on Investment mindset. 
  • Promote profitable products and services over ones that may generate higher market share but lower profit. 
  • Stay out of price wars.

8. Look for distressed growth opportunities. Unfortunately, not every business will survive this downturn. Be on the lookout for deals that are in line with your strategic plan and will move you closer to achieving the company vision. Yet another reason to conserve cash.

9. Establish relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Two lagging indicators and one leading indicator at the corporate level are best. Leading indicators are usually tied to what drives business with your high volume, high profit customers.

10. Be transparent and brutally honest with key stakeholders. You may think you’re protecting them by not laying out the entire reality but they already know what’s going on. By being forthcoming, stakeholders will provide insight, support and ideas to consider. Not doing so leaves people suspicious and free to come to their own conclusions – usually the wrong ones.

11. Remember, strategic plans are not set in concrete. Plans are meant to be flexible. Strategies, projects and tactics can all change mid-stream. That’s OK. What shouldn’t change is the quest to achieve your long term vision. The path to get there might take a detour, but don’t let it detour you from where you ultimately want to end up.

12. Manage overwhelm. Here’s how to manage your ongoing projects: 

  • Manage your projects by deferring ones no longer currently relevant and replace them with ones that are.
  • Don’t expect your teams to work on everything at once.
  • Set priorities. Say “NO” to trying to do it all. 
  • Concentrate on execution. Set completion deadlines. Be disciplined.


Become a member in one of my Vistage groups and get the support, inspiration and accountability you need to make better decisions and get better results faster. Utilize the power of the group to stay one step ahead of your competitors and get through this unprecedented situation.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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