The Global Downturn as Opportunity - Six Strategies to use in the Global Downturn


 With intense foreign competition, high debt and uncertain political times, this global downturn is totally different.  Thriving in this environment will require different strategies.  Here are six strategies for you to consider implementing.

 Strategy #1 – Focus on inventing a new competitive advantage

A shoe factory sent two executives to a country in Africa to look at expanding their business.  One emailed back and said, “Situation hopeless, no-one wears shoes.  The other person emailed back, “Great business opportunity, they have no shoes”.

 It all depends on how we see life and our business.  All life comes to us in a narrative form – it’s a story we tell.  We perceive only the sensations we are programmed to receive – we invent it.  So we might as well invent a framework for our life and business that enhances the quality of our life and business.  That means we need to challenge the current way we are doing and seeing things.  We must ask ourselves:

  • What assumptions are I making about my business that I’m not aware I’m making that gives me what I see?
  • What might I now invent in my business in products, services, processes that I haven’t yet invented that would give us other choices and outcomes?

For example, one company we worked with created a division to utilize and commercialize a new training approach for their staff which reduced training time from two years to one year.  This service has now been sold to larger companies nationally to train their staff

 Strategy #2 - Seriously engage in a change process involving all employees

The usual response to our economic downturn woes it to go on retreat, devise a plan then come out firing!  A different approach would be to engage employees at all levels in devising a better plan, involving those in a change process and sharing information regularly with everybody in a real-time situation.  They may not like what they hear but they can be part of the solution.  Once the Global Economic Downturn Opportunity Plan (GEDOP) has been devised, formulate 90-day action plans for all parts and employees of the business and have brief weekly meetings to keep focus.  Ask all employees to look at how they can increase productivity, improve processes, reduce costs and identify ways to save money.  We did this in a large manufacturing business and involved all employees in devising ways to reduce costs - $500,000.00 (amongst other things) were identified with staff volunteering to clean toilets, cleaning the factory, doing basic maintenance on machines etc – truly a very successful outcome.

 You can also empower staff to make decisions about working hours, particularly as skilled staff are hard to find.  Here are some other things to try:  reduce hours; job sharing; reduce overtime; redeploy to other parts of the organisation; retraining; and natural attrition without replacement.

 Strategy #3 – Develop collaborative partnerships with vendors, suppliers, subcontractors and other companies

The most important thing during tough times is to strengthen your relationship with your partners - your vendors, suppliers and subcontractors.  You need to evaluate your current relationships and sit down with them to talk frankly about your downturn plans and to listen to their plans as well.  The most important thing is to develop trust and commitment.  Additionally, you may like to identify potential collaborative companies who can join with you in joint ventures, extending your attraction and reach to the market.

One company we work with has done this very successfully with an international partner and secured some large projects which they would not have achieved alone.

Strategy #4 – Improve the way you do business by improving your processes and systems

Lead your people in a brainstorming session to identify ways to simplify, improve and enhance your processes, products, services and systems.  This improvement will enhance relations with vendors, suppliers and subcontractors and reduce costs.  Challenge everything so that effectiveness and efficiency are achieved. Ensure that everything has a robust simple checklist, process and system.

 Strategy #5 – Invest in information technology, training and advertising for optimisation

Advertising is so important to protect your markets from competitors and to position your brand and identity.  Training is vital to ensure continuous improvement, employee involvement and multi-skilling.  Information technology is essential for competing and also to become more efficient.  For example, one company we have worked with has transformed themselves by establishing a systematic on-line training process which provides and records all staff training.

 Strategy #6 – Lead by example

It is important that any downsizing starts at the top and that the pain is shared.  This would reinforce that management and staff are in this together. Ensure that all staff are treated equitably and well.  Whatever staff see you doing they will do.  Remember, the speed of the leader, the speed of the pack.

 In conclusion:

The most important thing is to start now by today drafting a purpose document with an opportunity focus for this global downturn.

If you head into this time with a vision of how you intend to get through, then people can work together as a team, receive support and achieve outstanding things.