It is not new advice - I remember hearing it when I was eight years old and my parents owned and ran a travel agency. You can't cut your way to success. My guess is that no one reading this post hasn't heard this before. I'd also bet that at last 90% of readers agree with this statement. However, that knowledge is not stopping people from trying to do it today.
Look, I understand the fear about this market. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wasn't concerned (even though the demand for what we do is skyrocketing and we're getting ready to bring on more clients than ever before). Here's what I know - today there are two (and only two) critical objectives for every business:
- Position yourself to survive this storm. We don't know how long it will be, or how bad it will be - and you must ask yourself, "What am I (we) doing to ensure that we will survive the storm - however long or bad it is?"
- Survival, however, is not enough - you must also position yourself to thrive when the storm is over.
There you have it - SURVIVE & THRIVE.
This may sound mutually exclusive in a devastating market, though the reality is that it is not. It calls for a singular approach with two prongs:
1. Allocate your resources and investments towards those actions that provide direct growth opportunities - cut everything else. That doesn't (necessarily) been eliminate, but cut disproportionately. Don't take what I call a "peanut butter" approach to cuts - those that are spread evenly.
There are tremendous opportunities to cut and grow at the same time. My friend, and staffing guru Bob Corlett just wrote a post on how you can upgrade your talent and reduce your costs - at the same time!
Today is a great time to cut those actions that are no longer the focus of your future. Remember - don't focus on improvement when transformation is necessary.
2. Focus on growth, even if there is no chance of "growing" next year. This may make no sense, but it's critical to understand. We have a client whose market is down by almost 50%. No matter what he does, his business will not do more in revenue next year than it did this year or last year. That doesn't mean that he isn't maniacally focused on growth. He realizes that now more than ever, he must push his "growth engine" to full tilt.
Think about it, if you're going into a head wind, you better have forward momentum, or the wind will wipe you out!
Additionally, if you don't focus on growth - doing the things to grow and thinking about growth - you and your business will atrophy. If the battle cry is survival, your "growth muscles" will atrophy. That's double jeopardy: you're weaker to deal with the strom if it continues and you're too weak to grow when the storm ends.