img blog How Recessions Benefit Great Companies

How Recessions Benefit Great Companies

Recessions are bad for most people, and I won’t make light of how horrible these times can be for the vast majority of companies and their employees. It’s true that for most companies, recessions mean increased stress at work, stalled career progression or even layoffs, uncertainty, raised board and shareholder pressure, increased financial strain and extreme anxiety. It’s no fun to wake up to that every day! But for great companies, people can turn things around and make recessions awesome.

So, what are great companies? They’re the ones that make great products or deliver exceptional services to customers. They provide a wonderful work culture that attracts and retains talented people. And because they take good care of their customers and employees, great companies don’t have a dangerous debt burden. They are profitable, can pay their bills to suppliers and deliver an attractive return to investors in dividends and equity appreciation.

Recessions are awesome for certain companies for the following reasons. 

Losing The Cobwebs Of Complacency 

“Success breeds complacency.” Andy Grove, the legendary CEO of Intel, wrote that. And while I’m not here to suggest everybody embrace full-on “paranoia” in the workplace, I am suggesting that successful companies must keep hustling to stay on top. A recession provides an opportunity for a wake-up call to companies that may otherwise start coasting. Now is the time for them to get back on track. 

Taking Customers And Colleagues From Undeserving Companies

I’m not sure why customers buy products or services from lesser companies. And I’m not sure why talented people work at lesser companies. Maybe it’s due to convenience, connections or just habit. In any case, as lesser companies stumble during a recession (e.g., shutting locations, letting service and quality drop, highlighting dysfunction in the culture, etc.), it’s the perfect time for great companies to pick up more of these customers and talented people. 

Increasing The Rate Of Learning For Your Leaders

I don’t know about you, but time seems to move more quickly for me during harder times than when things seem easy. This can enhance the learning curve of your up-and-coming leaders. Just remember not to make too many decisions for them that will stunt their growth. Allow your leaders to come to you with problems and solutions so you can aptly coach and support them. Let them test and learn various approaches to leading through uncertain times.

If you buy from a lesser company or work at one, the next recession is likely to be a bummer for a couple of years. But if you work at a great company, fear not. This will be an awesome opportunity to shake loose some cobwebs of complacency, take customers and colleagues away from lesser companies and increase the rate of learning of your leaders.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times bestsellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials.


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