5 Smart Moves in Good Times and Not-So-Good Times

The Great Recession panicked many business leaders into rash moves that weakened their companies. Make adjustments but don't abandon what built your brand.

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By Richard Weissman

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The most recent recession shook up businesses, leaving some thriving and others shuttered. What defined the outcome of latter? Living in the grey.

A company should never stop evolving, no matter what internal or external factors arise. To be malleable and nimble is necessary for brand growth, but it's imperative not to be swayed into making decisions based on cyclical situations. Instead, stay the course of your brand directives and the goals that serve your company.

Related: Strategies to Refuse the Recession

The following five lessons would have helped to save many businesses over the past few years, however, if applied in earnest today, they can enhance all business models and catapult strong brands beyond projections:

1. Believe in your brand.

Do you believe in your brand? Those in the grey have businesses that will perish. Passionately believing in yourself and your business will project growth and success, enabling you to create your own path rather than following the course of others.

Having corporate optimism and confidence that comes from within the brand, not the news headlines, is a key to success. This will trickle down to all layers within your company, making your brand ambassadors happy and secure, then in turn your customers happy and secure, and so on and so on. Remember every stakeholder who touches your brand owns it. It's the leader's job to guide that vision front and center.

2. Reinvest in the brand.

One of the worst things an entrepreneur can do is to take the foot off of the accelerator. Too many chase pennies and step over nickels. Whether it's a downturn in the economy or complacency in terms of market position, reinvestment in the brand is necessary for continued success.

Investigate the best practices and latest technologies, devote funds to infrastructure and invest in employing and maintaining talented human capital. Do this in the best and worst of times. Don't rely on the system in place to leverage the full potential of the company.

According to a Harvard study conducted after the most recent recession, firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals had the lowest probability – 21 percent – of pulling ahead of the competition when times got better. Although seen as the road less traveled, investing strategically in your brand will always result in ROI in the long-run.

3. Remain entrepreneurial.

A wise friend once told me to "do what you as a leader know is best for the organization, even if it's not popular."

Going against the grain is at the core of an entrepreneurial spirit. So, when innovation, company culture, brand initiatives and use of resources are challenged, wisely stay your course.

A valuable lesson for entrepreneurs is that difficult times are not the time to "watch the pennies" – the popular choice – but the best time to grab market share. To convince company stakeholders of this requires buy-in, thus making the entrepreneurial spirit of persuasion and motivation most essential.

To ensure that you are not "drinking the Kool-Aid," create a board (which could be an informal think-tank) of trusted advisors to bounce ideas around. Complacency is the number one killer of businesses.

Related: Ramp Up Marketing in a Downturn

4. Lead by example.

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy.

The greatest entrepreneurs make mistakes. It's how you respond to a potential failure that sheds light on you as a leader, and your company as a whole.

Keeping this in mind, many of the greatest brands, including McDonald's and Subway, understand that the goals remain intact but sometimes the plans need to be altered to achieve success. So, prior to rolling out a company-wide directive, plans are tested at "corporate" centers only. This business model enables a brand to determine and acknowledge a problem early on and be agile enough to accommodate a change in direction towards success.

Be present, be consistent, and be in the trenches.

5. Maintain relationships

The CEO should not be viewed as the grim reaper, only showing face when times are tough or when heads will roll. Nor should they only be a talking head without substance. Go beyond an open-door policy by interacting with your team and encouraging free-flow idea sharing that leads to greater innovation, in and out of the office.

The entrepreneur and the business positioned to weather challenges should lend themselves to strategic partnerships and collaboration. Designate a charity for your team to "adopt" and create unique and memorable ways to raise funds and awareness, strengthening bonds between employees, in an out of the office environment. Additionally, develop as many corporate alliances as possible.

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality," stated the late Warren Bennis, scholar and organizational consultant. Make your vision and belief in your brand known, and find every opportunity to evolve and grow.

Create your future today.

Related: 6 Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Startup

Richard Weissman

President of The Learning Experience

Richard S. Weissman is president of The Learning Experience® (TLE®), one of the country’s fastest growing early learning academies for children 6 weeks to 5 years old. As of February 2014, TLE® has 207 system-wide centers including 126 operating centers (107 franchised and 19 Company-owned) and 81 centers in various forms of development.

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