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Tired of Falling Behind in a Recession? Here's How to Jump the Curve and Get Ahead of the Game Some of the most significant companies were born amid a depression or a recession.

By Dionne Van Zyl Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Why should you think differently about a recession? When everybody is being cautious and using the down market cycle to consolidate their business, why should you be the person being bold and investing in new products and services? The answer is surprisingly simple. Consider that some of the most significant companies were born amid a depression or a recession.

Ford was founded during the 1902-1904 recession, while GM started in the aftermath of the panic of 1907, the first global financial crisis of the 20th century. American Airlines was formed during the Great Depression. The 1973-75 recession saw the birth of HBO and Microsoft. Mailchimp sprung into life during this time and is still thriving today. The second Great Recession (2007-2009) saw Airbnb flourish in the market.

What does "jump the curve" mean?

Think of a sine wave — starting at the top of the curve, moving down to the lowest point, and then rising back to the highest point. Imagine if you could jump from peak to peak and skip the low point. To do this means having a completely different mindset.

In general, when the market is bold and optimistic, this is usually the time to be cautious and use it as an opportunity to consolidate your business. When the market is fearful and cautious, this is the time for you to be bold with your new initiatives. This concept is jumping the curve. It is this concept of trying to move your business to the next level and to expand the operations at a time everybody else is downsizing and shrinking to a smaller operation.

Preserving cash is critical at a time like this; no question of the wisdom of that strategy. But a smart team can find ways to preserve cash and expand the business simultaneously. This means being exceptionally innovative.

Related: How to Unlock Your Team's True Potential by Creating a Team of Leaders

Abundance vs. Scarcity Mindset

Often in a down market, a company can find its very best opportunities. When other companies are shrinking operations, laying off key people, and even canceling certain products and services, this creates opportunities to gain new customers that are no longer served. New customers become available during down markets.

There may even be opportunities to acquire other businesses where evaluations of companies are at a lower level, often providing good value. During market upswings, most company valuations are inflated.

Down markets also offer opportunities to find great talent and expand the business by employing new people.

Related: This Is How Thinking About Abundance Has Helped Me Build a Success Mindset

Developing a powerful culture to help jump the curve

We mentioned earlier the exceptional innovation that a team has to display when trying to jump the curve during a down cycle. This means being innovative with capital and developing new products and services that require very little cash.

Here, the Pareto principle can be beneficial. Perhaps you can get 90% of the benefit with 10% of the cost? What if there is a way for your team to expand your services and offerings while at the same time preserving most of your capital? This is a different mindset.

When we flip the switch and become bold and innovative to expand our operations, we can access new customers, markets and increase market share. When the world is shrinking operations and scaling down, you can take the opportunity to jump your business to a whole new level.

This requires a unique culture. That is why Peter Drucker said, "Culture will eat strategy for breakfast." For this to work, key elements need to be built into your culture. When the business is on an upcycle, you consolidate your culture and empower every team member to act as a leader.

This is how you create a team of leaders, not just a team with a leader. Allowing team members to experiment and innovate and even take calculated risks during good times teaches them how to think like owners and to act and function at a different level.

The challenge is to move people from a "worker" mindset into a "leader" mindset. A worker is someone who manages their outputs. They do what they are told and try to do a good job by following procedures and meeting the required standards. The leadership approach is to teach people to manage their inputs and outputs.

Related: The Mindset That Sets Apart Great Leaders

This means people never use excuses like "nobody sent me the email" or "I've called twice, and they didn't answer me." You are teaching your team to function as a group of leaders in which they lead their own contribution to the organization by managing their inputs (what they need to do their job) and their outputs. You teach people to act like owners in their areas of responsibility.

When you create a culture in which people are celebrated as heroes when they do something unique, you are investing in a powerful culture that will empower those same heroes to come up with extraordinary innovation and ideas during a down cycle.

You take on a new mindset in which it is not your job to be the hero for the team but rather to create heroes in your team. This means taking a risk with people. It means giving people an opportunity to innovate and take risks. It also means that you give people a profile who normally would be overlooked or remain unseen in your organization.

When everyone on the team knows they have an opportunity to have their moment in the spotlight and be celebrated, a new era of innovation and experimentation beings. It is really about you, as the leader, permitting to act like owners and bring innovation to every level of the organization.

When we create a culture in which ideas have no rank, then every idea stands on its own merit regardless of who proposed it. Once a team learns how to innovate and believes that a certain amount of risk-taking is not just permitted but encouraged, heroes, are born. When heroes are created during the peaks of the market, the same heroes will be the ones who will deliver Innovation and great ideas during a down cycle and help the organization jump from peak to peak.

Dr. Van Zyl is an author, conference speaker, business leader, executive trainer, and student of the best management practices for over 30 years. He specializes in creating high-performance teams for emerging businesses.

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