3 Expert Business Tips From Owners Who Have Survived a Crisis

Have no doubts; the world is in an economic and healthcare crisis since the spread of COVID-19. The question is not if your business will feel the effects of the pandemic, but how you will weather the changes in the “new normal” of operating your company. Can your business survive a crisis?

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In this article, our editorial staff solicited tips for how businesses can survive a crisis from business owners with clout and experience; all have had a company experience a massive disaster and survived to tell the tale.

Not only survived, but thrived with newfound tenacity, knowledge, and perspective on what it takes for a business to survive a crisis. Read on to learn how you can harness their expertise for your own business.

Tip 1: Decide if you’ll let fear defeat you, or if you want to be a business owner.

You might say, “Yes, I want to be a business owner. Why else would I have a business?”

It sounds like an easy question, but in times of crisis, every business owner needs to step back and re-evaluate if they truly are willing to weather the potentially bone-crushing times on the horizon. Do you really want this business? Would you rather be doing something else? Are you ready to sacrifice essential things to ensure its survival? Take some time to consider your answer before you jump in the deep end.

In December 2014, Julie Bee’s Company, BeeSmart Social Media, lost 85% of its revenue in one day.

“It was the week before Christmas when most companies that we serve are closing down for the holidays. No new sales were coming in over the next couple of weeks. At that time, I was operating as a sole proprietor without employees,” said Julie. “We had our two largest clients decide not to renew their contracts with us in the new year. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

After spending time with her friends and family, and after doing some serious soul searching, Julie decided she wanted to be a business owner and kept pushing forward.

“Today, I manage a successful business with two employees. This adversity made my company stronger because I realized the importance of having employees to free up my time for sales and marketing. I also learned never to have two clients make up that much of our revenue.”

Take comfort in the fact that if you jump and decide to keep your business afloat, you won’t be swimming alone.

“The most valuable lesson of all … was that there’s always a way, there’s always a solution, to make it work.”

Tip 2: Challenge your customers to survive the crisis with you.

Haj Carr, CEO of Trueline, a marketing company in Portland, started his business in 2008, just in time for the “Great Recession of 2008.” 

“It would have been very easy to give up, and I would have had a great excuse to do so, but I was out of options, so I either had to make it work or find another way to support my four children.”

If you consider people who have survived a crisis, look no further than the holocaust.

Haj adapted the suicide prevention therapy strategies used by Viktor Frankl, a legendary holocaust survivor psychologist, from “what keeps you from committing suicide?” to “are you giving up?”

In both cases, the therapist challenges people to look at their future and their reason for living or staying in business.

“When prospects told my staff that they had no money to spend on marketing because their businesses were 90% smaller than the previous year, I instructed my team to challenge them with a simple question;

Are you giving up?

If the answer was no, we would explain that they had no choice but to position themselves to win now, and further explained how we could partner with them to help them achieve their goals.

It was critical to bring people into our world where anything was possible.”

Tip 3: Do not use a crisis as the time to start leading with your gut.

Charles Schue, CEO, and President of Tagence has led companies through multiple crises through survival and on to success. He advises business owners who are weathering a crisis such as COVID-19, the 2008 Recession, 9/11, or others, to remember cash is king and cash flow is queen.

“Project your cash flow out as far as you can, and then base any decisions that affect the company on facts and data,” says Charles.

He warns against using your intuition as the sole factor in your decision-making process during an emergency.

“Entrepreneurs especially often lead with their gut,” says Charles, “and many times are successful. In crisis times, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and understand that if your gut is wrong, it generally does not end well for your team.”

Your business can survive a crisis if you lead with evidence where possible.

“Whatever you decided, move out quickly and don’t wait for things to get worse. Remember, “hope” is not a strategy in the business world.

Is your business going to survive the COVID-19 crisis?

It’s impossible to gaze into the future and tell you how your business will fare during this societal upheaval. Still, we at Tagence can say that companies that survive will be stronger for the hardships they face and overcome.

We’d love to hear your stories about overcoming business hardships and how you plan to tackle COVID-19 so your business will survive. Or, follow us on LinkedIn to learn more tips as we address these challenges together.

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