Here in the first quarter of 2016, it seems that every second news article is a commentary on the difficult state of the economy.  Low commodity prices, a weak Canadian dollar, and falling global competitiveness are all contributing to this economic downturn, felt strongest here in Alberta.

In times like these, savvy business leaders are rethinking their strategies and business models for sources of opportunity and advantage.  They are NOT burying their heads in the sand hoping the storm will pass them by.

At Results, we are fortunate to see  firsthand what does and does not work for our clients. Here’s a survey of what many of our award winning clients are doing RIGHT NOW to be successful in these uncertain times:

  • Taking Strategy Seriously – coming off of several years of ‘running hard’ many Results clients are using this economic downturn to take a step back and fully rethink their business strategy:
    • Do we clearly understand and communicate our value proposition and key differentiators?
    • What other markets or geographies could we be serving?
    • What untapped segments of the market can we grab a leadership position in?
    • Can we gain market share from weaker players in our industry?  Are there high value strategic acquisitions available?
    • How can we vertically integrate up or down the value chain, or better partner with key suppliers or customers?
    • Which customers, extensions or product lines can we shed to focus on higher value activities?
    • What is the new ROI threshold for considering investment in opportunities in this new reality?
  • Topgrade Talent – the current labour market presents a unique opportunity for a team assessment. Companies seeing less work coming their way may need to reduce workforces through layoffs. It is critically important that an objective assessment of the team is undertaken (using a tool like Talent Mapping ) to make sure you are not releasing A Players.   By having more A Players, productivity per employee will be greater.  Alternatively, for the first time in many years there are a number of A Players available to hire. With clarity of vision, fit and well established Role Scorecards, this is a great opportunity to acquire new, highly valuable talent.
  • Process Improvement – in the rush to deliver over the past several years, many companies implemented less than ideal processes just to get the job done.  As the pace slows, now is a perfect time to undertake process improvement initiatives to look for cost savings and efficiencies.  This includes consolidating suppliers, streamlining internal systems, reducing waste, and improving cycle times. Some of our clients find that there is significant untapped potential for cost savings simply by making staff aware of the real costs for the business.  For instance, an employee saying, “I had no idea we paid for 1000 hotel room nights last year” might trigger some creative ideas to reduce travel costs (or at least negotiate more favorable rates).
  • Stay Close to Customers – in a weak economy, losing a significant customer can be devastating. Competitors are being aggressive in reaching out to your clients, and in many cases slashing prices just to stay in the game.  In this environment it’s essential to stay close to customers with regular communication and a caring approach.
  • Funding and Subsidies – there are dozens of government funding and subsidy programs available that can be used to ease the financial burden in these difficult times.  These include programs from the National Research Council for research, innovation and youth employment, the Canadian Work Sharing program for employee reduced work week, the Canada-Alberta Job Grant to fund employee training, and a variety of other programs.

None of this is easy.  In difficult and uncertain economic times, good leadership is demonstrated by those leaders who are courageous enough to listen, think and then act.  They have the difficult conversations, make the tough decisions, and are willing to go the extra mile for their purpose and their people.  Are you one of those leaders?

Do you know someone who could benefit from this article…

Article by Tim O’Connor