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Tumultuous Times Are The Ideal Moments To Push Forward With New Business Initiatives

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When you can't see a clear path ahead, it may feel safest to kick the can down the road—but it will cost you in the long run.

Executives at the helm of companies today are driving on noticeably rougher roads than in recent years.

An increasingly tense geopolitical environment means the stability required for global trade and commerce is no longer a given. Domestically, corporate layoffs have been moving full steam ahead. The twin specters of stubbornly high inflation and the rising cost of capital have added a degree of difficulty to doing business. And to make things worse, the crisis that took down Silicon Valley Bank and others has raised uncomfortable questions about the resiliency of the U.S. banking system.

Common sense suggests companies take it slow and not make big moves or start business initiatives during a tumultuous time like this. But accelerating, not decelerating, into transformation is exactly what company leaders should be doing now.

The fact is, the business environment has been upended. So, whether your business has changed or not, it needs to catch up with the outside world as it currently exists.

Maybe you need to review procurement arrangements that were put in place when times were smoother to wring out cost savings. Or perhaps figure out if you’ve over-hired in recent years. Are you consuming the right amount of resources at the right cost? Embarking on initiatives that help bring the company into alignment with today’s economy is smart business.

But people – even high-powered executives – tend to defer making tough decisions during uncertain times. If they don’t see a clear path ahead, kicking the can down the road feels like the safe thing to do.

Here’s the thing: Postponing decisions is not free. Every day spent studying a problem that’s leaving money on the table is another day not getting your hands on that money. When you know there’s a gap between your potential and where your company sits today, failing to take action is like throwing money away. That’s the cost of deferring a decision.

To be clear, gathering information and studying a problem is standard procedure, but there will never be perfect information available. At some point, executives need to shake off the fear, make a decision and move forward despite the uncertainty that surrounds them.

Corporate history is chock full of legendary business figures who launched bold initiatives when times were tough and wound up reinventing their companies in the process, turning them into powerhouses: Look no further than Jack Welch and his work at GE, Lou Gerstner’s turnaround of IBM or Steve Jobs’ return to Apple that made it into the company we know today.

There are many lesser-known examples of this spirit. I recently spoke with the CEO of a public company who was facing uncertainty from seemingly every angle around manufacturing operations: regulatory, engineering, pricing, supply chain and new development.

What they realized is they needed to focus on items that were under their control and start driving the cost out of them. In doing so, they were doing more than reducing overall spend and increasing efficiency: They were creating the next evolution of their company and positioning it to win in good times and in bad.

I also worked with a different manufacturing company that was deeply concerned about the macro business environment but pushed ahead anyway with an initiative that targeted the way the company handled the routing of its trucks to and from job sites. They learned they were using vehicles that were too big and heavy, incurring extra fuel charges. In many cases, they could deploy a smaller vehicle and, using the latest routing technology, realize further savings.

The point is that despite an uncertain environment, there are exciting business initiatives that you can launch to zero-in on costs, improve operational efficiency and secure a lasting advantage.

No matter how confusing or frightening the landscape might be, there is a need to make tough decisions and move forward. Deferring decisions on areas that are holding the business back will only cost you in the long run. Now’s the time to hit the gas, not the brakes.


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