From Surviving to Thriving: How to Adopt a Growth-Oriented Mindset During Downturns
In times of economic downturns, many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on cutting costs. While this may provide short-term relief, it often comes at the expense of long-term growth. Adopting a growth-oriented mindset is crucial to thriving in today’s competitive marketplace, even during difficult times. In this article, we’ll discuss steps companies can take to shift from a cost-oriented approach to a growth-oriented one, using a real company example to illustrate our points.
First, it’s important to recognize that cutting costs alone is not a sustainable solution. In fact, it can even harm a company’s future prospects. For example, let’s look at the case of Kodak. When digital photography emerged as a major threat to its traditional film-based business, Kodak responded by cutting costs and reducing investments in R&D. This strategy provided short-term relief but ultimately proved disastrous. Kodak failed to adapt to the changing market, and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Instead of focusing on cost-cutting, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation and investment in the future. Here are some steps to help make this shift:
Reframe the Conversation
One of the first steps in becoming growth-oriented is to reframe the conversation within the company. This means moving away from discussions solely focused on cutting costs and instead emphasizing growth opportunities. This can be done by setting new goals and KPIs focused on innovation and growth rather than just cost-cutting.
For example, let’s look at the case of Amazon. In 2001, the company faced a major challenge when the dot-com bubble burst. Many companies were cutting costs, but Amazon took a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on reducing expenses, the company set a goal to achieve profitability by Q4 of 2001. This goal helped shift the conversation within the company and encouraged employees to think creatively about achieving it. Amazon ultimately succeeded in reaching this goal, setting the stage for the company’s future growth.
Invest in R&D
Another important step in becoming growth-oriented is to invest in R&D. This means dedicating resources to developing new products and services that can help the company stay ahead of the competition. While R&D can be expensive in the short term, it’s critical for long-term growth.
For example, let’s look at the case of Apple. In the early 2000s, the company faced a challenging market, with declining sales of its core products. Rather than cutting costs, Apple invested heavily in R&D, developing new products like the iPod and the iPhone. These products not only helped to turn the company around, but they also set the stage for Apple’s continued success in the years to come.
Focus on Customer Needs
A growth-oriented mindset also means focusing on customer needs. This means developing products and services that solve real customer problems rather than just trying to cut costs or maximize profits.
For example, let’s look at the case of Airbnb. When the company first started, it faced significant challenges in convincing people to rent out their homes to strangers. Rather than giving up, Airbnb focused on understanding the needs of its customers and developing solutions that addressed their concerns. This included developing a robust verification process to ensure the safety of hosts and guests, as well as building a community of users who could vouch for the quality of the service. This customer-centric approach helped Airbnb to overcome its early challenges and paved the way for its continued growth.
Finally, a growth-oriented mindset means embracing risk-taking. This means being willing to take bold steps to pursue growth, even if it means taking on some degree of risk.
For example, let’s look at the case of the clothing retailer Zara. In the early 2000s, the company faced stiff competition from other fast-fashion retailers. Rather than focusing on cost-cutting, Zara took a bold step and invested heavily in its supply chain and logistics. This allowed the company to dramatically reduce its lead times, meaning that it could bring new designs to market much faster than its competitors. This focus on speed and innovation helped Zara to become one of the world’s most successful clothing retailers.
In conclusion, while it can be tempting for companies to adopt a cost-oriented approach during economic downturns, it’s important to remember that this approach can ultimately harm a company’s long-term growth prospects. Instead, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation, investment in R&D, customer needs, and risk-taking. By doing so, they can position themselves for success both during difficult times and in the future.
As Howard M. Shore said in his book “The Leader Launchpad,” “Leaders who understand the importance of growth over cost-cutting are the ones who will thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.” So let’s embrace growth-oriented thinking and help our companies succeed, even during the toughest times.
About Howard M. Shore: Howard M. Shore is a growth-oriented leader passionate about helping companies achieve long-term success. With over 30 years of experience in business leadership and entrepreneurship, Howard is a trusted advisor to CEOs and business leaders worldwide. He is the founder of Activate Group Inc., a consultancy that helps businesses across a range of industries to adopt growth-oriented strategies. Howard is also the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” both focused on helping leaders drive growth and innovation within their organizations.