Thursday, December 1, 2022

CEOs see Opportunity in Downturn

Panel Members (left to right) Henry Clifford, Susie Fife, John Lewis, and Scott Saunders answering questions from moderator Doug Moore.

Inflation. Slowing demand. Rising interest rates. Everyone is talking about a recession. Whether a recession happens or not, most CEOs are anxious about what the future holds for their businesses. This was the topic for ninety business owners at a recent VA Council of CEOs luncheon.

When these CEOs were asked, “Is a potential recession more of a threat or an opportunity for your business?”, almost two-thirds of them saw more opportunity. The Lewis Group’s John Lewis predicted that the stock market will turn around and go “to new highs,” citing the economy’s fundamental strength and historical trends. Many of these entrepreneurs said they felt more prepared this time, having survived the Great Recession. Three themes emerged from the discussion.

Survival of the Fittest

A number of CEOs said that it was time to “flush the system,” leaving flexible, well-prepared organizations with the advantage and effectively weeding out the competition. The fittest will have the opportunity to acquire talent, assets, and market share from weaker competitors. Some talked about the creativity that businesses experience when faced with challenging times. Others shared that now was an important time to focus on your organization’s mission and vision — and to communicate optimism for the future to employees and customers.

Cooling Talent Market

Could a downturn bring an end to the workforce crisis? Many of the CEOs said they expect the challenges in recruiting and retaining talent to ease. Those firms that focus on providing attractive work environments and growth opportunities for their people will have an advantage. Susie Fife of Red Orange Studios said she works hard to “make sure that [her] employees know that they are supported.” 

New Growth

Several luncheon participants excitedly noted the opportunity for growth. Henry Clifford of Livewire said that some new services they created out of internal necessity “have proven successful and turned into industry-facing efforts.” Many of the CEOs said they looked forward to leveraging partnerships that might not have been possible in the past. And organizations with deeper pockets and the right talent in place are positioned to acquire other businesses and take market share.

Doug Moore with Fahrenheit Advisors started the luncheon conversation by quoting Andy Grove’s book title: “Only the Paranoid Survive.” The audience of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners agreed. However, most in this audience were more focused on the opportunities to be found in disruption. 

Do you see more threat or opportunity in the potential recession? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Posted by Aida Pehlic at 11:02 am

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