Business Success in a Challenging Economy

Fellow captains of commerce, welcome aboard! Today, we navigate uncharted waters – the choppy seas of a challenging economy. Fear not, for in the midst of market turbulence, lies opportunity. But without a steady hand on the tiller of priorities, our ships risk drifting, lost in a fog of uncertainty.

Let’s face it, economic headwinds roar.

A recent McKinsey study predicts the global GDP growth of 2024 to be 2.9%. Inflation bites hard, and consumer confidence, dwindles. But cheer up, for history proves – downturn breed titans.

Here are some additional interesting statistics:

  • 57% of businesses actually grew during the last recession. That’s right, they sidestepped the stampede and found greener pastures.
  • 72% of consumers are shifting spending habits, prioritizing value and experience over mere bells and whistles. This is your chance to stand out with authenticity and innovation. I will speak more about this in the second part of this presentation.

But here’s where to pay attention most: tough times are fertile ground for innovation, resilience, and yes, even success. Just ask the businesses that grow during economic downturns, or the countless entrepreneurs who built empires amidst financial turmoil.

Yes, the currents may be churning, the rocks may be looming, but brace up, captains of commerce! With the right map and a few well-placed paddles, we can not only survive, but thrive in these choppy waters.

Remember Airbnb I mentioned earlier in my keynote address? Born in the ashes of the 2008 crash, they saw opportunity where others saw despair. They prioritized a lean structure, creative marketing, and a laser focus on customer needs, transforming hospitality and becoming a household name, now an $84 billion behemoth.

Or consider Netflix. While brick-and-mortar video stores floundered, they doubled down on streaming, sensing a shift in consumer behavior. Their prioritization of digital innovation and audience understanding propelled them to the top of the entertainment pyramid.

Same thing with Uber. Its wheels rolling through the Great Recession, today a $76 billion transportation revolution.

It’s not about running the fastest, it’s about riding the smartest.

But business success in a challenging economy isn’t just about flashy tech giants. It’s about the corner bakery business prioritizing community, offering home-baked comfort at affordable prices. It’s about the local plumber focusing on essential repairs, building trust with every leaky faucet fixed, and leveraging on technology to scale, through bookings and other possibilities.

In the first section of my presentation, I will discuss what to prioritize to beat the economic rat race, while in the second section, I will discuss few businesses you can consider at this time.

Business Priorities to set in 2024.

Every business, irrespective of the size and industry, can navigate the rapids through what I branded the P2S Prioritization Model.

The P2S prioritization model means prioritizing the People, Process, and Systems of an organization.

The P2S Prioritization Model
1st P – People2nd P – ProcessS – Systems
Employee Loyalty        Datalytics       Focus
Customer Loyalty Resilience      Innovation & Automation

Here is a breakdown of the P2S Prioritization Model.

1st P – People
Employee Loyalty
Customer Loyalty

People #1: Employee Loyalty

When markets tumble, your team becomes your life raft. Invest in their skills, nurture their well-being, and foster an environment of open communication. Trust and loyalty are the anchors that hold you steady when the waves crash. Remember, productive teams conquer market monsters.

Empowered and motivated employees are your secret weapon in any storm because they are your first line of vision drivers.

People #2: Customer Loyalty

Don’t batten down the hatches and hide! Prioritize communication, transparency, and empathy. Offer value-added services, creative solutions, and a listening ear. Remember, in stormy seas, loyal customers are your lighthouses – guiding you towards calmer waters.

Nurture relationships. In tough times, trust is your most valuable currency. Prioritize communication with your customers, and suppliers. Be transparent, supportive, and build a network of mutual success.

Have you ever thought of what motivates football club fans to defend and support their clubs even during their worst league performance? Loyal customers can passionately refer you if they have had fantastic experiences in the past with your service or products.

2nd P – Process

Process #1: Datalytics  

There is no better time of relevance about the historical facts and figures of your business operations than now.

Don’t fret if the thoughts that you have not been keeping proper records jolts you. Just sit down and begin to recall all you can. Assistance from your employees will be very helpful here.

Pen down all you can remember about your business activities and operations, then sieve through to determine what worked best for you and how you obtained the results.

Seek professional support if the need arises.

From the pattern of what you have, look at what process you can improve on and institutionalize it.

If you have been keeping data about your business, fantastic. You have a goldmine to institutionalize a process that can help put your business on the super trajectory above economic downturn.

Process #2: Resilience.

According to McKinsey, 70% of companies that thrive through downturns prioritize cost optimization. We’re not talking penny-pinching, but laser-focusing on core operations, trimming the fat like a pirate paring down a parrot’s vocabulary. Remember, a lean ship sails swifter!

Double down on essentials. Cut the fat, not the muscle. Analyze your spending like a seasoned rancher, trim the unnecessary, and invest in what truly fuels your business.

Tighten loose ends, further reduce your cost by shortening length of turnaround time in your operations.   

As much as possible, let your product pricing be cost reflective, then shut down excess baggage in your business that needs to go.

S – Systems
Innovation & Automation

System #1: Focus. 

Understand your core values and target audience. Yes, you probably have been in business for some time, but now you need to do a critical reassessment to deepen the understanding of your core values and target audience. Don’t be a cattle rancher trying to herd sheep – focus on what makes you unique and resonates with your customers.

Application of the 80/20 rule will help a great deal here. When you can identify the 20% efforts or values that yields the 80% of the results you have had in the past, you can then realign your core values, target audience, and focus on them. 

Don’t be a jack of all trades, master the one that matters most. Identify your core strengths, your niche, and become the go-to expert in that space.

Embrace agility. Be a chameleon, not a dinosaur. Adapt to changing market trends, customer preferences, and economic realities. Pivot your products, services, or even your entire business model if needed.

Don’t get so caught up in the rapids that you forget the destination. Have a clear vision for your business. Don’t get caught up in the bandwagon move of jumping into what is trendy.

Ensure your risk assessment is top notch.

In recent time, an entrepreneur hurriedly decided to establish a school in the UK because of the high migration into the country. Soon after, the UK policy on immigration via education changed which led to drastic reduction in the number of those who sought admission in the UK. Now the crises of bad investment, and creditors demand sets in. The risk assessment for the business was very poor.

Stay optimistic and focused on long-term vision. Don’t be distracted by the temporary challenges, strengthen your resolve with more knowledge. Continue reading and learning.

System #2: Innovation & Automation.

Remember the old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention”? Well, guess what? Harvard Business Review study found companies that prioritize R&D during downturns grow 20% faster in the upturn. So, unleash your inner genius! Repurpose, reinvent, and innovate your way to new shores.

Embrace the tech stampede. Don’t be that stubborn mule clinging to the old ways. Harness the power of automation, data analytics, and online marketing to wrangle your business to new heights.

Get creative! Think outside the branding iron. This is your chance to pivot, innovate, and offer something different. 

Presentation Part 2

Possible Business Opportunities in 2024

Just before I wrap it up, I will quickly highlight some industries that appears evergreen for investment irrespective of the economic situation. Yes, their profitability projection might vary, their services and products are always in demand.    

They are businesses in the Communications, Transportation & Logistics, Food, Shelter, Energy, and clothing industries.

Here are few tips for possible business investments:

  1. Let your first approach be to look for investments in the value chain of the earlier mentioned sectors and not necessarily in their primary production.

At the beginning of this presentation, one of the statistics I cited says “72% of consumers are shifting spending habits, prioritizing value and experience over mere bells and whistles”.

The Gen Zs perfectly fit into this description. For example, they prefer to be served food on their bed rather than cooking their meal. This did not only increase the patronage of eateries, but also gave birth to businesses like Chowdeck, and Glovo that decided to offer food ordering aggregation and logistics, enabled by the technology of an App.

You may not need to setup a food cafeteria, but you can facilitate the supply of quality and affordable raw materials to them.

Same thing applies to businesses in those other sectors I earlier listed. 

  • Hone skills that are virtually demanded and offer your service on platforms that can pay you in forex.

About 3 years ago, I spoke to a young guy who plays the guitar very well to consider offering his services online via training and other gigs. I see him today showcasing how he makes dollars online, though he never returned to say thank you. Anyway, that’s not the subject of this discussion.

You can as well consider other ways your services and products can be offered to the international market.

The winds of tough business climate are whispering, but fear not, captains! Prioritization is your anchor. Focus on customer value, not just cost-cutting. Invest in innovation, not just efficiency. Prioritize adaptability, not just rigidity. Remember, Nokia prioritized protecting its market share, and who’s using a Blackberry these days? Be like Netflix, embrace change, and you’ll weather any storm.

Finally, dear captains, even the fiercest storms eventually clear. When the sun breaks through, your well-prioritized ship will be positioned to catch the trade winds of recovery. So, raise your Jolly Roger of optimism, tighten your bootstraps of determination, and steer your business towards the horizon of success!

Let’s not be daunted by the economic waves. Let’s embrace the challenge, prioritize wisely, and paddle with passion. Remember, the greatest businesses aren’t built in calm seas, they’re forged in the fires of adversity.

And hey, if you capsize, don’t worry, we’ll all be there to help you back into your boat, laughing and sharing survival tips. After all, that’s what the Street Smart Summit Series is all about – community, collaboration, and conquering the business rapids together!

Remember, even captains need a break. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey, celebrate small victories, and maybe even reward yourselves with a buried treasure of well-deserved relaxation.

Together, let’s prove that even in challenging economies, audacity and the right priorities can make our businesses thrive!

©Adeyiga Awomuti

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