Michael McFall is the co-Founder and co-CEO of BIGGBY COFFEE as well as author of the Inc. Original book GRIND.
We may be heading for a recession. We may already be in one, or it might never occur. The economy might be headed for a “soft landing,” or it could careen off a cliff. It seems like the only certainty in the first part of 2023 is that no one is certain about what comes next.
However, you wouldn’t know that from listening to the pundits, politicians and business leaders confidently and effusively lamenting emerging “headwinds” while forecasting an economic recession like a weatherman on the 10 o’clock news.
All this speculation has real-world implications for businesses, their employees and their future growth potential. As the writer Anne Helen Peterson recently commented, “It’s difficult to fight the feeling that CEOs are willing this recession into existence to create a justifying narrative for layoffs.”
Indeed, many business leaders have pivoted away from their pandemic-inspired growth strategies in favor of full-throated austerity or, as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg recently dubbed 2023, the “year of efficiency.”
These efforts are, at best, misguided. Rather than focusing on outside voices predicting a downturn, leaders should focus on revenue generation, embracing strategies and priorities that make their businesses more vibrant, profitable and impactful moving forward.
Here are three ways business leaders can achieve that right now.
1. Cultivate dynamic teams.
Most business leaders will pay lip service to the notion that their employees are their “most valuable asset.” In practice, many fail to lead and cultivate dynamic teams by fostering supportive workplaces where people can grow and thrive.
Last year, Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report found that workers are experiencing alarming levels of disengagement and unhappiness. Sixty percent of participants said they were emotionally detached at work, and 19% said they were “miserable.” At the same time, a separate Gallup survey found that fewer than 25% of employees “feel strongly that their organization cares about their well-being—the lowest percentage in nearly a decade.”
These employees are significantly more likely to actively search for new jobs and experience burnout, while they are less likely to be engaged at work, advocate for their company or thrive in their overall lives.
As a leader, if your people aren’t performing or lack inspiration, there’s a good chance it’s your fault. Ask yourself—“Am I leading well?”
Businesses won’t be successful in the short or long term if leaders can’t correct this problem. That’s why leaders should cultivate dynamic teams by creating workplace environments where people want to show up and contribute.
Dynamic teams will drive revenue growth and business prospects moving forward. They will get the business where it needs to go, and leadership will power their pursuit or hinder growth and progress. Critically, you will have a better chance of blowing through any recession with speed and grace.
2. Focus on revenue generation.
I frequently conduct a thought exercise with young business leaders in my company: “If I offered you $50,000 in the next 30 days to generate 30% more revenue, could you do it?”
Invariably, everyone becomes wide-eyed and replies, “Yes.”
The exercise, while anecdotal, underscores a key business reality: it’s possible to generate more revenue. The trick is determining the necessary next steps to increase revenue effectively.
Start by engaging your team with the following questions:
•Are new pain points disrupting sales outcomes?
•Have new product or service needs emerged?
•Can we expand to new or emerging markets?
•How can we better serve existing customers?
For a leader, focusing on revenue generation should start with your team. Get them involved. Get their ideas. As a collective, they know better than you do.
Ultimately, navigating any economic environment requires revenue. Rather than scaling back to account for a potential downturn, focus on revenue generation to keep your company competitive and sustainable in the year ahead.
3. Double down on brand awareness.
Brand stories are critical to attracting new buyers, maintaining existing customers, and expanding mind and market share.
Companies thrive when customers form emotional connections with their brands, and these critical connections are often forged from brand storytelling.
To develop this potent brand awareness, identify an exciting and impactful campaign you can run on social media for the next 30-60 days. Dig deep into your company archive, develop storytelling about your brand and tell that story. Be original, and get juicy. Customers want to engage with your brand. They love to see under the hood. Bring them in!
This doesn’t add a dollar to your marketing spend, but it can significantly increase brand awareness and resonance. Do it for the consumer and your employees, positing a compelling brand story that creates connections that drive results.
Action outlasts uncertainty.
Companies will power through the recession and come out stronger than ever. Is this going to be you?
In uncertain economic times, it is natural for businesses to feel apprehensive about the future. However, rather than being influenced by confident but uncertain outsiders, leaders should emphasize controllable business elements like revenue generation, team dynamics and brand awareness.
By taking these steps, businesses can position themselves for success, regardless of the economic environment and create a better future for themselves, their employees and their customers.
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