What is the right strategy in a highly unpredictable or unfavorable business environment? No matter what business or industry you are in, the aftershocks of the 2008 world economic crisis suddenly brought everyone face to face with this very question.

The speed and scope by which the crisis spread across market segments and international borders was unprecedented. By its nature, such a calamity forces us to reexamine our business and to discard strategies based on environmental conditions that have been turned upside down. But this takes courage. Our natural instinct is to dig in and try to ride out the storm. Yet with a change in perspective, even a period of severe tempest can be seen as a time of great opportunities.

To illustrate this change in perspective, let’s take a quick skiing adventure together. Imagine doing a full day of intense skiing, and then taking a chairlift up for the final run at the end of the afternoon. When you get off the lift, you find yourself at the top of an unfamiliar mountain peak. It’s getting dark and you are feeling tired. Suddenly it hits you that the only way back to the village below is to ski down the single steep slope, which seems beyond your ability. As you start to ski down, filled with fear and reluctance, your instinct tells you to lean back away from the precipitous drop in front of you. However, this stance has exactly the opposite, unwanted effect. It puts pressure on the back of your skis, accelerating you down the slope and out of control. What should you do instead? You need to lean forward and push your weight on the front of your skis, which allows for a controlled descent.

This same approach holds in business during periods of adversity. If out of fear your gut reaction is to recoil and to start cutting costs just to survive, your very actions may be choking off the growth of your business and accelerating its potential demise. But if you lean forward and embrace the challenge of adversity, you may find ways not only to survive but to prosper. You can still cut costs or reallocate resources, but you do it in a way that has the strategic growth of your business in mind, not its mere survival. So go ahead and lean forward.  Embrace your environment, and enjoy the ride.

Slingshot Stories: Re-Imagine Your Business, Re-Imagine Your Life