Leaders and analysts from all perspectives have begun to emerge and add their own two cents about what business leaders should do in this economic environment.
For a particularly dour assessment on the outlook for venture backed, debt heavy small firms, check out the Sequoia memo. In a presentation to Silicon Valley CEO's in their portfolio they laid down a pretty painful assessment of the current marketplace along with a roadmap for survival that depended on deep cuts, becoming cash flow positive quickly, lowering risk, eliminating debt and building a runway that will last five years or more because financing alternatives are dried up. One of the CEO's we talked to had a quick assessment of where all of this is heading. The charter:
- The day you are funded it's grow, grow, grow.
- Now it's stop, stop, stop and cut, cut, cut.
- About a year from now it will be why didn't you focus on value?
For a more tongue in cheek view of what a 'dead man walking' scenario sounds like, checkout Guy Kawasaki's view on how to tell if your CEO is clueless. Guy provides his version of a Letterman Top Ten list with the 16 things you hear a CEO say that lets you know how close it is to the time you need to update your resume.
Here's my question. Both of these contain lots of needed tough love for business leaders that give you some powerful ammunition to swallow deep and make the tough decisions on cost because their businesses are misaligned for today's market. But, in only two statements from Sequoia and one from Guy do they even come close to addressing the real issue that we should all be focused on:
How can we make our business more relevant in today's market?
The issue now more than ever is do you have products and services that resonate? Is your portfolio full of must have's or nice-to-have's. While now is not a good time to find out your behind, the focus on creating, launching, marketing and selling quality solutions to problems people have is the ONLY thing that really matters. You can't save your way to market leadership or even survival. While the pragmatic leader will conserve cash to live to fight another day, you still have to have a plan for what you will do on that day that adds value!
Our little project to study how Tuned In leaders are putting their plans in place to Win in a Down Economy is much needed. Without it, we may unwittingly be setting our businesses up to make this downturn fatal.