Should You Stop Scaling in a Crisis or Look for an Opportunity?

April 30, 2020 5:25 am Published by

It’s fairly obvious that “business as usual” no longer applies to any of us. That’s why, for the next few weeks I plan to focus on things we can do to keep moving forward—even in uncertain times. I plan to take a look at essential thinking, planning, and execution—in light of some of the challenges we all currently face. I’m also very aware that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. While we’re all affected by the spread of COVID-19, not everyone is impacted in the same way. I hope that the principles I’ll be sharing will help you move forward in a way that’s appropriate for your specific situation.



 Should You Stop Scaling in a Crisis or Look for an Opportunity?

Many of us are aware of the link between crisis and opportunity. President John F. Kennedy made a famous speech in which he said, “In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.”

While President Kennedy wasn’t technically correct (the language is a bit more nuanced than that), the concept of opportunity in times of crisis is still valid. What’s also interesting is that—some 55 years after Kennedy’s speech—some people only see danger and difficulty in times of crisis, while others see challenges and opportunities.

Pivot to Profitable Ventures

The current Coronavirus pandemic is a case in point. Some businesses have pulled in their horns and retreated in an attempt to stay safe. Others have seized the proverbial bull by the horns and have explored new options. They have pivoted to new opportunities and potential profits.

Many of us have heard or read about companies that made adjustments to our current situation to provide goods and services that are in demand. Distilleries that once were making bourbon or other spirits made a quick move to provide much-needed hand sanitizer. Some manufacturing companies adjusted their production to be able to make respirators (even Elon Musk jumped in on that one). Others started making masks. Some were for healthcare workers and others were simple protective masks for average citizens.

Some did it for profit. Others did it as a matter of civic pride and wanting to help. Regardless of motive, the people involved didn’t retreat from the danger—the explored the opportunities. Some looked at what the needs were and made note of which needs weren’t currently being met. It’s important to note that some looked beyond the immediate medical/health needs to secondary needs that would occur as a result of the pandemic.

An example of this kind of thinking is evident in a project headed by Outsource Access. They put together a spreadsheet that lists Coronavirus Market Opportunities Research. Then they listed primary categories, secondary categories, and industries not affected by the pandemic. This list has also categorized the opportunities as short-term or long-term. It also includes anecdotal information to help bring potential projects into focus.

Click here to download the whole document.

Not All Opportunities Are Created Equal

If you look through the spreadsheet, you’ll be amazed at the number of potential opportunities there are. But here’s a caveat: Not all opportunities are created equal. Some trends listed may be extremely short-lived. For example, there may be a dramatic shortage of toilet paper at the moment but starting up a plant devoted to manufacturing toilet paper probably isn’t a smart move. Even the plants that currently manufacture the stuff are being cautious about over-producing because they know demand will settle down.

Other trends and needs, however, may well be indications of dramatic shifts in the way we do business—shifts that may well become permanent. To successfully navigate your way through these opportunities you need to carefully “read the tea leaves” about where things are headed.

Here’s an article that can help you do that.

Evaluate Your Ability

There is something else that is critical to consider in times such as these. Just because an opportunity presents itself doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity for you. It’s important to evaluate your ability to rethink, retool, and retrain. Before you jump in with both feet ask yourself if this is something that really makes sense for you.


Did You Know?

What do General Electric, IBM, General Motors, and Disney have in common? A 2009 Kauffman Foundation-sponsored study showed that more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market! Click here for thumbnail summaries of these and other well-known successful companies that share that distinction.

Sometimes it Helps to Talk

If you need some help in evaluating an opportunity, it can be helpful to talk to someone who’s been through this process with others—and who is impartial and unemotionally attached to the idea. That’s one of the things I can help you with. Schedule a free 30-minute call with me to talk about your ideas and to evaluate whether or not your capabilities are a good match for the opportunity you see.

The Coronavirus Isn’t Your Only Challenge

In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to focus exclusively on current concerns. Of course, you need to do that, but you also need to keep a long-range perspective. The current crisis will pass. Keep in mind where you want to be down the road. Focus on the essentials of scaling. Avoid the traps that can sidetrack you when things finally settle down. I encourage you to download our free How to Avoid the Growth Traps eBook to help you do that.


Stay safe and keep scaling!

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This post was written by Chuck Kocher