How to Use Change as a Launchpad for Business Growth

How to grow a business during a recessionThere have been many inflection points in human history which have required businesses (and people) to change the way they operate.

A good place to start when trying to formulate how to grow your business during a time of change, is to look into the past

All of the following examples can be explained with the same thesis:


"Every instance of societal change opens doors that didn't exist before."


Take the Plague of the 1340's: Laborers were able to charge more for their work, the Feudal System collapsed, and the rise of "Humanism" took place.

During the Spanish Flu (1918-1920), Bell Phone Company began automating their phone systems which led to massive business growth. Why? Because of higher telephone use due to less physical contact. This time period also marks the rise in systematic collection and transparency in public health data. 


In 1929, The Great Depression (1929) rocked the United States, and many businesses were, looking to cut costs. IBM released their automated accounting system which saved companies money, helped them get back on track for growth, and contributed to IBM's meteoric rise. 


During The Recession of the 1970's McDonalds expanded new store opening by 50%. The recession led to better real estate availability, and provided a key advantage over their key competitor - Burger King. McDonalds is now worth 19x more than Burger King, and much of that is as a result of their actions during this recession.


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The way that Amazon dealt with the Dot-Com Bust in 2000 is one of the reasons they are a cross-industry juggernaut today. They hoarded cash, opened their marketplace for 3rd party sellers, and created a system that lowers the cash conversion cycle— decreasing the gap between buying a product, and payment fulfillment. 


How Airbnb grew during the recession

In the 2008 Recession, AirBnB launches and grows. Their service gave a source of extra income for homeowners — many of whom were strapped for cash. It unlocked a pent up demand for unique vacation experiences, and stays with a “human touch” that hotels and other hospitality companies could not effectively match.


Don't get me wrong, these times in history had EXTREMELY negative effects on the lives of millions of people worldwide. The same is absolutely true about COVID-19. The purpose of this blog is not to make light of these events. However, it's impossible to deny that on an individual, or company level, events like the one we're facing now provide opportunity for growth and innovation that can have a positive effect on the world. 


What is a Leader's Role During Change?

During times of change, it’s crucial that leaders

  1. Engage and involve team members during change conversations,
  2. Coach them effectively to prepare for the change, and
  3. Support them through whatever change is occurring.


Check out our manager training course: Supporting Change


Without doing these 3 things, team members can feel “left in the dust” and forgotten about while the organization (and often your industry itself) is changing around them. Below are a few things that are effective for change management, and some that are ineffective. It’s important that your managers understand these differences, and keep them in mind throughout the process of adjusting to change.


Effective Change Management Ineffective Change Management
Proactivity Avoidance
Participance Uncertainty
Adaptation Fear
Engagement Resentment
Commitment Compliance (alone)
Growth Setbacks



Here are 5 ways to Use Change as a Launchpad for Growth

Efficiency & Resourcefulness

Being resourceful to grow an organization


  • Budget cuts, reduced spending, other “austerity measures”
  • Fewer resources available
  • Need to get more done with less

Steps to Address

  1. Assess and organize current resources
  2. Prioritize resources: determine what's critical vs "nice to have"
  3. Given constraints, identify resources to be cut/reduced
  4. Create + collaboratively discuss plan to achieve key activities and top goals with limited resources


Creativity & Problem Solving


  • Old models and processes no longer work
  • Unique problems often require creative solutions
  • There's a need to rethink, and build for the future of your business

Steps to Address

  1. Clarify current restraints that are keeping you from growing; what's no longer working and why
  2. Seek perspectives and insight from your team and colleagues
  3. Ask both employees and managers to bring 5 ideas to solve; discuss to find top 3 options
  4. Determine best solution; agree on support and resources needed


Unique Perspectives


  • Change can be polarizing
  • People can have a tendency to avoid hard conversations
  • Change offers an opportunity to engage and collaborate with diverse perspectives

Steps to Address

  1. Identify where your team lacks a diversity in perspective; it can be holding you back from being a better organization as a whole, and from creating lasting business growth through change
  2. Assess where in the organization (and elsewhere) to fill that gap
  3. Present challenges to those with unique perspectives
  4. Share success cases with others — managers, employees, etc.


Demonstrate What's Valuable


  • Demonstrate what's valuable to employees during covid-19Many employees may be facing personal and professional challenges, business growth is the last thing on their mind
  • Changes tend to come with struggle
  • Change can act as an opportunity to truly show your team how much you value them
  • Opportunity for engagement and commitment boost

Steps to Address

  1. Articulate your organization's key values and core culture
  2. Create action items for how you will show/live these values during challenging times
  3. Invite feedback and ideas from others


Personal Growth


  • During change, there can be a tendency to "have your head down"
  • It's common to feel like you're getting a lot wrong, which can be a sign of growth
  • The massive personal growth that happens during challenges is often overlooked

Steps to Address

  1. Set aside 1+ hour every other week to reflect during challenging times
  2. Identify what areas are most important for your growth
  3. Understand how your current and future change experiences will help you to achieve growth
  4. Have recurring conversations with your team about their growth


Lasting, meaningful change cannot be achieved by just one person at a company. It takes buy-in from managers, employees, and other stakeholders. It's important for you as a business leader to be deliberate in your actions, and consider the opinions and perspectives of your people. 


Be thoughtful, take the right steps, and enable your team members to be the best version of themselves that they can be, and growth will come. 

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