How Do Businesses Survive in Tough Times? Scaling Up, Down, Over, Through, or Back

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Ken Larson

2020 has been stressful and laden with uncertainty, especially for business leaders who are trying to adapt to the landscape of this pandemic both personally and professionally. And it ain’t over yet!!!

The complexity of the business landscape has increased, and so has the depth. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. We’re reaching a point where leaders and executives need to think bigger and smarter than ever before, not just to stay afloat but to defy the odds and grow in spite of it all.

As apt decision-making has become more critical, how are these leaders and executives navigating through these tough times? Do they have to rescale? Do they have to refocus? Do they have to move into a different market? Might they need to take a different business approach entirely?

Some companies don’t necessarily have a choice about which way they scale, but they do need to figure out how each way will work for them.

For example, even though you want to scale up, maybe scaling back is the route you need to take until the pandemic is over. If this is the case, this requires you to review, revise, and refine your people, operations, systems, processes, financials, and tools to see what isn’t necessary for now.

Every variation of scaling puts your business in the position to scale up if completed properly

Think of it like this:
Your airplane is your business that COVID just brought straight to the ground.
While you might be used to “building your plane in the air,” this specific situation involves finding (or creating) the right runway, pointing your plane in the right direction, then building enough thrust to get airborne again. Then… once in the air again, which way to your destination?

One thing is for sure, all leaders need to know which way they’re hoping to scale:
Up, Down, Over, Through, or Back.

Scaling Up:

All executives with a growth mindset will want to keep doing this. However, will the volatility of the market conditions allow it? By looking at what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change, you’ll most likely require a modified approach. Here are a few alternative scaling methods to consider…

Scaling Down:

This approach requires making the tough choices to minimize as much as possible, especially overhead. Getting down to the bare bones of your business may be your initial reaction, but is it the right response? What else might you do?

Scaling Over:

This type of scaling requires a shift toward meeting the needs of a different, thriving market. It will involve designing and/or redesigning products, services, teams, financials, structures, systems, and processes. Scaling Over is not for the faint of heart. Deep levels of research and analysis along with some intestinal fortitude (read risk) will be necessary. Another approach might be:

Scaling Through:

This type of scaling requires a lean and mean strategy designed to weather whatever storm the market may be bringing. This could involve elements of both scaling back and down in order to make it to the other side. Then again, there’s a more simple approach…

Scaling Back:

This type of storm involves backing up to the very basic business model that got you to where you are today. It will involve some cutting and trimming, some refocusing and refining, and definitely some tough decisions on the people front.

Which of these will work best for you?

Regardless of which way you’ll be taking your business, we can help.

Through the Scaling Up™ process, we’ll show you how to achieve it, regardless of your business size or industry. Through this business coaching partnership, we’ll help you focus on four major business decisions involving people, strategy, execution, and cash. More than 40,000 firms have found these teachings valuable and have increased business growth by utilizing the One-Page Strategic Plan, the Rockefeller Habits Execution Checklist, and several other world class growth tools described in the Scaling Up™ book.

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