The Business Storm Cycle is never still; like all cycles, it’s constantly turning. If you’ve weathered your first rapid-growth Tornado, in which your people and resources were stretched to the breaking point, you probably wondered when this crazy phase of expansion would stop. Now, as the Avalanche of shrinking margins and overstocked inventory hits, it has.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter all that much which side of the Business Storm Cycle you are on. Whether you’re accelerating or decelerating, the transformation is a similar process. What you’ll find on the upper slope when you’re accelerating is that you probably don’t have the integration you need between people, process, and technology. You don’t have the right applications. You have people in the wrong roles. You don’t have enough people. On the deceleration slope, however, you’ll find you have redundancies. You probably have double or triple entries. You have too many people on staff or at least in the wrong functions or roles. With all this on your mind, you’re likely to shoot yourself in the foot in one of these ways:
- “Who’s responsible for this mess?” It’s tempting to play the blame game or to stand by as management points the finger at each other. But this slowdown was inevitable, and it’s nobody’s fault. Every Tornado has to end. Stop looking backward, and start strategically looking forward. You can’t bring back the Tornado you just experienced—but you can get your company ready for the next one.
- “The last thing we can afford right now is new IT.” This is your chance to reevaluate the technology that’s been held together with baling wire and duct tape for months while you made it through the Tornado. The old technology and architecture was never built to scale to what you are now.
- “The less the employees know about this, the better.” Your employees are feeling battered, confused, and exhausted. Many of them are probably wondering if their jobs are safe—or are even unclear about what their jobs are, at this point. Leaders lead, and your people need you to step up and explain the Business Storm Cycle to them. Rally your troops and get everyone pulling together again.
If you have a company that’s had two massive transition points—first a Tornado and then an Avalanche—you have two options. First, you could have to sell. Even worse, of course, you could simply go under, with nothing to show for all your hard work. Your second alternative, though, is to consolidate and transform yourself. You survive the Business Storm Cycle. You reinvent your company to be able to scale to your new size, your new volume, your new revenue, and your new customers—and prepare for the next Tornado.