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By: Thomas Carson
Founder & CEO
Sospes, LLC

The Time to Innovate is Now- Take the Leap

Every period of turmoil produces winners and losers, and the winners are nearly always those companies that see changing circumstances as an opportunity to embrace, not a crisis to be outlasted.

Now is an ideal time to move from paper-and-Excel-based safety systems with software that not only transforms safety results, but also integrates with the rest of your organization for improved operating results.

Last week I attended an on-line (of course) event in which we heard expert guidance on business strategies for weathering the pandemic. The gist of the advice was, “don’t bankrupt the business by saving cash in every possible way. Hunker down, cut all non-essential costs and eventually we will survive to come out on the other side.”

I understand that rule #1 is don’t crash the airplane. And I understand if a company is so tight on cash that there is no cushion, sometimes cutting may be all you can do to survive. But for a company with modest resources and serious ambitions, recessions and other periods of uncertainty can be a time to leap ahead of less imaginative or unprepared competitors. Every period of turmoil produces winners and losers, and the winners are nearly always those companies that see changing circumstances as an opportunity to embrace, not a crisis to be outlasted.

Few business owners would dispute the value of innovation. For most of our companies, it was an innovative idea that started the company. Innovation probably led to your company growing in spite of larger competitors. As we march down life’s highway, markets change, regulatory environments change and technology changes. Innovation is certainly a requirement for surviving into the future.

One form of innovation is adoption or upgrading of technology. It turns out that business slow-downs may be an ideal time to make investments in technology for two reasons. First, when the economy is flush and sales are strong, there is an incentive to produce as much as possible to meet customer demand – shifting resources to work on new systems and processes doesn’t seem like a high priority. However, when sales slow, businesses have excess capacity, and deploying some of that talent to work on next generation systems and customers is effectively less costly. This carries an added benefit of retaining key talent that would otherwise have to be replaced, trained and on-boarded later. The second reason is that well-chosen technology can reduce costs in many areas and leverage existing skills and knowledge. This saves money near-term and makes the new infrastructure more scalable when the recovery arrives. So what is the evidence to support this claim? According to a McKinsey study, “Organizations that maintained their innovation focus through the 2009 financial crisis, for example, emerged stronger, outperforming the market average by more than 30 percent and continuing to deliver accelerated growth over the subsequent three to five years.” There are many others that agree.

This is particularly relevant for safety professionals in companies that are still using paper and Excel spreadsheets to manage their safety programs. Modern software will provide significant leverage of your skills and knowledge by automating data collection and reporting tasks, for a company with modest resources and serious ambitions, recessions and other periods of uncertainty can be a time to leap ahead of less imaginative or unprepared competitors. Every period of turmoil produces winners and losers, and the winners are nearly always those companies that see changing circumstances as an opportunity to embrace, not a crisis to be outlasted. and the related analytics will focus your resources on situations that matter, making your safety program far more effective. Even better, the right systems will support broader operating goals such as continuous improvement initiatives and risk identification, providing immediate tangible value across the organization.

To inspire your enthusiasm for leaping forward, I will leave you with an example of great innovative ideas and companies that were born in tough times to become market leaders – enjoy, and remember that all things, including this pandemic, will end.

AIRBNB – founded just months before the 2008 great recession
DISNEY – founded during the great depression of 1929
FEDEX – founded during the 1970 recession
GENERAL ELECTRIC – founded just months before the country’s first major depression in 1893
GROUPON – founded during the 2008 great recession
HP – founded during the 1937 recession, a smaller version of the 1929 crash
IBM – founded during the 1911 recession
MICROSOFT – founded during the 1970s oil crisis
WHATSAPP – founded during the 2008 great recession

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