Navigating an Economic ‘Survival Period’: Become a Zebra Instead of a Unicorn

29 June 2023

In challenging economic times, when cash funding is drying up and uncertainty looms, it’s crucial for organizations to adopt a resilient and adaptive mindset. Rather than solely pursuing unicorn status (companies valued at over $1 billion), embracing the concept of being a zebra can be a strategic approach to weather the storm. A zebra is purpose-driven, focuses on sustainable growth and pursuing profitability. As the saying goes: “You date a Unicorn, but marry a Zebra”.

Furthermore, investors’ interest is strongly shifting towards profitable companies with significant growth potential rather than fast-growing companies with a high burn-rate risk. Valuations are reflecting current economic circumstances and the overall sales projections have generally decreased vs previous estimates. Given these trends, all eyes are aimed sharply at surviving upcoming periods, fostering steady growth and preparing to scale in a next economic upturn. Timing can be a valuable asset in optimizing company growth.

Here are 7 steps you can take to thrive as a zebra during an economic survival period:

1. Focus on Sustainable Growth

Instead of chasing rapid, unsustainable growth, prioritize building a solid foundation for your organization. Concentrate on generating revenue, optimizing operations, and ensuring profitability. By focusing on sustainable growth, you can create a resilient business model that can withstand economic downturns. Strategic and financial planning are key to identify different scenarios and mitigate potential economic effects in the market impacting your business.

2. Diversify Revenue Streams

Relying on a single revenue source can be risky during uncertain times. Explore opportunities to diversify your revenue streams by re-thinking your product or service offerings, changing the focus point of revenue stream development, or exploring strategic partnerships. This diversification can provide stability and buffer against potential downturns in specific markets. It is important to allocate resources to the right streams such as cash-generating activities or upsell-opportunities. An example of this can be shifting more towards a service-based model vs a product-based model or vice versa.

3. Optimize Cash Flow Management

Effective cash flow management is critical during an economic survival period. Analyze your cash inflows and outflows, identify areas where you can reduce costs or improve efficiency, and implement measures to optimize your cash flow. This may include renegotiating contracts, reducing discretionary spending, or improving collections processes.

4. Cultivate Customer Relationships

Your existing customers can be a valuable asset during challenging times. Nurture your relationships, provide exceptional customer service, and actively seek feedback to understand their evolving needs. By focusing on customer satisfaction and retention, you can foster loyalty and generate repeat business, even when acquiring new customers becomes challenging. By shifting the focus to upselling your existing clients, it can have a beneficial effect on improving your offering, gaining positive growth effects in the long-term.

5. Embrace Agility and Innovation

During economic downturns, the ability to adapt and innovate becomes crucial. Encourage a culture of agility within your organization, where employees are empowered to propose and implement new ideas. Seek opportunities to optimize processes, leverage technology, and explore new market niches or business models that align with the changing landscape. Even within the already innovative nature of fast growing companies, it can still be valuable to look at your current methodology from a new perspective.

6. Build Strategic Partnerships

Collaboration and strategic partnerships can be invaluable during tough economic times. Identify potential partners who can complement your offerings, expand your reach, or provide access to resources and expertise. By pooling your strengths, you can navigate challenges together and create mutually beneficial opportunities.

7. Prioritize Talent Management

Your team is a key asset in driving your organization’s success. During an economic survival period, it’s essential to retain top talent and focus on their development. Foster a supportive and inclusive work environment, provide opportunities for upskilling and reskilling, and acknowledge and reward employees’ contributions. Engaged and motivated employees can help propel your organization forward, even in challenging times.

By adopting these strategies and embracing the zebra mindset, you can position your organization for resilience and success during an economic survival period. Remember, it’s not always about being the mythical unicorn; being a zebra, with its focus on sustainability, adaptability, and collaboration, can pave the way for long-term growth and stability.

For more insights and guidance on navigating economic challenges, stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts. #BusinessResilience #ZebrasNotUnicorns #Adaptability #CashFlowManagement #StrategicPartnerships #TalentManagement #Innovation

For more in-depth information and practical guidance on navigating upcoming period, contact us.

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Blogs related to this topic are: Liquidity MetricsProfitability Metrics, Cash Flow Management, How much money shouldn’t you raise?, Alternative Funding Sources


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