Getting Ahead During Macroeconomic Uncertainty: Lessons From Startups

The recession remains a hot topic. Is it imminent? Is it ongoing? While concerns about recession are declining, major companies like Amazon and Nike continue to face losses. In these moments, companies tend to batten down the hatches, but some of the greatest companies in history have used tough times to innovate.

In 2008, Netflix switched over to a streaming model, Lego went global and Citigroup improved its branding and services. The result? Massive success in a time when most of their competitors were scraping by. Not to mention, some of the most successful startups were born during the recession: Uber, Venmo, WhatsApp.

In a landscape where technological advancements and shifting consumer preferences dictate the rules of engagement, startups have carved out a space for themselves by challenging norms and pushing boundaries, and multinational corporations should take note.

Lesson One: It’s never too late to experiment.  Let’s face it, big companies hate change. But not all is lost. Large companies can learn from startups’ willingness to take risks. By fostering a culture that encourages calculated experimentation and creating a safe space for sharing ideas, corporations can unlock innovation. Meta took a lesson for this book with the launch of Threads, further diversifying its offerings nearly 20 years after Facebook’s inception.



Lesson Two: Nail your messaging.  Most startups have perfected their messaging. Why? Because early teams at startups completely believe in their mission. Large corporations tend to overlook the importance of cohesive brand positioning and messaging. Getting everyone to sing the same song is more than a good idea, it’s crucial to connecting with customers and the bottom line as it makes brands memorable. In a world full of dating apps, Hinge, the dating app designed to be deleted, broke through the noise with its catchy messaging.

Lesson Three: Pinpoint today’s problems. Your customers’ needs have likely changed over time, and it’s time to get with the times. Startups are scrappy and laser-focused on their customers’ needs. They intimately understand their target audience and adapt their offerings quickly. If they want to remain relevant, large companies should actively engage with their customers and iterate accordingly.

Lesson Four: Embrace failure. No one achieves success without failure. No matter the size of the company, failures have happened along the way. Remember Angry Birds? Its creator, Rovio, developed 50 failed games before it struck gold. The difference between startups and multinational corporations lies in how they respond to failure. Analyzing failures and destigmatizing them at all levels of the organization is crucial for growth.

We can’t predict exactly when and if the recession will hit, but a shift in perspective at all levels of an organization can mean the difference between emerging in the aftermath or being left behind.

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