How a skiing accident can help your business through the next recession

In skiing as in business, it’s usually best to respond to situational changes and not react. As I write this, I’m recovering from a complicated surgery to replace my ACL and repair my meniscus. Skiing accident, not business. But it got me thinking about brand equity. Sue me.

How did I get hurt? By thoughtlessly reacting to the conditions I found myself in. By not giving myself even a split second to judge my circumstances. Had I paused even for a moment to consider my strategy, I never would have gone ass over teakettle. I wouldn’t have needed surgery and wouldn’t be facing nearly a year of rehab.

Nope. Instead I found myself bouncing down a mountain strapped into a rescue toboggan, in excruciating pain, thinking: recessions are a lot like skiing.

Our copywriter wanted this blog post to be a lesson on recession-proofing your business. He’s never skied before. So I’m here instead, telling you to watch out: knee-jerk reactions cause damage that can take a long time to heal.

Hey, remember that time we had a Great Recession?

From 2007 through 2009 I personally aged about ten years. I probably earned an honorary master’s degree in negotiation, risk, and stress management. I minored in chainsaw juggling while whistling carefree tunes. You were there: you know what I’m talking about. Whether that was your first recession, or whether you can remember the Panic of 1873, the chainsaws as you know are very real.

Still: amid the many unknowns, some businesses weather economic downturns with little impact. Others thrive.

What gives? What can be done to minimize decline, remain stable, and even to expand and grow? What does it take to avoid the bouncing toboggan of fate?

Two words: brand equity.

Your business is an investment. Treat it as such. That means maintaining a big picture view even when the short term is uncertain. Income is important, yet equity is the foundation. Build it and the black diamonds will soon be yours. But not before then.

So how do you build and nurture your brand equity? Glad you asked. Through investment in brand awareness.

Small businesses are most vulnerable during times of recession. They need to stay top-of-mind. Far more than even mid-sized enterprises. Several reasons for that: limited credit and capital resources, higher dependence on monthly cash flow, and staffing issues are more sharply felt.

By investing in brand awareness, you create a reservoir of positive public sentiment that you can activate on your own timeframe. It’s a reservoir of brand equity. You control the flow.

With a brand awareness strategy your business can come out ahead in a recession. Challenge creates opportunity, after all. Big enterprises may have reservoirs of capital, but you’ll have this reservoir of brand equity that you can capitalize on.

All you’ll need is a little mental space. The first rule of Ski Club: resist knee-jerk reactions. Respond, don’t react.

The issue comes down to timing your move. The best time to invest in brand awareness is when there’s less competition.

Most businesses—not you, of course—react to recessions. They reduce expenses. They freeze spending on marketing, travel, and hiring. They reduce payroll burden. Some businesses restructure their workforce from full- to part-time roles, request wage concessions or, as we are currently seeing, conduct mass layoffs.

Now, when you’re in midair with your skis over your head and your internal gyroscope resting a hundred yards upslope, these appear to be correctly conservative and responsible decisions.

But the reality—apparent to that kindly ski patroller watching you, shaking their head and clucking their tongue—is that these are intuitive reactions based on fear. Which leads to toboggans, surgery, and learning to walk again.

Successful businesses respond to adversity by committing to their core brand and sticking to the plan. It takes fortitude, sure. And the evidence shows that these businesses come out stronger and more advantaged than their competition.

As other companies react by reducing expenditures, yours can respond by allocating them wisely. Sure, you’ll stand out. That’s not a bad thing. We like greater share of mind. Higher visibility creates greater brand recognition, and that is a strategy that pays off in any economy.

Recessions are the smart time to double down on brand awareness. In a recession, you can stand out. Yes, you. The scrappy little guy—the business that can’t afford another recession. Investment in marketing is an investment in your future business. Brand awareness creates long-term resilience and growth. That’s a fact.

Think of recessions as short-term obstacles in a long-term race. Tight maneuvers may be necessary to navigate surprises, but be careful to not veer too far from your core strategy. When the sun comes out you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the run miles ahead of those who second-guessed themselves. And that’s when your gains are realized and counted.

And yes, Sands Costner can help you realize an effective brand awareness strategy. We specialize in building solid brand foundations. We prepare and guide businesses through each stage of growth. We help you respond to challenges, not react. When we’re not skiing.