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5 Key Actions For Surviving The Business Storm Cycle

By Dave Hopson


Every business goes through cycles. They get started. They expand, sometimes rapidly. They decline. They consolidate.

But if they’re not careful navigating the storms that the market and fate throw at them, businesses could cycle right out of existence.

In fact, about half of all new businesses don’t make it to their fifth birthday, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Essentially, those startups stalled out.

Maybe the reason was too little capital. Maybe it was a faulty marketing plan. Sometimes, the reason may be that the technology crucial to any firm’s success simply couldn’t meet the always-evolving challenges the business faced.

Transitioning from startup to successful enterprise is always going to be a big undertaking. But that’s going to be even more so if your company hits an exciting growth phase and your back office fails to keep up.

As they try to make sure their businesses survive, it’s critical that company leaders keep the following key points in mind.

• Professionalize the back office and IT. That will keep your systems predictable and your IT ready to expand and adapt to the next phase that the business faces. And I don’t care what business you’re in, information technology is your company’s backbone.

• Technology alone isn’t the answer, though. Successful, ongoing transformation of a business depends on not just technology, but also on people and processes. Each must be fully integrated with the other two. When you leave out one, your firm’s functions are no longer healthy, effective, and productive — and you may not be able to survive the transition points on the business cycle. I developed an “IT survival quiz” to help business leaders assess how well they’re doing on this score. 

• Keep employees informed and engaged. It’s part of a leader’s role to let people know where the company is in the business cycle, and to educate, encourage, and inspire them to use each phase as productively as possible from startup, to rapid growth, to deceleration and back again.

• Don’t stand still. The “business storm cycle” will drive you to constantly reinvent yourself as a company. If you fail to recognize that the status quo won’t last forever, the market will leave you behind.

• Be prepared for a “tornado.” Periods of high growth, which I call “tornados,” are caused by a new product, a new market, a new merger, or a technology breakthrough. Companies that understand the characteristics of all the phases a business will go through are less likely to be caught unawares by these hyper-growth phases. They know how to make one of these growth phases last as long as possible so they can get all the profits they can out of it.

Although it can sound like I’m sounding a dire warning, I believe that with the right planning businesses can survive those “tornados” and thrive.

When you do, take a deep breath and relax, but not for too long.

Eventually, a new tornado will come along, and you will go through the entire cycle all over again.   

Dave Hopson, Ph.D., is managing partner at the information-technology consulting firm Triumphus, based in Texas, and author of “Surviving the Business Storm Cycle: How to Weather Your Business’s Ups and Downs.” To contact him, visit: 




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