Leading through a crisis

If doom-and-gloom headlines are getting you down, you are not alone. I launched a landscape company in 2001, the beginning of a decade that included global upheaval, 9/11 and the Great Recession. In the end, the business went on to a successful acquisition in 2016.

I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my adult life and from my experience, economic downturns are a great time to build a business. Today I’m a CEO and executive coach, and when business owners ask me how to succeed during tough times, the answer is: remove distractions and focus on what will gain you the most ground. Surround yourself with experts in areas you don’t know well, take decisive action every day, reinvent systems and processes that are more agile and effective, and invest in tools and practices that will make your business more competitive.

With that in mind, here are six areas to get right:

Digital Fluency

Get up to speed on data. Your tech priorities should include an analytic program for forecasting and benchmarking; updated accounting and marketing software; network- and cloud-enabled devices; a platform that improves customer experience; and cybersecurity technologies to protect your information.


It’s the new competitive advantage. Being relevant means that you are constantly adjusting your services and business model to be in tune with your market’s needs and shows that you understand how your business resonates with your customers and the candidates you’re looking to hire. If you’re not relevant, yourcustomers and job applicants may go somewhere else.

It’s not easy running a company. But there are several strategies for being ready when the inevitable chaos creeps up.


Nothing can match the maneuverability of an agile organization when it comes to outperforming. Higher productivity, faster time to market, better quality, higher engagement — the list goes on. But transforming the business you built yesterday to one that will be nimble and quick tomorrow is tough. You need to break down traditional hierarchies, silos and structures to become flatter. You also need to put information and decision-making in the hands of the teams and people that do the work.

Leadership Development

Invest in building effective organizational leadership for both individuals and teams. It not only expands everyone’s capacity to be effective in their role, but develops strategic thinking and the ability to look at the big picture and excel at solving problems from 30,000 feet. Industry associations, peer groups or executive coaching and training can help with leadership development. Not asking for help when you need it is a missed opportunity to identify blind spots.


Every CEO’s resiliency playbook should include an effective crisis management plan that focuses on stress events outside your company’s control, a scalable strategic plan to create, preserve or recover value as quickly as possible, and a SWT — strengths, weaknesses and trends assessment to help you course correct.

Invest in the long game

Every business has four life cycles — startup, growth, maturity and renewal. Strong leaders make smart decisions about each stage the business is in, and how the market is changing and impacting growth. Your path to the finish line, whether it’s in years or decades, should always include a succession plan, a positive cash flow, a scalable service and a value proposition that is second-to-none.

In the end, “winds of change” have the potential to create strong and successful businesses, and strong and successful competitors. As a long-distance cyclist and as a CEO, I believe in being alert to changes in the wind as an opportunity to gain ground. A headwind for one leader is a tailwind for someone going in the opposite direction.

The only question for CEOs in 2023 is, how will you partner with the wind to win?

Reprinted with permission. GIE Media. Lawn & Landscape February 2023 (c)