Companies that built resilient cultures and applied radical focus are stronger than ever.

This time last year, we shared an article providing tactical management advice to navigate COVID-19. As we reflect on the past twelve months, we wanted to provide examples of how our clients have sustained profitable market share growth despite extraordinary levels of socioeconomic volatility and exogenous shocks to their operating models.

Companies emerging from this crisis better-positioned did two simple things, but they did them extraordinarily well.

First, they doubled down on culture by reinforcing and acting on their core values. All the goodwill and loyalty generated during times of growth can be shattered overnight if there is not clear communication coming from the management team, or if stakeholders lack confidence in management’s ability to act with boldness.

They also protected “The Fort” at all costs. The Fort consists of your most valuable customers who purchase your most valuable products/services. These are your top cash flow generators that sustain your company through crises and propel you out of them, and they must have a drastically amplified customer experience if you want to keep them.

So how have companies been able to execute well? We’ve noticed they all share the following characteristics:


Not all revenue is created equally, and not every sale is a good sale. Don’t take whatever business you can get because it may introduce unwanted complexity and overhead. Be selective about new business.

In fact, management teams that took advantage of the crisis to simplify their businesses so that they only serve profitable customers that buy profitable products/services were able to double or even triple their operating income.


Business is built on trust and trust is built on relationships. Get to know your customers on a more personal level. The better you know people, the more successful you can be in understanding and meeting their needs.

Get laser-focused on target selling and catch one whale that you can service by adding minimal (if any) fixed costs rather than a thousand minnows which requires significantly more overhead.

Research from Salesforce demonstrates that 97% of businesses that focus on account-based marketing and sales enjoy shorter sales cycles, stronger conversion rates, and higher ticket prices for their goods and services.


Be nimble, flexible, and adaptable. Go outside your current thinking or comfort zone rather than hanging on to old ways of doing things. What got you here may not get you where you need to go.

Be a lifelong learner. Seek out and take advantage of every opportunity to gain more knowledge, to increase your skills, and to become a greater expert. Be resourceful about learning and sharing best practices.

According to Accenture, companies that continued to fund tuition reimbursement programs in 2020 realized a return of up to 353% on their investment; a function of increased productivity, stronger brand equity, more successful innovation initiatives, and lower costs associated with employee churn.


Listening is more than simply not speaking. Give others your undivided attention. Be present and engaged. Minimize the distractions and let go of the need to agree or disagree. Suspend your judgment and be curious to know more, rather than jumping to conclusions. Above all, listen to understand.

Once you understand, you can then speak honestly in a way that helps to make progress. Say what you mean, and be willing to ask questions, share ideas, or raise issues that may cause conflict when it’s necessary for team success. Be courageous enough to say what needs to be said. Address issues directly with those who are involved and affected.

Recent research from Willis Towers Watson shows that teams with open and effective communication generate shareholder returns that are 47% greater than teams that struggle with communication.


If you want customers, if you want employees, and if you want investors, then you must do something about diversity, equity, and inclusion. There can be no tolerance for intolerance.

Your ability to reflect and respect society-at-large directly impacts your reputation in the marketplace and your brand equity.

Gender-balanced investment teams achieve rates of return 20% above average, and shifting from having no women in corporate leadership to a 30% share is associated with a 15% increase in profitability.


While we found these strategies were highly effective at helping companies survive and thrive during a crisis, there is no reason management teams shouldn’t consider similar actions during periods of stability. Nurturing highly effective teams and applying focus on the drivers of value creation is a universal playbook that wins 100% of the time.


The author, Anthony Bahr is Managing Director at Strategex.

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