How Companies Succeed in Hard Times

Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Do you know what else lasts? Tough companies.

Everyone is struggling to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Developments are moving fast. The global markets are roiling. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. It’s left all of us anxious.

In fact, it feels very much like another challenging business environment that many of us experienced – the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. While the circumstances were different, that economic crisis is why I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that all of us can emerge stronger as people, and as stronger companies, from these unprecedented times.

Back then, I was at the inflight internet provider Gogo. Like every company, we felt the sting from the fallout of the housing crisis. By the spring of 2009, we were all apprehensive about the future of the business.

I will never forget how our CEO, the late Jack Blumenstein, stood in front of us at an all-hands meeting. He spoke transparently about how there were hurdles confronting us. But he also assured us that we very much had a future. He even saw our company as the future in our market space. It would take hard work, passion, and dedication. But better days would be ahead of us.

It was an inspirational moment that, in hindsight, I came to see as a turning point for Gogo. In that darkness, our CEO provided a beacon of light. The core of the company did rally together. Tough people joined with like-minded colleagues with a renewed sense of common purpose.

Gogo went on to become one of the fastest-growing companies in Chicago.

I’ve come to believe that there’s probably a similar inflection point for most successful companies. They all endure some trial by fire. Recently, I’ve been reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” the classic book by Silicon Valley legend Ben Horowitz about running and growing startups. What resonates with me most is what Horowitz says about how all companies endure serious challenges.

It’s at those rough times that a core group of people come together as one, so they can come out the other side stronger, more resilient – and as winners.

As business leaders, each of us recognizes the importance of being a beacon for our employees to follow right now. And I have seen that strength in my colleagues at Dynamic Signal that inspires me and makes me proud every day. I believe that we can surmount any challenges in the coming days and weeks. I even take it one step further. This may be the moment when we look deep within ourselves and bond together to unlock even greater company success.

Yes, these are uncertain times. But I’m certain of this: tough people are made by how they react to tough times.

Post Author

Yang Chao

Yang Chao is the Chief Financial Officer at Dynamic Signal. She has more than 20 years of experience at technology companies, including finance leadership roles at Gogo and FourKites, a SaaS supply chain and logistics company. At Gogo, She provided significant financial strategy and oversight to scale the company to $600 million in revenue in just eight years and led many key initiatives during Gogo’s 2013 IPO process. Yang earned her MBA in Finance and Strategy from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.