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Leading Through Business Cycles: Lessons Learned From E&C Executives | FMI

Leading Through Business Cycles: Lessons Learned From E&C Executives

Executive Summary

As we move further into 2020, we find ourselves in a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty. Daily soundbites inundate us about the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, which is wreaking havoc across the globe and sending ripples through the stock market, business environment and the world economy at large.

Economists are debating whether the stock market will just fall into an extended bear market or whether we are facing a full-blown recession. In either case, executives worldwide are vigilant and trying to make sense of this fluctuating information.

Right now, many industry leaders are enjoying a strong backlog and may be facing a rapidly changing market. If, like other leaders in the industry, you’re presented with this challenge, now is a good time to take a step back, revisit how you handled the cascading events of the last downturn, and plan ahead. It’s time to ask yourself: How do I create a coherent and flexible strategy that allows my company to take advantage of the strong operating environment we’re in today (in terms of backlog and available work) while also keeping a firm eye on the horizon? This is critical because, as we’re currently witnessing, external factors can have a swift impact on today’s business environment.

In this report, we present results that we gathered from more than 150 engineering and construction (E&C) executives who shared their experiences and strategies from the last downturn, how they focused their energy, and what key lessons they learned.

Our findings are organized into the following three main themes:

Theme 1. Building Long-Lasting Companies: Make Vision and Strategy Count

Theme 2. Winning Leadership Styles for Bull and Bear Markets

Theme 3. Lessons Learned From the Great Recession

Not surprisingly, one key lesson that emerged from the research was the value of staying true to your vision and core ideology in good times and bad. As Jim Collins explained in “Built to Last,” “In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever.”

Based on what we know about the Great Recession and how it caught many companies off guard with its swift and lengthy economic downturn, there’s literally no excuse for the same thing to happen again in 2020 and beyond. Whether your company starts exploring new markets, firms up its balance sheet, tests the waters of megaprojects, or finds some other new way to compete, this is not the time to wait until it’s too late to do something about it.

The survey insights are particularly relevant because many emerging leaders and future executives in the Built Environment weren’t in executive or leadership roles during the last downturn—and have mostly led through tremendous growth. Put simply, leaders in today’s and tomorrow’s environment may need to modify their approach in more turbulent times.

We hope our findings help you prepare your company for the next downturn because one thing is certain: Your business context is and will remain uncertain. The key is to get moving, make the necessary shifts, and deploy the strategies now that will help your company ride out the waves of uncertainty instead of being overpowered by them.