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TAO Executives-in-Residence: How do you work with clients to find growth in a downturn cycle?

Lynn Sheehan EIR Office Hours



TAO has recently launched an exciting member benefit: Office Hours with our cohort of Executives-in-Residence. The TAO EIRs are a group of seasoned technology industry experts who are offering to share their skills with TAO members looking for guidance. We created weekly, 30-minute “Office Hours” so that TAO members can meet each EIR, get a taste for their areas of expertise, and then follow up with them directly to schedule one-on-one support.

Coming up next week, TAO Executive-In-Residence Lynn Sheehan will lead an Office Hour on “Finding Opportunity: Accelerate Growth.” Lynn is focused on helping companies achieve success through strategic thinking, processes, and execution. He is passionate about the adventure of solving complex problems, fixing gaps, being a change maker, and seeing the success when it all comes together. Lynn has worked as a global consultant for: corporate strategy, market development & growth strategy, global business development, technology development/R&D, product development, and M&A.

Click here for more information and to register for Lynn’s Office Hours on June 23rd. 

In preparation for Lynn’s event next week, we asked some of our EIRs to weigh in on this question: How do you work with clients to find growth in a downturn cycle?


It certainly varies by industry but I would say this is an opportunity to drive focus on what is really important and what is not, at all levels – start with your customer in order to find growth.  At the bigger initiatives level and also at the task level.  Even at the lowest level, a waste analysis that shows value-added activities versus necessary activities should get rid of unnecessary activities, allowing the organization to reinvest the resources (funds/people/time) into other value-added activities. —T.R. Srikanth, Banfield Pet Hospital


Sometimes companies can increase profitability in the face of declining sales by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the people, processes, and systems through which they provide their products and/or services.  In addition, improving the quality of existing products and services can sometimes help to increase sales.  My column on this topic describes companies with physical products, but the same principles apply to any type of company. — Renee Fellman, Turnaround Expert


In my current consulting work, most of my focus is on revisiting their (respective) core consumer and evaluating what (if anything) has changed in their buying and engagement patterns.  From there we can look at the business from the outside in and adjust the offerings to the needs of the consumers that are most likely to buy now. —Pete Jacobs, Consultant 


During a downturn, it’s a good time to re-examine fundamentals and jettison expensive activities that aren’t generating results. I recommend that teams laser focus on their existing customer base, what’s working well, amplify their customer listening programs, and leverage often neglected expansion plays within their existing base. —Dave Shanley, Founder 


We engage in an organizational “checkup”. Among the questions we ask of ourselves:
1. Do we have systems for receiving regular feedback from customers and employees, so we always know their level of satisfaction?
2. What adjustments should we consider making to our target market (ideal customer), and all of our marketing and sales efforts that are focused on it?
3. How clear and compelling are our unique and substantiated differentiators to our customers, and how effectively are we communicating them via our marketing and sales efforts?
4. How focused is everyone on our top priorities?
5. What opportunities for improvement exist to streamline and simplify our existing core processes, systems, organization, and roles/responsibilities?
As Winston Churchill once said, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.  —Steve Kelly, Business Advisor


I look for two things.  Given the changes we are seeing, where are the opportunities that were not there before the pandemic changes?  And with many customers having less cash, find ways to extend your own and their cash to take advantage of the moment for longer-term revenue and income maximization. —Mark Neuhausen, Startup Advisor


I am working with clients to take advantage of both reduced costs and targeted offerings in areas of increased end-customer spending.  Reduced costs can positively impact growth in the form of lower costs for staff, rents, raw materials, and advertising.  In this pandemic, spending has increased in some targeted areas, including online sales, remote work, and logistics involved in bypassing traditional supply chains.  Where there is chaos, there is opportunity. —Steve Pao, Hillwork LLC


I’ve advised my startup teams to think through various scenarios that could impact growth ‘without additional funding’. What can be done in the next 30/60/90 days to take advantage of new opportunities immediately when the cycle shifts upward. Whether that’s renewed focus on a different sales channel/vertical, developing a more competitive product differentiation or an expansion of strategic partnerships into other geos/industries —all have the potential to grow their business without breaking the bank. —Greg Jorgensen, Startup/Board Advisor


My inquiry would really start with a review of and assessment of their go-to-market strategy and data/dashboard on their sales funnel to understand the landscape and identify the deeper dives into the data, the team’s assumptions what other external data point exist.  If they don’t have an active voice-of-customer process in place (or voice of partner for GTM through channel partners) I would implement immediately.  My experience is that the answers to the question are usually right in front of them… either from the customer, the partner or their own sales organization, but they have not really acted on the data or dug deep enough to truly understand what it is telling them and what to do about it. —Erick Petersen, Renewable Energy Executive

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