LBS Prof Gives Three Tips to Survive…and Thrive

Last week on his Random Rantings blog (always an interesting read), London Business School strategy professor Freek Vermeulen tried to answer the question on everybody’s mind these days: Who to turn to in a downturn? Lots of analysis covers companies in decline, but it’s probably more helpful to take a page from organizations doing particularly well despite the tanking economy.

Vermeulen takes a look at three operating models and challenges you to think about how you could apply these ideas to your company to weather the storm. His first advice is to mimic the British supermarket Morrisons–not Waitrose. Stateside, that comparison is something along the lines of be Vons or Stater Bros., not Gelsons or Whole Foods. Or, if you want more extreme, be Walmart. In tough times, offering products or services at a lower price keeps customers coming back. Is there anything you can do to lower cost options for customers, even at the expense of quality, he asks?

Next up: be a shoe repair shop, something Vermeulen calls a no-brainer. Right now people are looking for ways to extend the life of what they already own, so businesses like car or shoe repair shops are booming as people put off new purchases. Maybe it’s time you thought of a product or service that will help your clients get more out of their old shoes. The professor suggests you consider offering upgrades of existing technologies, or perhaps offering marketing services that extend the life cycle of your client’s product.

Finally, and little surprise here, Vermeulen says act like a business school. What better time to do an MBA than during an economic crisis? When the new crop graduates in two years or so, the crisis will have likely blown over, and these guys will be the first to ride the wave up again.


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