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Recapping Navigating Choppy Waters: The CEO Perspective

September 1, 2022

On August 25, Bolster hosted the second event in our current speaker series, Navigating Choppy Waters: The CEO Perspective. Experienced CEOs shared their stories and offered perspective for today’s leaders.

The panel featured:

  • Dave Morgan - CEO Simulmedia and past CEO of TACODA and Real Media
  • Kelsey Recht - past CEO of VenueBook
  • Rob Reid - past CEO of Sage Intacct and Concur
  • Wendy Lea - CEO of Energize Colorado, past CEO of Cintrifuse and Get Satisfaction

Each of our panelists has previously navigated turbulent economic periods, each experiencing distinct challenges that tested them and their businesses. They generously shared their advice for those leading during the current climate.

A few key points stand out.

Keep cash on hand.

Having cash on hand is vital, our panelists agreed. Dave Morgan shared his perspective: “You have to look at your cash like it’s the last cash you’ll ever have.” Raising money during turbulent times can be a difficult endeavor, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible. “It’s important to move past ego,” he added, “in order to commit and do what it takes to succeed.”

“Anyone who is trying to manage through these tumultuous times needs to have at least 20 months of cash on hand at all times during a recession,” Rob Reid recommends. “You have to have a balance between your expenses and your revenue.” A long runway of cash will allow your business more flexibility and allow you to make better decisions, rather than getting stuck or compromising in areas you’d prefer not to.

Even if you do have cash on hand, it’s important not to take it for granted. Kelsey Recht remembers thinking, “How can I run this business assuming there’s no more money coming in ever?” She brings us to our next point.

Do more with less.

In order to succeed during tumultuous times, our panelists agreed that many leaders will need to maximize the value of what you do have available.

“We did more with less capital than we had before, because we had no choice,” Kelsey Recht said. “If you can think outside the box, if you can focus on where you should spend your dollar, you become much more creative.” She says that leading during uncertain times forced her to become a better CEO—there was no other option.

Adapting to new circumstances has always been a vital skill for leaders, but it’s especially important now. The teams that are able to continue moving forward while using their resources wisely are the ones that will stand out.

Communicate with clarity.

When things are uncertain, everyone looks to the CEO to know how to react. Wendy Lea said, ultimately, her advice is to “move fast, be clear.” She also shared that she has learned to be very precise when she shares her vision with leadership teams and investors, regardless of the economic conditions. It’s important that everyone is clearly on the same page in order to move forward successfully.

Clarity is important for every aspect of the business, though. Rob Reid recalls collaborating with his team to create contingency plans, and then hearing how much these were appreciated throughout the organization. “It’s an opportunity to get creative,” he said. Instead of layoffs, for example, he said they cut all salaries by 5% and eliminated executive bonuses for the year, but were able to preserve everyone’s jobs. The security his employees received from the clear communication of a contingency plan was highly beneficial to the business.

Remember, you are not alone.

Hearing from four CEOs who successfully made it through challenging times was a great reminder that no leaders are alone in navigating challenging conditions. Kelsey Recht declared that her feelings during the last economic downturn were nowhere near as uncommon as she believed. “When it’s dark, it feels really dark, but keep putting one foot in front of the other and you can come through,” she said.

Wendy Lea stressed the importance of finding emotional and personal resilience. “I had no idea what I was made of,” she said.

Many other leaders are in complicated or confusing situations due to the current economic challenges. No outcome is assured, but hearing from CEOs who made it through provided encouragement and insight. Community like this is vital to lift us up and help us see what’s possible.

If your team needs to get creative with solutions or find executive talent to help lead through the current economic climate, Bolster can help. Reach out to us and we'll get you connected to a member of our team.

Did you miss the event? That’s totally fine—the recording is available and only 35 minutes long!

Keep up with the speakers:

Dave Morgan: Twitter, LinkedIn

Kelsey Recht: Twitter, LinkedIn

Rob Reid: Twitter, LinkedIn

Wendy Lea: Twitter, LinkedIn