These Two Functions Are Critical for Sustainable Growth Amid Economic Uncertainty

Looking to grow despite economic uncertainty? Shore up these functions.

To remain competitive in a changing economic climate, consumer companies should double down on their finance and operations teams.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Taking steps now to maximize future opportunities despite economic uncertainty is crucial to the long-term success of any business. With threatening clouds darkening the economic horizon, now is the time to assess what’s working and what isn’t as it relates to your team.

Sharpen the focus on finance and operations talent.

Ensuring that you have the right financial and operational leaders in place is crucial, Sean Conner, Co-Founder of Impactful Search® and ForceBrands, said. However, finding them may be challenging as both functions are in high demand. Conner explained that the amount of requests this year for Chief Financial Officers, VPs of Finance, Chief Operating Officers, and VPs of Operation has been significantly higher compared to any other year he has experienced.

Add experienced advisors or board members for insight and guidance.

Along with hiring for and securing these crucial roles, utilizing resources within your company is a critically important piece of any business’s growth strategy. “Leveraging an internal resource such as a really good advisor or board of directors could be pretty instrumental [to changing the team’s mindset],” Conner emphasized. People in those key roles have past experiences they can tap into when it comes to helping a company grow and adapt to unexpected obstacles and challenges.

Seasoned execs have experienced obstacles, too.

While the pandemic has ushered in unprecedented hardships for many, the likelihood of advisors or board of directors having experienced similar challenges in their careers is very high. Seasoned executives have been through 2008 and 2009, Conner said, referring to the market crash and the recession that happened during those years. “They saw what happened with the pandemic,” he added. There’s a lot of leverage that leaders in those positions can provide, and companies would be wise to tap into them for insight.

Look at leadership within the industry.

When it comes to the portfolio of companies that ForceBrands and Impactful Search® works with, consumer brands have largely thrived even amid economic turmoil. “While not entirely recession-proof, we’re fortunate to be in sectors that largely and historically sustain market upheavals,” Conner said. Even though CPG isn’t being disturbed in the same way that other industries are, it’s never a bad time for leadership to step back and reevaluate. Reprioritizing during an economically ambiguous time can provide clarity around a strong path forward as a company. Leaders should look at the policies, procedures, and workflow systems that are currently in place, asking big questions: What does the future of the company look like? Are we headed in the right direction to achieve it? Do we have supportive systems in place to reach our goals? Is there anything we can change that might help improve morale and company culture? Have we secured the right people to help build the business we’re ultimately looking to achieve?

Conversations about the recession buzzed throughout 2022. Now, looking ahead at 2023, the future feels uncertain, but wariness and fear have increasingly been replaced with hopeful optimism as executives take deep breaths and place confidence in the market and in the food and beverage industry. Mindsets are shifting and companies are trekking forward, continuing to hire — especially for mission-critical roles. “We’re seeing a lot of investment at the senior level,” Conner said, noting that this is a healthy indication that things are holding steady.

Even with a downturn still possible, Conner saw a shift in the way companies are approaching hiring during the second half of 2022. The morale has lifted and executives are exhibiting confidence in the future. People are ready to make strategic moves, to hire, and to get things going, and there’s less of a feeling of panic, he said. 

With all of the changes that have been implemented over the past few years – both intentionally and unintentionally – things will never fully go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. “There have been numerous changes that happened during the pandemic that will stick,” Conner observed, citing lifestyle and cultural trends. For example, there was a mass migration from cities to suburbia – a trend that will continue to impact consumer purchase and use decisions about food, beverages, and other packaged goods. With fewer restaurants to order from in suburban neighborhoods, people are naturally buying groceries and preparing food with their families in the comfort of their homes during the weekdays. Spending more time closer to home and in a community has become more important. The pandemic sharpened the focus on how, what, and why consumers spent their time and money. 

These changes to consumer consciousness have created an opportune moment for a company like Impactful Search® to carve out a niche in the recruiting space.

The focus on people and purpose is more relevant than ever.

The desire to work for a purpose-driven company has significantly and noticeably increased, whether it was due to the pandemic or the rise of social justice events, Conner pointed out. He added that the events of the past few years have pushed people to stop in their tracks and ask themselves how we’re helping each other, our communities, and ultimately, the world.

Because of this, companies are launching brands and building business models that focus on people and purpose, and customers and job candidates are following suit. Consumers are more adamant about asking themselves about the ingredients in the products they’re buying and how the products they purchase might be helping other people and the planet.

Candidates are also taking a step back to ask who is involved with the companies they’re interested in working for. It’s never been more personally relevant to job seekers to know: Who are the people involved? What does the product do? What do I know about the efficacy or functionality or safety or sustainability of this product? What gap is this company or product fulfilling — both from a commercial and social impact perspective? How does the company do business? Does this line up with my personal values? If the answer to these questions excites a candidate, the next one invariably becomes: How can I add value? 

Because people are reassessing their careers and what they want from them, there has been a high demand for roles within purpose-driven companies. “I think that will only continue,” Conner said.

Reach out to Impactful Search®‘s Sean Conner to discuss your growth strategy and hiring key leadership roles in finance and/or operations.

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Alexis Benveniste is a New York-based writer and editor whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, and other outlets.