Half of all the Fortune 500 companies were created in a crisis

I read once, 'most people are starting from a disadvantage and do just fine'. I find these words encouraging and motivating. The reason being, they don’t know they’re disadvantaged because they simply, just get on with it.

Why am I talking about this quote? Good question. It came to mind after I’d been interviewed for a startup podcast this morning. I was asked how startup founders and leaders should handle the upcoming post-Covid Lockdown economic environment. I know a lot about the feelings of startup leaders, in part because I am business owner myself and I’ve experienced the fears and uncertainty of COVID-19 and indeed have been concerned with regards to my business and its durability. I have however, done what is natural to me and what was needed to be done with regards to pivoting my offering and working in a new and different way which is digitally as opposed to face-to-face. I offered the same advice to the listeners of the podcast. What I didn’t say and wish I had said was one of my favourite factoids: that they should remember that half of all the Fortune 500 companies were created during either recession or economic crises. Half!!              

That’s all well and good but how do we practically apply this information? Well at this point I turn to my favourite philosophers, the Stoics, who teach us to concentrate on the day-to-day rather than the unknown future and definitely not about the past. Thinking about the here and now is best way to move forward during uncertainty. You must practice as the ancients tell us, so wisely, to live in the present. It’s very much the origins of Mindfulness. Every time you see yourself fantasising or indeed catastrophising and borrowing fabricated drama from the future, you must pull yourself to the present and work on the now. It is after all, the only thing that is real.

Mindfulness isn’t a particular speciality of mine as a Psychologist however, I do love the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and 'Flow'. His research shows how we can be five times more productive when we have the right conditions and mindset within which to work than if we’re coasting or over stretched. I really recommend you look to his work, he has many published books which are really useful reads. I mention him now because it’s a perfect example of how concentrating on what we have as opposed to what we don’t have, with an abundance mindset (as opposed to a scarcity mindset) and working to our optimum, we can achieve a great deal even during times such as these. 

Here are some examples of thriving organisations that were started during times of economic crisis or depression:

  • Fortune magazine (90 days after the market crash of 1929)
  • FedEx (oil crisis of 1973)
  • UPS (panic of 1907)
  • Walt Disney company (after 11 months of smooth operation, the 12th was the market crash of 1929)
  • Hewlett Packard (Great Depression, 1935)
  • Charles Schwab (market crash of 1974 – 75)
  • Standard Oil (Rockefeller bought out his partners in what became Standard Oil and took over in February 1865, the final year of the civil war)
  • Coors (depression of 1873)
  • Costco (recession in the late 1970’s)
  • Revlon (Great Depression, 1932)
  • General Motors (panic of 1907)
  • Procter and gamble (panic of 1837)
  • United Airlines (1929)
  • Microsoft (recession in 1973 – 1975)
  • LinkedIn (2002, post dot-com bubble)

So, to all of you who are worried and anxious about the future, know that plenty can thrive in uncertainty. You must concentrate on the here and now, being agile, flexible and creative in the present and be the best at what you are doing right now.