Lessons Learned in a Downturn


In reading about macro market events during the pandemic, I learned that people writing down their thoughts – in journals or notes – benefited greatly. I have done this a few times over the past few years, and in some cases it makes sense to publish those thoughts here. To share what I have learned, to share with others, and of course to understand how my own thinking evolves.

I wrote the following list of 10 things after a massive layoff event with a client. Whether you look at layoffs or RIFs as a nature evolution of a company or not, there are certainly lots of lessons to learn. I think its not my place to share the details of the “why” here – maybe I will save that for another post. What I wanted to do instead was share something I wrote the day of the event – some hours after I went for a long walk, taking the picture below, and writing down my thoughts.

Taking a walk is always a good idea.

I have learned a lot of great lessons and will try to write them down here. They say that’s the best way to learn, and the right time to do it is in the moment.

1. Ask for what you want, and get it in writing.

2. Never believe it’s true until the money is in the bank.

3. Do right by people.

4. When the tied goes out, all boats go down. When Capital dries up in one place – it’s probably dry in more places.

5. If the founder is your customer, and the customer is always right, side with the founder.

6. Involve the lawyers earlier, but tell them exactly what you need and when.

7. Hire the best people – challenge them to challenge you and you will be rewarded.

8. Treat your team the way you would want to be treated.

9. Bring the good and the bad to your team. They will trust and respect you more for it.

10. Trust and respect are the most important thing. When there is no money, no pomp and circumstance, and no more shine – trust and respect can carry you through.

Looking back a few months later at what I wrote, it has almost nothing to do with the company or the details of that day, but rather some life lessons that always seem to apply. You can be the judge but I wanted to share unedited above.

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