Six Ways to Survive a Downturn


Case studies and biographies of successful companies and individuals often reveal that they made their biggest gains during downturns. When times were good, they were too busy, and there was no incentive for them to innovate. In contrast, a downturn opened up new avenues, with significant rewards. Many people who were successful during a downturn did not have a choice. So, they rose to the challenge, changed directions, and enjoyed the fruits of their efforts.

Here are a few ways to survive and even prosper during a downturn:

1. Focus on Optimization: A downturn is generally characterized by plunging prices for goods and services which render formerly profitable operations suddenly uneconomic. One approach to surviving involves taking a close look at the processes within your business and optimizing them. For example, in the case of shale plays and pad drilling, it may be possible to go in and take advantage of existing information and infrastructure to go back in and recover the oil and gas stranded between laterals. It might also be economic to selectively re-hydraulically fracture understimulated zones that are within reach of the existing horizontal wells.

2. Bargain-Hunt, and Help Others Find Outstanding Deals: The properties and operations that are not profitable for one organization could be very attractive and economically viable for another. Much depends on economies of scale, efficiencies, and levels of debt. Consequently, you can provide very valuable services to your own company or to others if you develop a special process or workflow for helping analyze properties and identifying good matches. You may even help participate in the negotiation process.

3. Become an Entrepreneur: A downturn gives you a unique opportunity to innovate and to develop your entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurship means new products, new services, new forms of business organization, and also new ways of developing markets. For example, you may wish to start a new business during a downturn that helps others take advantage of new opportunities. In the oil industry, it may mean using new data mining techniques to go into mature fields and selectively stimulate certain wells. Or, you might enter other types of businesses, such as financial services and work with micro-loans to home-based businesses. Being an entrepreneur means diversifying, not just in your business, but also in your skills and abilities. Take courses, attend events that you may not have ever considered before. Volunteer, connect, and experiment. The more you do so, the more self-confidence you will develop, and the more likely your success.

4. Research New Ideas, Technologies, Techniques / Update Your Knowledge and Skills: Knowledge is power. When you're in a downturn, it's up to you to match your abilities and background to the new contexts, which include new opportunities. So, research every day. Stay up to date. Not only will you be able to identify new opportunities to tune-up your skills and to connect with other people, but also you'll discover all the dead ends. With any luck at all, you'll head down a path that takes you to new adventures, and steers you far clear of dismal dead ends, blind allies, and obsolete technologies and/or businesses.

5. Investigate Innovative Financing: Think of yourself as your own Shark Tank. What would you do to finance your idea? What are the new rules of the game? How much does it really take to launch a new idea? Develop business plans, and then investigate the best possible ways to finance your ideas. Explore the entire spectrum ranging from pilot / proof-of-concept all the way to a big, ramped-up launch.

6. Develop Global Partnerships and Teams: Opportunities are global, and it may take someone on the ground in each prospective location to optimize opportunities. So, be open to communicating with individuals across borders and industries. To be effective, do not forget your main objective(s). If you're involved in introducing products or promoting events, it's very important to have a partner who recognizes the mindsets of the potential markets / audiences. It's also a very good idea to have someone in your targeted locations who understands the business situation, environmental contexts, legal frameworks, as well as infrastructure and scalability.

In all cases, the main issue is maintaining a positive mindset, and to be responsive as well as proactive. Take a downturn as an opportunity and something of an adventure. Yes, you'll have moments of doubt and apprehension, but keep in mind that all feelings of uncertainty are completely natural. In a downturn, the world as we know it has melted down a bit, and things are in flux. Flux and change represent opportunities. It requires a bit of raw courage, though. Smile and show the world you're ready for success!

Opportunities for Knowledge Acquisition:

AAPG-EAGE Carbonates Workshop / Feb 4-5 / New Orleans

AAPG Reservoir Optimization for Times of Low Oil Prices / Feb 19 / Oklahoma City

AAPG Reserves Forum and Short Course / Feb 26-27 / Houston

AAPG-STGS Eagle Ford Geosciences Technology Workshop / March 9 - 11 / San Antonio

AAPG Research Launcher

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