Can Businesses Start and Grow in a Crisis?

Grow business in crisis
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Professor Phillip Kim asked a group of more than 150 students, alumni, and working professionals to participate in a poll. “In a crisis like ours today, how likely is it a business can be established and grow successfully?” he asked.

The answers were mixed. “Rightly so, with all the uncertainty we face,” said Kim. “The historical evidence shows us it is possible, even when the circumstances might not seem to be the case.”

Kim then rattled off popular enterprises founded and scaled during and following eras of economic struggle, including General Electric during the Panic of 1890, Disney during the Great Depression, and McDonald’s at the onset of World War II.


 Learn how you can navigate crises in an entrepreneurial manner, find new market opportunities, and develop an entrepreneurial leadership style.


We face many of the same situations now in the thick of the coronavirus outbreak. According to Kim, entrepreneurial leaders can be the ones to guide us through.

“The crisis will uncover new opportunities, problems, and needs,” he said.

Following the CEO Framework

Leaders of companies that were developed during economic struggles have historically placed value on customers, experimentation, and options—something Kim refers to as the CEO Framework.

Kim says entrepreneurial leaders will consider long-term opportunities rather than short-term gains, which builds customer loyalty. They also will experiment and discover new ways to match providers and consumers.


“Entrepreneurial leaders know what to do and how to act when nothing seems real, when nothing makes sense.”
Professor Phillip Kim

Lastly, entrepreneurial leaders will create new options for problems that previously existed.

Traits of an Entrepreneurial Leader

Kim said this form of leadership is critical in a crisis, because entrepreneurial leaders are skilled at managing risk, navigating uncertainty, and embracing ambiguity.

“We’re in a condition of instability, we feel a visceral threat to our well-being,” Kim said. “With that, leads to decisive change, in the ways we interact with each other and conduct business.

“Entrepreneurial leaders know what to do and how to act when nothing seems real, when nothing makes sense,” he added.

Instead of shying away, innovators must charge toward this uncertainty.

“As entrepreneurial leaders, we need to move in directions that don’t make sense initially, to press into them, and to find opportunities where others may not be looking.”

Posted in Adapting, Together, Research & Insights

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