Conde’s perspective is smart, but rare. Our research shows that most companies overreact to a downturn and cut not just fat, but muscle. If they go beyond what’s absolutely necessary, that can easily compromise their future. Conde turns the fear on its ear by asking his employees “What is it you need to do now so you will remember the crisis as a gift?"
Chilean by birth, Conde has developed a taste for a uniquely American institution: NASCAR. Perhaps it’s because he sees in racing similar patterns to those of business. “Going into the crisis is not that different from going into a turn,” he says. “You slam on the brakes. In the turn, the most important thing is your position relative to other cars. I’ve been telling people, ‘Focus on our relative market shares rather than overall volumes you can’t control. What are we doing to improve our position?’ After the turn, you take that better position.”
Conde can’t guarantee that SunGard will come out of the recession a winner, just as even the best NASCAR drivers don’t know when they’ll cross the finish line first and when they’ll come up short. But races are decided by the strategy of the driver as much as the speed of the car.
Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork + Company, and author of When Growth Stalls and Power Branding. A marketing strategist for nearly three decades, Steve has been published or quoted in many top news outlets and industry publications, and writes a monthly marketing column for Businessweek.com.