From strife to strength: Surviving a recessionary economy


TransUnion CFO Sharon Naidoo reveals how to survive a recession with the right purpose, vision and mission.

Over the last couple of months, Africans have felt incredibly lost as we try to navigate the barrage of challenges that keep coming our way, while the wins feel few and far between. The economy, especially locally, is in survival mode and, as a direct consequence, people are fighting to be the strongest.

African corporate culture might feel like a game of Survivor, with results that might be held together with plasters and bandages. More importantly, you will end up as an organisation with a Maze Runner mentality – mastering the art of being productively unproductive.

It is imperative to break this mentality and fuel a growth culture. Pause and honestly look at the culture, people and performance metrics of your organisation. Ask yourself whether the mission, vision and purpose of the company still resonate with its people, its stakeholders and its bigger ecosystem.

Like a famous ’80s television character once said: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Here is how you can ensure your organisation survives the recession by creating a clear purpose, vision and mission.

The trueness of the North Star

As we close the first half of the calendar year, it is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the year you’ve had so far. Take stock by asking yourself: Why do our people wake up in the morning and arrive at their desks? What motivates them – earning a paycheck or being part of something bigger?

The North Star, the brightest in the constellation, is directly aligned with the North Pole. As the Earth rotates, every star seems to spin with us, except the North Star, which provides clear direction. When faced with uncertainty, you have to ask yourself what your North Star is and make sure it’s always visible in the direction you’re going.

Looking for your purpose? Ask yourself:

What are we solving?
Why are we solving it?
When we’ve solved it, what will its legacy be?


This is the purpose of the organisation, the “why we exist”, and should be articulated in one sentence that is easily understood. The purpose connects every stakeholder to the organisation and should be the answer to your first question.

In a world that is predominantly led by ego, creating a meaningful purpose that authentically connects and binds will create a why so powerful it transcends material attachments.

The power of the Spyglass

Pirates and sailors use spyglasses to see into the distant horizon, whether it’s to find land, an enemy ship or simply to navigate the open sea.

Your organisation’s vision is the picture that you see when you look through the spyglass. The picture should hold an inspiring narrative to all stakeholders about the future of the company; why you need to leave your comfort zone and embrace adventure, what perilous fears you will face, as well as the treasure that lies ahead.

Some people will board your ship for the adventure, others for the treasure, and a few for the dangers, but it's important that everyone has the vision in sight to make sure you stay on course.

It’s okay to pivot, reroute and recalculate on the journey, but if you keep your spyglass handy, and your eye on your North Star, you will go far.

Purposeful navigation

Now that you have your direction, it's time to embark on your mission and sail the treacherous waters of the recession.

This is the action phase of your plan, when you navigate the company through decisions like globalisation versus localisation, public versus private, corporate versus SMEs, outsourcing versus DIY, automation and robotics, and AI versus people.

However, in order for your plan to be successful, you have to find a way to harmonise and optimise all of these concepts. Sew them together in a way that your mission is impactful.

In conclusion, having a true north that is seen, articulated and understood by everyone connects people to the mission where impact and purpose fuel survival.

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