How to navigate down markets

Sanity Notes #016: How to navigate down markets

Keep your head on straight when it feels like the world is turning against you.

Matt Munson
3 min readAug 17, 2023


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This is a wild time to be a founder, CEO, or leader. In the past few months, I have found myself speaking with CEOs weekly who are exacerbated by the externalities they find their companies facing.

The conversations begin in some variation of:

We have done everything right! And still we cannot [raise money, hit our financial plan, exit, etc.]

There are so many things that make the startup ride a hard one.

Startups are a microcosm of the human experience: it is easy to get attached to the outcomes you long for, and it is jarring to realize how much is out of your control.

Externalities are hard.

In school, we are taught if we work hard and learn the right answers, we will score well on the test. Startups are nothing like school.

What is a leader to do?

Here are a few ideas on how to help yourself and your team navigate downturns and other slow seasons:

1. Get back to basics

Re-examine your assumptions on how your business can grow in the months ahead.

Spend time with customers. Check-in to see how their businesses are being affected.

2. Slow things down

As founders and leaders, we love to run fast. This may be a season for slow.

Spend, hire, and scale more slowly. Slowing down will increase your runway and help you to return to basics.

3. Buy time

Slowing down will also help you buy time.

If you are doing the core things right, time may be the biggest input you need to see change.

Perhaps your business is well-positioned to grow substantially 12 months from now, or anytime the market shifts.

If that’s the case, you need time to pass. Plot accordingly.

4. Settle in

Explore what it might take for your mind, board, and team to settle in.

Acknowledge and normalize the input of time. Teach those you are leading how common these seasons are in the lives of all successful companies.

5. Take care of yourself.

Use some of the time and the slow to take care of yourself. Invite your team members to do the same.

If the peculiarities of your business require you to sprint in seasons like this, by all means, sprint.

But if they do not, it may be time to double down on rest, exercise, and mental wellness. Perhaps this season is a gift. Inviting yourself to take a breather here and there might allow you to be raring to go as things heat up (they inevitably do).

The world moves in cycles and seasons.

Navigating, surviving, and making the most of downturns and other difficult externalities is critical to successful company building.

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Please feel free to reach out to me if I can be helpful to you in any way. Reply here or DM me on Twitter. Thoughts on improving this newsletter are also always welcome!

With love from LA,


Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.



Matt Munson

CEO coach @ Angel investor. Startup founder. Committed to helping leaders feel less alone in the journey.