The current economic expansion is long by historical standards, and thus the risk of recession rises with each passing month. Recessions catch many companies by surprise, with predictable results. In the 2001 recession, total sales for the S&P 500 declined by 9% from its pre-recession peak to its trough 18 months later—almost a year after the recession officially ended. But these periods also present opportunities for well-prepared companies to take advantage of the turmoil and gain share. The best time to undertake major changes that will strengthen a company during recession is before it hits. Prior to the past recession, both eventual winners and eventual losers in a group of 3,500 companies worldwide experienced double-digit growth rates. Once the recession struck, however, performance began to diverge sharply – the winners continued to grow while losers stalled out. The performance gap widened during the recovery (see chart below). What did the winners do that losers didn’t? They pursued a variety of tactics before the recession that were designed to fortify the firm when the downturn hit – moves both within sales and beyond like adding a low-cost channel to serve small accounts or simplifying the product assortment. Read more at Harvard Business Review.