Former Cisco CEO John Chambers: Think More Conservatively About Growth After Coronavirus

‘This is what leadership is about: be calm but be very deliberate in terms of how you communicate your position of your company,’ says former Cisco CEO and current CEO of JC2 Ventures, John Chambers.


The U.S. economy may not bounce back quickly from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that is wreaking havoc on global markets, and businesses have to be prepared for that reality, according to former Cisco CEO John Chambers.

“I think unfortunately this next 12-18 months will be very tough. That’s why I think a government program helping the startups financially is very, very key,” Chambers said to Yahoo Finance on Thursday.

Chambers is the founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures, a venture capital firm that has a stake in 18 IT startups. Chambers said that the recent financial slowdown is the fifth economic crisis and third supply chain issue he has weathered during his extensive IT career.

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"My advice to startups is the same that I would give to the large companies. Be transparent, don't hide, know what you know, and don't be afraid to say, 'I don't know,'" Chambers said. "Communicate constantly to your employees, your customers, stakeholders, etc."

[Related: Cisco CEO: 'We’ve Had 5.5B Meeting Minutes' During Coronavirus Pandemic In March]

Businesses should differentiate between internal and external issues, and then develop a plan for handling these problems, Chambers said, urging businesses to paint a picture of what their company will look like on the other side of the pandemic.

"This is what leadership is about: be calm but be very deliberate in terms of how you communicate your position of your company," he said.

Network Solutions Provider, based in Manhattan Beach, California, is no stranger trade wars -- the firm is a big Huawei partner -- government shutdowns, and other issues that have financially impacted the channel.

"We went into the year thinking we were going to see a few thousand dollars a year again in Huawei and that money was taken away from us. We had to scramble to replace that revenue, and then coronavirus hits," said Phillip Walker, customer advocate CEO for Network Solutions Provider.

External issues will always be a threat, but the best companies are those that have a plan in place for when unexpected circumstances arise, Walker said. "I think [the channel] will make it out in the end, but it will look differently than we thought starting the year."

Global activities -- including the most recent outbreak -- that impact financial markets always last longer than expected and have deep ramifications, Chambers said, noting that he believes that 40 percent of the world's fortune 500 companies won't exist in 10 years, and neither will about 70 percent of current startups.

"Just like we saw in 2008 and the dot-com bubble in 2001, we'll navigate through it," Chamber said. "This is where some surprising companies will break away, and some companies will disappoint."