Businesses often frame crises as periods when the focus should be on risk and damage mitigation. For a resilient company, however, crises can instead offer opportunities for differential growth and advantage. Our previous research demonstrates that resilience—the capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances—has significant strategic value. Because crises widen the gap between top and bottom performers, about 30% of a company’s long-run relative total shareholder return (TSR) is driven by how it performs during crises.
Shareholder returns typically move in tandem during normal periods but diverge considerably during crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no exception. In the 18 months before the COVID shock, the average gap in TSR between the 25th and 75th percentile performers across industries measured 75 percentage points. Eighteen months after the shock, the gap had increased to 105 percentage points.
Now, in the midst of the COVID recovery, two important questions arise: Who are the emerging top performers following the COVID shock? And what lessons can be learned from their resilience to help companies prepare for the next crisis?