Navigating a company through a recession requires a precarious balance between fiscal responsibility, dogged optimism and the ability to identify the right signals amid a backdrop of negative noise and sentiment. Finding the proper balance is critical to exiting the downturn with greater strength, force and momentum.

It’s a lesson I learned from experience. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, I employed 150 incredibly talented, hard-working people at my media tech company, Centro. Although we’ve operated for two decades now, the future looked grim back then.

It seemed every company was making layoffs – a strategy I felt wasn’t in our long-term best interest. It would psychologically hobble our company and prolong our recovery when growth returned, so we looked at every other option to cut costs. My independent board and market forces were pushing for layoffs, but we kept our team intact.

In hindsight, it was the right decision. The non-personnel cuts were painful, but we came out of the 2008 recession well-positioned to take advantage of the longest U.S. economic expansion on record. While other companies emerged needing to rebuild, we were off to the races. Our company grew revenue 48% in 2010 and we’ve grown our staff by a factor of five, to 750 today. Research shows we’re not alone: a 2010 Harvard Business Review study found that companies that minimize layoffs and find ways to moderately invest in targeted areas during a recession achieve more than double the sales growth, 13% versus 6%, in the first year of recovery.

It’s time to dust off the 2008 recession blueprint again. The keys are to survive, protect your team, and most importantly, keep your eyes on the future. Here are the tenets I’m recycling from a decade ago.

Employees come first

Layoffs are the last resort: if you believe your business can survive these tough times, then layoffs are going to cost you more than they will save. Remember the 13% sales growth rate? Companies that got there mostly avoided layoffs and focused on increasing operational efficiency, while simultaneously making small investments for future growth. To be clear, avoiding layoffs must come in tandem with protecting the company. Without a company, there is nothing for anyone. Cutting costs is the hardest thing companies will ever do, especially when decisions need to be made in weeks that would normally take months.

When the economy recovers and new opportunities open up, employees remember how they were treated when the chips were down. More than a quarter of employees say they will look for another job or no longer remain loyal to their employer due to their actions during the pandemic, or that they will consider how a company treated its employees when applying for jobs in the future. Putting employees first in a recession safeguards not just your revenue, but your reputation.

Psychology is critical

In a crisis, it’s fight, flight or freeze. Most people freeze. During recessions, it’s easy to buy into negative stories that set you up for failure. Companies assume no one is buying, so they stop selling. They pull back from innovation and retrench with painful cuts. When a majority of the market reacts in this manner, the opposite is true: It’s much easier to sell inside of a recession because most of your competition is putting in less effort as they’re waiting for the economy to recover. Someone is always buying something, somewhere – it’s your job to find them.

For example, the media industry to which we provide automation software is projected to grow 3%-4%, down from 16% at the start of the year. That’s barely enough to keep up with base levels of inflation. With little room to grow, companies will focus on finding operational efficiencies and ways to improve productivity. Automation platforms are critical right now, but if my team freezes, we’re going to completely miss the opportunity to help our customers and grow our company.

Team psychology is critical. It’s incumbent on leaders to keep their teams together and energized during scary and difficult times. Transparency is more critical right now than ever. Share what’s going on. Show them the numbers you’re dealing with. Help them understand that there are no good options when cutting costs, just the best of a lot of bad options.

Most importantly, it’s the CEO’s job to help their teams see that, in crisis moments, they have a choice: reduce their efforts by 50% like everyone else or double down on effort and set themselves up for success when the economy recovers.

Keep your focus on the future

Facing a recession as a business leader is scary, intimidating and fraught with anxiety over making the wrong decisions. Yet history is filled with companies who used the disruption to strengthen their companies, find innovative ways to build and serve their customers. The companies that make decisions aimed at exiting the recession stronger and growing faster than their competition are the ones who do so.

Shawn Riegsecker is CEO of Centro