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LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Recession-Proof Businesses: Profitable Industries and Traits

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

A recession is a sustained economic downturn, usually caused by factors out of our control, such as war, a pandemic, fuel shortages and more. While you can’t predict when the next recession will occur, you can take steps to prepare your business before the next one hits.

Recession-proof businesses can survive an economic slump by selling products or services that meet their customer’s essential needs. Here are the top recession-proof industries, along with common traits needed to survive uncertain times.

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14 recession-proof business ideas

Industries that fulfill people’s essential needs are more likely to generate steady revenue during times of economic instability. Although launching a new business during a recession comes with certain obstacles, it could be worth it if you’re able to secure an income stream for months (or years) to come.

Here are 14 businesses that can thrive in recession:

5 traits of recession-proof businesses

Although we can’t foresee when the next recession might hit, we can strengthen our business models to help avoid businesses closing during the next economic downturn.

Whether or not a business survives a recession depends on its product offering, leadership and management, location and broader industry trends.

To help prepare yourself for any economical stress to come, try adapting the following recession-proof business traits:

1. Essential or need-based offerings

Businesses that provide an essential product or service rather than luxury items might fare better during a recession. Think of critical services people and other businesses need, then shift your business (or start a new business) to meet those demands.

That said, small comfort items like candy can become a core essential during a recession.

2. No alternatives to what’s provided

Not only should your products and services be essential to your customers, they should also be relatively irreplaceable. What sells during a recession are goods and services with no practical alternatives or something customers aren’t able (or willing) to do on their own.

For example, people might attempt to make bread during a recession, but it’s unlikely they’ll try to whip up baby formula or cobble together handmade shoes.

3. Ability to adapt to changing circumstances

Companies with established financial safeguards and the ability to make quick decisions tend to react more efficiently to new information — good or bad. Preparing for as many situations as possible can help your business build resilience.

For example, in-person dance studios that quickly switched to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic maintained a steady revenue stream. Unfortunately, many in-person-only studios ended up closing down.

4. Effective cash flow management

One mistake entrepreneurs can’t afford to make is running out of the needed cash for operating expenses. Before a recession sets in, business owners must figure out how long they can stay afloat if revenue drops but expenses remain the same. From there, start planning to reduce expenses before losing revenue.

The goal is to make strategic cuts while improving the value of the business and protecting jobs. Try to make these changes before you need to, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach.

5. Innovative planning strategies focused on long-term goals

Recession-proof businesses often make plans to handle a recession. It’s important to keep long-term goals in mind as you make modifications to the business. As your team acts urgently to counteract the immediate effects of a recession in business, you may want to implement change on a larger scale to ensure future success for your company.

How to stay profitable during a recession

Thinking creatively about your business can help you survive a recession and turn a profit. Brainstorm with your employees, shareholders and key customers to generate an improvement strategy to find opportunities during a recession.

Here are a few tips to help make a profit during an economic downturn:

Reconnect with core customers

Reconnecting with those who make up the foundation of your customer base can help you pull through a financial disaster. Make sure your marketing strategy is location-specific. A recession may impact geographic areas differently. Keep this in mind if your customer reach spans several regions.

Plan for the worst, but stay positive

Confront the reality of the situation and calculate how long the business can continue operating without running out of money. As discussed earlier, reduce expenses as early as possible. However, balance your approach with optimism — sharing a positive yet rational outlook with your team will go far.

Preserve capital

Take any measures you can to conserve capital and save money. This could include refinancing your business debt, simplifying or altering your business model, or making a complete pivot if necessary. Diversifying your sources of revenue can provide extra insurance for your business, as long as you efficiently manage your operations.

Establish financing ahead of time

It’s wise to establish finance options for your business while you’re in good shape and learn how to get a business loan before you need funding. Opening a flexible business line of credit can give you access to cash on an as-needed basis if your business struggles in the future. Try to lock in one with a reasonable interest rate and only use what you need.

Additionally, you’ll want to save three to six months’ worth of daily business expenses, just as you would with your personal emergency funds.