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Coronavirus, Shaky Trade Agreements, Double Digit Market Declines - OH MY!


You know the saying, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? For 2020, this sentiment seems to be ringing true for more than just the weather. Here we are, barely at the end of the first quarter and already we are being faced with a double digit decline in the stock market, potential business and border shutdowns in response to the Coronavirus scare and the possibility of a very real pandemic, corporate cutbacks on travel and expenditures, and a shaky trade relationship with China just for starters.

All of this turmoil leads to a lot of questions. Where is this heading? Will we be faced with a recession? How bad will it be? What will it mean for your business and your family?

The truth is there are no certain answers.

We’ve been through virus scares before and faced disruptions and bubbles that have impacted the value of our businesses and investments. The one constant that runs through each of these times has been that the businesses that have been proactive and strategic in their approach and prepared properly have weathered these events and come out of these recessionary periods stronger, smarter, and more agile.

Take charge of your future. Be proactive and prepared!

Put your business and yourself in the best position possible starting now with a few key activities in four critical areas. Even if a recession does not occur in the near term, executing on these strategies will only strengthen your overall business outlook.  

Operating Efficiency. Recessionary periods elevate the need for a business to be flexible and agile. Evaluating and executing strategies to create operating efficiencies through work flow enhancements, technology, or cost savings will increase your ability to adapt as the economy shifts towards a recession. At our recent New England Economic Summit, Mike Cotoia, CEO of Tech Target, said “The worst thing to have to do as CEO is say we need to lay some people off. Invest in platforms and programs that can increase efficiency, but remain fiscally responsible. You need to be monitoring and managing [return on investment], and invest in the areas of your business where you see growth opportunities but that also means reallocating resources from parts of the business that are not growing or in decline."

In any business, identifying and promoting cost efficiencies and eliminating low return discretionary costs should be done in the normal course. Spending time today with your management team or advisor to create and execute a plan will put you ahead of the curve. Simultaneously, identifying where you can improve your operating efficiencies, strategically invest in technology that will promote faster response time and better operating results, and getting your key people involved in proactively preparing for the economy shift is necessary.

Liquidity and Leverage. Access to cash and working capital is a critical element of success during a recession. Focusing on how a downturn will affect your business’ ability to create cash and how you can access additional cash will provide you the roadmap to having the cash you need to operate and thrive. 

  • Know your vendors - review your vendors and payment policies. Determine potential flexibility with terms and continuity of supply. Be watchful for risks associated with a single supplier or unstable vendors.

  • Know your customers – heighten collection efforts, stay on top of your agings, perform routine credit checks, stay in touch with customers, and react quickly if things begin to deteriorate.

  • Know your cash flow – use predictive models like rolling 13 week cash flow forecasts to provide vision as to potential needs and fluctuations to your cash flow.

  • Evaluate your leverage and access to cash – review the financial health of your balance sheet and the liquidity that is available through your financing sources. Keep in close contact with your funding sources and advisors, evaluating what they see in the marketplace and how the shifting economic times are impacting their customers. Review your bank covenants and agreements understanding the potential impact they could have on access to additional cash.

Growth. Recessionary periods can provide unique opportunities to position yourself for growth post-recession. Being agile, flexible, and customer centric can provide you with dynamic opportunities to gain competitive advantages while others react to the shifting economic landscape. It is also a time where potential strategic acquisitions may provide you with access to new markets and new products or services.

Don’t Go it Alone. Get input and guidance from your trusted circle of advisors. A good advisor will be able to help you identify and evaluate courses of action based upon his or her experience with similar businesses in a recessionary environment. Seek the help of others to vision out how you can take advantage of the times ahead and then execute.  





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