Tag Archives: Economy

How Are You Responding to Market Instability? Seven Thoughts

Situation: Market swings in recent weeks have shaken up some people. A CEO is curious about how other companies are seeing this as well as how the see their companies doing in the current economy. How are you responding to market instability?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Business turned back up two years ago, and we are working on major sales opportunities.
    • Actions Taken:
      • We reduced executive expenses.
      • We are sharing a bookkeeper with another business to reduce salaries.
  • In April we increased staff to respond to strong first quarter demand; however since April revenue is flat to declining.
    • Actions Taken:
      • Let a few people go, may have to do more of this.
  • The current economy benefits our industry because our service thrives in an uncertain economy. We have not yet had to make adjustments.
  • We continue to see a big shift from direct hire and full-time to temp and part-time employees – this is working in our favor. Weaker competitors have closed shop.
  • Business is going well. Most customers have cash. The major decision that we face is how much to grow. We’ve seen some project cancellations, but not enough to hurt.
  • What concerns you about the future?
    • Availability of credit lines.
      • Varies by bank and your relationship with the bank.
      • Securing additional or increased lines may be difficult.
      • Anticipating a raise in rates by the Fed, lines may carry a higher interest rate.
    • The trickle-down effect from consumer spending continues to be weak. We are looking for opportunities less sensitive to swings in consumer spending.
    • Receivables are being pushed out.
  • What are you doing about this?
    • Proactively having employee meetings and being straight with employees about how the company is doing.
    • Good opportunities to lean up:
      • Cutting expenses.
      • Cutting less productive employees.

What Will You Do Differently in 2015? Six Observations

As we begin 2015 more people are feeling upbeat about the economy than they have through most of the last six years. The dollar is at new highs against global currencies. The US is approaching energy self-sufficiency. However, some still see regulatory headwinds and downsides. What do you see and what will you do differently in 2015?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Over the last six years, software companies have seen large increases in outstanding credit to clients, combined with restrictions on clients’ credit lines available and fewer new purchases. We hope for a better year in 2015, and will focus on reducing outstanding credit to improve cash flow.
  • Cash continues to be king. B2B business sectors with good cash positions are solid.
    • If your product/service saves clients money and makes financial sense, you’re in good shape.
    • Raising money will continue to be a challenge. Investors have been focusing on accelerating deliverables, creating a difficult environment for entrepreneurs. The Wall Street Journal says that the share of people under 30 who own businesses has reached a 24-year low, referring to young entrepreneurs as an endangered species,.
  • What is your current planning horizon?
    • We continue to plan quarter to quarter. There are too many variables for a longer horizon. We pay up our credit lines, and cover multiple payrolls with safe bank deposits.
    • We are watching headcount and dollars in the bank.
    • We are communicating more with our best employees and bringing them into more decisions so that they won’t be looking elsewhere.

How Do Business Prospects Look for 2015-16? Six Observations

Situation: A CEO is planning for 2015-16. While the economy seems to be picking up, there are clouds on the horizon. Do you believe the positive indicators? How do business prospects look for 2015-16?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Company A: Based on our pipeline we should be recruiting heavily. However we are being conservative and are only adding personnel selectively.
  • Company B: We expect 2015 to be modestly better than the last few years. Engineering saw a turnaround this summer; however we need to see signs that this early economic cycle work spreads more broadly to the rest of the economy.
  • Company C: Some of our development work looks like a spike due to delayed projects. This may not be sustainable.
  • Company D: Weakness in Europe and the recent announcement that Japan has entered another recession give us caution about international prospects.
  • Increasing numbers of Baby-Boomers are retiring. However, some statistics suggest that 60% of retired boomers will be living on Social Security, meaning that they will struggle to make ends meet. This could create a negative shift in consumer spending.
  • The current stock market rally is based on the higher profitability of large public companies. This has come about as a result of two factors: recessionary cutbacks and easy money from the Federal Reserve. What we may be seeing is a Fed–funded bubble. There is a question of its sustainability.
  • Implications for business:
    • For companies doing business internationally – the lower dollar helps.
    • Cautious additions to employment/investment.
    • Need to deal with inflation if the recovery accelerates.
    • If and when the recovery accelerates, employee retention may become a challenge.

How Do You Emerge from the Recession Stronger? Five Actions

Situation: A company is encouraged by signs of a strengthening economy. They want to encourage their staff to prepare for growth and new opportunities. The CEO is curious about what other companies are doing to prepare their staff so that they emerge from the recession stronger than they were in 2008. How do you emerge from the recession stronger than you were before it began?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • One company is organizing company meetings at each site to outline their high level plans so that all managers know the plan and vision:

o    General company direction

o    Market and opportunity

o    The plan – where they are, what they’re going to do by when

  • Another company conducts a general employee meeting every two months. At the last meeting:

o    They cancelled the 20th day off without pay – and celebrated!

o    They compared revenue growth now versus last year, focusing on the positive upside and company’s potential.

o    They explained why they are now recruiting, and reinforced their business model.

o    They had kept up marketing and sales during recession and these are now paying off.

  • Another is reinforcing the belief that they will stay lean and mean.
  • Another is Increasing update communication frequency and assuring that managers are updating their teams. This maintains the soft reasons for people to stay onboard, and to stay excited.
  • What not to do: do NOT allow cuts that were made to survive destroy the long-term workable business model.

How Do You Cope with a Changing Market? Five Options

Situation: A company’s major competitor is closing shop. When this happens the company will be the sole large local service provider. Municipal and many large projects require multiple bids. The CEO is concerned that out-of-area companies will underbid the company’s union scale operation. How do you maintain your position in a changing local market?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If your municipality has union scale wage rules, find a way to monitor wage compliance of out-of-area operations. These companies may say that they pay union scale, but the municipalities and others won’t have the staff to monitor them. This will be up to you.
  • Talk to local elected authorities and impress upon them the importance of supporting local businesses. Remind them of wage compliance problems that localities have seen in the past. Suggest that they look at local content requirements to help keep business and business revenue funding in the local economy.
  • Emphasize the maintenance aspect of your jobs. If a local company both builds and later maintains the project, they will know the subtleties of the design and will be able to provide better and more cost-effecting ongoing maintenance.
  • Educate clients with monitoring, measurement and compliance checklists that highlight the benefits of using local contractors and maintenance service.
  • If the other company approaches you about buying his business focus on the ROI produced by the other company’s costs and profits, but under your pay-scale. If this looks promising, have a conversation with the owner and see what he wants. Prompt the owner to talk and listen carefully to what he has to say. If you don’t want to buy the full business, there are other options:
    • Hire his key employees on a $/hour plus commission basis on retained sales.
    • Purchase his customer list, or giving him something for any maintenance contracts that come over to you within a set time period.