By Carolyn Kennedy, CTP, Executive Director of Treasury Management for Arvest Bank
Recession is a word we are hearing from the lips of newscasters, market watchers and even my pastor on a recent Sunday. This represents a real fear, for the first time in a long time, that our economy may no longer be slowly and steadily growing.
In July, the Federal Reserve decreased the primary credit rate by 25 basis points to 2.75%. This was the first rate cut since the height of the financial crisis in 2008 and it isn’t likely to be the last. But what does it mean, really?
It means businesses in our region may be faced with steeper challenges if their growth plan relies too exclusively on increased consumer demand as the economy grows. Fortunately, I don’t think this is a widespread problem, but the question remains, during this time of rate and other economic uncertainty, where do you focus? Simple: Focus on the fundamentals.
Invest in really understanding your customer’s needs now and how changes in the economy may impact those needs.
You might have really done something amazing for your customers once, but if it doesn’t continue to meet their changing needs, it runs the risk of becoming obsolete. Are you continuing to provide the products and customer service your customer expects? Is your business model too dependent on economic growth? How do you make your approach stand out?
Don’t be afraid to change and adapt.
During times of economic slowdowns, many business owners have a tendency to adopt a mindset of “waiting it out.” That works when you have some idea as to how long the slowdown might last, but I doubt anyone really expected the Great Recession to endure as long as it did. It might seem counterintuitive, but an environment of economic uncertainty is a great time to take that well planned leap of faith.
If there is a venture you’ve been investigating and dreaming about that would diversify your revenue streams without alienating your existing customer base, now might be the right time to get serious about it. If you’re not innovating and growing, you may be slowly dying. What new approach do you wish you had already adopted?
Ensure you still have your working capital optimized.
While an influx of new capital may be needed to launch a new product line, it helps to validate that you already have your prior investments of capital deployed efficiently. When a venture capitalist invests in an existing business, one of the main things they focus on, regardless of the business model, is how well the existing working capital (money currently invested in the operations of the business) is being utilized.
While each business is unique, optimizing the use of your working capital is universally important. Whether it’s paying down debt or making money on short term and long term cash investments, getting as much capital out of your operations and putting it to work for you is key.
There are a few metrics you can use to identify and diagnose where your best opportunities for optimization may reside. How long are your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)? How long are your Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)? How long are your Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO)?
Of course, what “good” looks like for DSO, DPO and DIO is relative and varies by industry — you know your business cycle better than anyone else. What’s most important is the trend over time for your business.
We all know that there are cycles to our economy, and when it is growing we all benefit, but the fundamentals of good business don’t change with those cycles. Absolutely, you need to make smart decisions about where you get capital and at what rate. In addition, the fundamentals of understanding your customer, making smart business plan improvements and optimizing the cash you have invested in your business are always winning strategies.
Carolyn can be contacted via email at email@example.com. This article originally appeared in the Sept. 30 edition of the NW Arkansas Business Journal. It is published here with permisssion.