When news breaks about a recession coming or present, perception becomes reality as consumers and business owners start to change their spending habits and prepare for what may lie ahead. In effect, the recession becomes a more prolonged reality because we make it one through our actions.
The primary action by consumers taken is lowering on expenditures, especially on non essential purchases or on larger items that can be put off for awhile.
Ok, so this is nothing earth shattering.
But as a business owner or manager, how do you choose to react to what is unfolding? Its hard to know how the collective recessionary impacts will ripple through an industry or sector with respect to timely and collective magnitude. So how do you decide what actions to take and what to prepare for?
Unless, you have little or no debt and have some sort of cash reserve at your disposal, I suggest considering some or all of the following.
Quoting Intel’s Andrew Grove, “Only the paranoid survive”. And from one of my former type AAA colleges, “in life, you can be homicidal or suicidal, I choose the former.” Point here is that its better to prepare for the coming storm, expect it will reach you directly, and take all necessary measures available to you to survive the impact.
This may seem a bit dark and paranoid (and it is). And there is a chance that a recession does not have a material impact on your business. But what if it does? Will you have time to react effectively?
The goal is to protect the life blood of your business …cash flow. Here are some actions to consider.
Being homicidal with respect to cash flow entails a number of things. First, the working assumption during recession is that sales, on average, will go down…that less money will be spent. So, in order to protect cash flow, you would protect inflows by offering sales and discounts on a regular basis and typically ahead of seasonal offers so that you get the cash first. Yes, you will make less margin, but you’re keeping cash coming in to pay the bills.
Second, on the outflow side, you should consider reducing inventories. The focus is on making sales early, not trying to maximize on sales late in a sales cycle or seasonal period.
Third, reduce fixed costs through layoffs and delay of major purchases. If you have to cut back on marketing, do so on the branding side, not on the direct response side that’s going to bring in sales. There is going to be strong competition for less spending dollars, so make sure you offers are well communicated to get your share.
Fourth, start to extend your terms of payment as much as possible. From a cash flow management process, always allocate resources to cover labor and fixed costs and manage any cash flow gaps with suppliers as much as possible. Cash flow management can be very stressful with many sides looking for money, but you must always plan out how to make payroll or you’re out of business. Many times, when cash comes in from accounts, its quickly paid out to bring things up to date with suppliers without enough being held back to assure payroll gets made in the coming weeks. As recessionary impacts ripple through supply chains, its typically the businesses that understand their cash flow leverage points and plan out contingencies that get through the period with less cash flow problems.
Fifth, bring your financing profile up to date, and develop a solid understanding of how you can obtain money if there is a shortfall. Business financing can take some time to secure and will be harder to locate during a recession so being prepared can be half the battle. Refinancing term loans and mortgages before problems exist can provide cash flow relief on a money basis that will cost you some additional interest over time, but basically serves as insurance against potential future cash flow problems.
Sixth, proactively determine what, if any, personal funds you are prepared to lend to the business. Use personal funds only as short term bridge loans that can come in and out in predictable fashion. If the business goes south, you want to have your personal resources available to you for future living expenses.
These are some basic steps you can take with your cash flow during times of recession. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but more so a list to get you thinking about how to make sure your business gets to see better days after the recessionary period ends.