Headlines may be screaming recession, but some planning can help you survive the new economic realities. Here are five essential steps experts say you need to take to stay in business into 2009:
Cash Is Best
Even giants like Citigroup(C) have learned that being liquid is important. So build up those cash reserves, recommends Adele Brady Bolson, a CPA in Bellevue, Wash.
Get your accounts receivables to pay up in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, pay your accounts payables as slowly as you can without damaging your business relationships. Postpone any capital expenditures, unless you have a large cash reserve, advises Bolson, who also sits on the board of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. "In these times, you can negotiate a good deal."
Brush Up on Those Haggling Skills
Fred Glave, vice chair of the Metro D.C. chapter of SCORE, is telling all his clients to renegotiate any outstanding loans or lines of credit taken out more than six months ago because "they can very likely negotiate a more favorable rate right now." If you're seeking a home equity loan for a start-up, you should demand one with a prime of 3%, three points below the norm, if your credit and collateral is good.
Concentrate on Business
Outsource what you can in order to focus on the important things -- maximizing business and leveraging your intellectual capital, advises Robert Slee, president of investment banking firm Roberston & Foley. "Rules are changing and being a control freak is killing you."
Enlist Your Customers
Don't be afraid to find out from your clients how the current economic situation is affecting them and how you can help them. Change your value proposition to your customers if you have to, adds Slee, who is also author of Midas Managers: How Every Business They Touch Turns to Gold (from Burn the Boats Press).
For example, instead of selling original equipment, offer repair and maintenance. "The demand shift curve has changed for the next three or four years. For businesses on Main Street, three or four years are forever." But be careful to extend customers credit or you'll be in the red too.
Be a Good Employer
Make talented employees feel valued and in the loop as you cut costs. "You do not want to lose those who represent the future," warns Bolson. If layoffs are required, seek to cut those who can be easily replaced once the economic picture brightens.
And as owner, be the first to tighten your belt, adds Bolson. "Employees would have started their own businesses if they wanted to make those sacrifices."
Know What You Own: Citigroup operates in the financial services industry, and some of the other stocks in its field include Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), Merrill Lynch (MER), Bear Stearns (BSC), Bank of America (BAC) and Lehman Brothers (LEH). These stocks were recently trading at ($167.47, -4.62%), ($44.20, +3.13%), ($42.91, -7.96%), ($5.20, -12.01%), ($38.89, -0.10%) and ($42.18, -9.27%) respectively. For more on the value of knowing what you own, visit TheStreet.com's Investing A-to-Z section.