Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic by nature. As the year 2018 ends and 2019 begins, there is ample reason for many entrepreneurs to feel good about the future.
The latest signs of an improving economy were strong enough to help persuade the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates recently—for the first time in nearly a decade. A boom in the valuation of technology-based companies, private as well as public, drove expansive optimism in that sector, only to be curtailed over the last three months by political issues, reduced demand for social media services, and the trade wars.
But storm warnings are already on the horizon with the Chinese stock market down 30% in 2018 and the U.S. stock market off nearly 3,000 points from the 2019 high. Are these early warning signals of an economic downturn?
A recent survey conducted by Duke University concluded that a recession in 2019 was looking “likely.” Nearly half of the executives surveyed believe that the United States will enter a recession by the end of next year, and 82% expect that a recession will happen by the end of 2020.
But how can a recession happen when our economy is experiencing record GDP increases and we have full employment?
Interestingly, a full employment economy can contribute to the likelihood of a recession. Businesses that are labor constrained cannot grow as rapidly, and they encounter a “growth ceiling.” Political policies such as immigration curtailment also affect the labor supply, further reducing growth.
But what if the economy in 2019 begins to weaken as the Duke survey predicts? Extreme pessimists are usually wrong, but so are extreme optimists. A downturn, caused by the natural ebb of the economy or by a shock such as a geopolitical crisis, is always a possibility, bringing back conditions we remember all too well from the years after 2008: declining revenues and margins, excess capacity, anxious employees, and restless investors. Even if a recession doesn’t come to pass, your company might have its own downturn this year, caused by a new competitor or new substitutes for your products and services.
Why not start the new year off with a resolution to do some contingency planning for the possibility of a downturn later this year? Below are four steps to take to prepare your business for a potentially challenging year:
1. Manage profitability
Most companies have a relatively narrow margin for error. A 10% decline in revenue could wipe out the entire bottom line of your company. Having a contingency plan to produce marginal, short-term profit despite a drop in revenues can make all the difference.
Consider doing the following:
- Develop forecasts based on optimistic, realistic, and worst-case revenue scenarios.
- Formulate contingency plans. Make sure your top managers are on board with the plans and are ready to act quickly if revenues decline.
- Agree with your management team on early warning signals, such as a shrinking backlog, a downturn in customer-market indices, or a worsening sales pipeline.
- Be willing to adjust discretionary spending at more frequent intervals; for example, quarterly, or even on a rolling basis.
- Be ready to keep bankers and investors appropriately informed in case of a downturn and to communicate the actions you’re ready to take to limit the damage.
2. Identify and maintain your strengths—and your best customers
Identify the strengths that have enabled your success to date, and those that will be important in the future. Which capabilities and skills are most critical? What distinguishes your ability to serve customers effectively?
Published at Sat, 22 Dec 2018 03:09:51 +0000