As a business owner, you have likely been dealing with all the effects of record inflation lately — the prices of raw materials have skyrocketed, shipping costs are way higher than usual, and business commutes now weigh much heavier on your bottom line due to astronomical gas prices, and the list goes on. You have likely been hoping for a respite from it all, but unfortunately, the economy is not in the clear yet.
Editor’s Note: The U.S. has met one common definition of a recession – two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. “For the first time since 2009, the U.S. gross domestic product was negative for two quarters in a row. After dropping 1.6% during the first quarter of 2022, the GDP fell another 0.9% in the second quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.” The U.S. has technically entered a recession.
Periods of skyrocketing inflation are oftentimes followed by a recession, where consumers spend much less because they dealt with increased prices for too long. A drop in profits can really hurt any business, so how can you prepare for this possible scenario?
In my experience as the CEO and founder of CMA Exam Academy (a Certified Management Accountant exam review program), I have discovered these must-know ways to shore up your company finances (before and) during a recession:
1. Remember, cash is king
When your customers cut back on spending, this means you will likely see a lot less in monthly sales than you’re used to. However, your business will still need to afford all of its monthly overhead expenses, such as payroll, utilities, software subscriptions, office rent, etc. So it is absolutely essential to ensure your company has strong cash flow and cash reserves to sustain it during a recession. Funds will need to be readily available to keep your business running smoothly if sales drop.
This means there is no better time than now to start directing a much greater portion of profits into your cash reserves. If you’re considering long-term capital investments, it would be in your best interest to evaluate the level of cash outlay you’ll need to commit and its impact on your day-to-day cash flow requirements.
2. Cut overhead costs now
As stated above, a positive cash flow and strong cash reserves will be pivotal to help keep your business running optimally during a recession. And if cash inflows drop in a recession, then it will be paramount to focus on decreasing cash outflows — this will keep much more cash in the company’s coffers in case of an emergency. One way you can do this is by cutting operating costs as much as you can now rather than later.
This will look different for every business but start by looking at what is absolutely necessary to keep your company running smoothly. This could include a CRM platform, SEO tools, accounting software, and the assistance of all of your employees and/or contractors. Then decide which expenses you can lower or get rid of. Can you ship products with materials that cost less? Can you eliminate a cloud-based file drive you no longer need? Can you switch to less expensive raw materials without affecting your products’ quality?
3. Automate business processes with software
One surefire way to cut operating costs is by implementing software applications that can automate processes, thus lowering expenses in the long run. For example, rather than paying for a pricey call center to answer customer service phone calls, you can implement an automated phone answering system that can answer every single incoming call, answer basic questions, and direct calls to appropriate personnel. Or, instead of paying an assistant to send invoices, you can automate the invoicing process with software like Procurify.
There are so many software solutions that can be used to automate your processes, so start by doing a basic Google search on the process name + “automation”. You will likely see a lot of ads for a number of software apps, so do your research to see which one is the least expensive, has great reviews, and can handle your business’s needs. You can chat with representatives to see if they offer any potential discounts. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to see if there are any online promo codes you can use for a software purchase.
4. Optimize every department
A recession is truly the time to optimize operations, accounting, customer service, and all other departments. So find ways to streamline processes and cut costs across the board, but ensure that they won’t impact company growth, customer service, or employee morale.
This may mean switching up all projects so that every employee is in charge of tasks they would truly excel at. Or, you can implement a new weekly video meeting to help keep everyone in the loop about project deadlines and allow team members to ask each other questions and get immediate feedback. This would help eliminate time-wasting back-and-forth emails.
5. Last resort: Revisit bonuses and salaries
If you foresee your business struggling during the recession, then you may have to revisit and put a temporary freeze on all bonuses and salary raises. However, it will be paramount to be absolutely transparent about the situation with all employees who are affected so that they understand the need for the freeze.
This can help prevent frustration, a drop in employee morale, and costly turnover. Explain that the freeze on bonuses and raises is only until the economy gets out of the recession and the company is able to afford it again. Also, see what other benefits you can offer to employees in the meantime, such as half-days on Fridays.
Before and during a recession you can ensure your business’s profitability stays strong with a bit of planning. Prepare your company’s finances by making sure you have positive cash flow and strong cash reserves available for an emergency. Also, cut overhead expenses now, automate processes with software, and optimize every department as much as you can.
Finally, as a last resort, revisit and put a temporary freeze on all bonuses and salary raises just until the recession is over. Taking these precautionary steps should help your business’s finances and bottom line stay strong throughout a recession.
Nathan Liao is the founder of CMA Exam Academy, a top Certified Management Accountant exam review program. As a CMA and CMA coach, Nathan mentors accounting and finance professionals in over 80 countries to earn their CMA certification in as little as 8 months. The unique review framework in CMA Exam Academy has proven to be the key to his students’ outstanding success in attaining their dream of earning the Certified Management Accountant certification.
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