Enterprising Women Vol 10, No 2, 2009

BY MARIA COYNE E ven as federal economic recov- ery plans are drafted, debated and enacted, individual women-owned small businesses can formulate and adopt their own recovery plans. Those on all sides of the national debate agree that small businesses are crucial to national economic recovery. Whatever the depth and duration of the current downturn, these six steps comprise a practical sur- vival guide. Compiled specifically for Key4Women customers, they can help all small women-owned businesses and oth- ers weather the current storm. EVALUATE YOUR BANK Small business owners should evaluate their banks to ensure they are “investment grade,” “well-capitalized” and “relation- ship-based.” The accredited credit rating agencies – Moody’s Investors Services, Standard and Poor’s or Fitch Ratings – rate banks as “investment grade” by assessing the strength of long-term deposits. For exam- ple, Key is rated “investment grade:” A1 from Moody’s, A from Standard and Poors, and A+ from Fitch. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp- oration (FDIC) considers banks with a “Tier 1 capital” level of 6 or greater to be “well- capitalized.” For example, at the end of 2008, Key’s Tier 1 ratio was 10.8, up from 8.55 the previous quarter. Remember: Even low-rated banks have failed only 13 percent of the time, and the FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000. Relationship-based banks will consider business customers’ entire banking rela- tionship, act as a sage advisor, treat cus- tomers as individuals and care about their long-term growth – providing support that is especially crucial in tough times. Such banks review accounts and solutions when appropriate and notify customers of use- ful service improvements including online banking, sweep accounts, access to capi- tal and succession plans. MANAGE YOUR NUMBERS New online bank cash management tools can provide convenience plus sophis- ticated features and security. Businesses should be able to: • View all accounts in a single screen-shot • Collect on payments quickly • Prevent fraud through timely review of cleared items • Recover bad checks and re-deposit them efficiently • Eliminate trips to the bank through remote capture • Manage cash flow GET THE THE BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK Equipment upgrades may be essential to competing in a down economy. Choose value in equipment acquisitions by: • Only purchasing equipment that will generate revenue. • Updating and upgrading equipment for efficiency, a valuable strategy in the cur- rent low-interest-rate climate. • Leasing equipment, which brings accounting and tax advantages. WASTE NOT, WANT NOT Streamlining business processes can save, by eliminating the mailing of paper monthly statements, for example, and e-mailing or posting to a Web site instead. Companies that deliver products and services can save time, money and fuel through improved planning. When UPS launched a new routing tech- nology that avoids Assessing Your Financial Picture and Moving Forward in Tough Times S everal women business owners who are Key4Women custom- ers have recently implemented strategies from those recom- mended here. Manage the numbers or online technology is your friend. The owner of a Maine concrete block and pre-cast concrete business recently revamped her company’s systems, gaining the ability to account for inventory accurately and convert inventory to cash. Get the most bang for your buck or equipment upgrades can enhance productivity. The owner of an orthotics company that makes customized shoe inserts prescribed by medical practitio- ners recently financed the installation of a scanner in a doctor’s office. Now the doctor scans patients’ feet, e-mails the scans to the company without making and mailing a mold, and the com- pany produces custom orthotics that fit perfectly. Waste not, want not or navigate and consolidate your way to savings. A small Ohio business that formerly used 10 differ- ent printers recently replaced them all with a single printer that all staff can use through a network. That same customer introduced an online system that tracks customers’ orders from start to finish, reducing phone calls. Recession-proof your business or look at every opportunity to stabilize costs and customers. An Albany jeweler who pro- duces much of her own jewelry for the retail store she operates has switched from gold to other metals. She had worked exclusively in gold for more than 30 years. Also, the orthotics company mentioned earlier began selling to the U.S. military, a huge and reliably stable customer. enterprising Women 29 STRATEGI ES IN ACT ION