Strategies for Companies Facing an Economic Downturn & Inflation

Modern finance teams face a multitude of challenges. The rising threat of inflation, potential recession, and other economic factors pose significant risks to businesses of all sizes. These challenges can lead to higher expenses, less access to capital, declining cash flow, and make accurate forecasting more difficult for teams, among other issues.

In this article, we will explore the risks of inflation and recession, along with ways finance teams can mitigate these risks and recession-proof their business. By implementing these strategies, businesses can remain resilient and thrive in the uncertain economic climate.

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The State of Business Today: CFO Concerns and Challenges

The current economic climate poses significant challenges for finance teams across various industries. Inflation and the potential for a recession are top concerns for CFOs, who must guide their firms amidst these financial risks and ensure business continuity. Inflation, in particular, is a growing threat to businesses worldwide. Companies face higher expenses as prices continue to rise, making it difficult for them to maintain profit margins with their existing pricing strategies. Inflation also increases the cost of debt by raising borrowing costs, thus reducing teams’ access to capital.

A potential recession is another challenge for CFOs this year. It has many teams worried about declining sales and profits, and the possibility of disruptions to normal operations and output levels. Stricter credit conditions and declining cash flow can further exacerbate the recession’s impact, making it harder for companies to meet financial obligations and maintain healthy vendor relationships.

Given these concerns, finance teams must take proactive steps to manage financial risks and prepare for potential economic downturns. The following sections will explore the risks of inflation and recession, along with strategies finance teams can adopt to improve efficiency and combat these challenges.

What are the Risks of Inflation?

Inflation poses several challenges that impact a company’s financial stability. The following are just some of the risks:

More expenses

As prices rise, businesses are forced to pay more for goods and services. Teams must then take action to find ways to protect their profit margins.

Higher cost of debt

Inflation makes it more expensive for companies to borrow money. Reducing access to this capital often forces teams to scale back their investments in growth opportunities.

Difficult forecasting conditions

Inflation often adversely affects companies’ ability to accurately forecast cash flow, future expenses, revenues, and profits. This means teams are less able to make informed business decisions and manage financial risks effectively.

What are the Risks of a Recession?

A recession has a significant impact on businesses. It often leads to declining sales and profits, reduced access to capital, and declining cash flow, as described below:

Declining sales and profits

A recession typically brings declining demand for goods and services, resulting in reduced sales and profits for businesses. This prompts layoffs, leaving teams understaffed and unable to maintain normal operations and output levels. This can be particularly problematic for back office positions, which are often first on the chopping block to reduce operating costs.

Stricter credit conditions

Similar to inflation, credit conditions often become stricter during a recession and thus make it harder for businesses to access capital.

Shrinking cash flow

In a recession, customers may take more time to pay, leaving teams with less cash on hand. This impacts teams’ ability to pay suppliers on time and can ultimately threaten vendor relationships, jeopardizing a company’s ability to maintain a reliable supply chain.

7 Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Business

To remain resilient in the face of economic uncertainty, businesses must take proactive steps to manage financial risks and prepare for potential economic downturns. In this section, we will explore seven strategies to help finance teams recession-proof their business.

1. Monitor and Manage Cash Flow

Finance teams must develop a method to monitor and manage cash flow to ensure that the company has enough cash on hand to meet its financial obligations. Monitoring enables teams to identify problems early on, rather than after they have grown. Some additional cash flow management steps to take include:

Mitigate late payment fees

Late payments place strain on supplier relationships and often result in additional fees. Teams can mitigate these late payment fees when they send automated reminders to invoice approvers, leverage AP analytics, track DPO, and use digital payment methods for faster processing.

Take advantage of early payment discounts and rebates

Many vendors offer early payment discounts and rebates as an incentive for customers to pay promptly. By taking advantage of these discounts, finance teams will reduce costs and improve cash flow.

Reduce duplicate payments

Duplicate payments are a costly and time-consuming line item for businesses. These occur when invoices are sent via multiple means, customer names appear twice in the ERP, or due to human error. The right tools like an AP automation solution, will reduce duplicate payments, leading to better vendor relationships and more efficiency across the AP team.

2. Diversify Your Customer Base

During a recession, businesses that rely heavily on a single customer or industry are more vulnerable to the impact of economic downturns. Therefore, diversifying your customer base is essential to reduce this risk. Finance teams should work with sales and marketing teams to identify and target new customer segments, expand into new markets, and develop new products or services.

Leadership teams may also consider multiple approaches to attracting and retaining customers during a recession, including: implementing loyalty programs, improving customer service, and offering competitive pricing. Focusing on building long-term relationships with customers will create a stable customer base and ultimately recession-proof their business.

3. Improve Efficiency with Digital Transformation & Financial Automation

Finding ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency is critical. One way finance teams can achieve this is by leveraging digital technologies to automate financial processes. Finance teams can reduce manual processes, improve accuracy, and reduce costs simply by automating processes such as accounts payable, expense management, and invoice processing.

MineralTree, for instance, offers an all-in-one accounts payable automation solution that allows finance teams to streamline the end-to-end accounts payable processes, reduce manual data entry, and speed up payment processing. With this AP automation solution, finance teams can eliminate paper-based processes, reduce the risk of errors, and gain better visibility and control over the accounts payable process.

In addition to accounts payable automation, finance teams can also leverage other digital technologies such as online banking, digital payment systems, and cloud-based accounting software to streamline financial processes and reduce costs.

4. Focus on Cash-Generating Activities

Finance teams must work with other departments to identify and prioritize activities that generate cash. One effective method is to analyze and reduce inventory levels then sell slow-moving or obsolete items. This will generate cash while reducing storage costs. Another option is to sell off non-core assets such as excess real estate, vehicles, or equipment.

5. Strengthen Relationships with Key Vendors

Supply chain disruptions impact a company’s ability to operate efficiently. Therefore, finance teams should work to build and strengthen relationships with key vendors to solidify their supply chain.

One way to do this is to pay vendors on time and communicate proactively if there are any payment delays. Companies can also work to negotiate favorable payment terms, volume discounts, and other incentives to reduce costs and improve cash flow.

MineralTree’s Accounts Payable solutions automates the invoice approval and payment process for finance teams, reducing manual data entry and errors. This helps ensure that invoices are paid on time.

6. Improve Financial Forecasting with Better Analytics

Finance teams use analytics tools to analyze historical data, identify trends, and predict future financial performance. But in order for the analytics to be helpful, teams first need data that is both up-to-date and accurate.

There are several analytics tools that improve financial forecasting. These tools range from simple spreadsheets to more advanced business intelligence and data analytics software. The right tools provide a better understanding of a business’s financial performance, identify areas for improvement, and enable informed decisions about resource allocation.

MineralTree’s robust set of AP analytics tools provide real-time visibility into accounts payable performance, enabling finance teams to track spending, identify cost-saving opportunities, and make informed business decisions. Additionally, information is available for analysis immediately upon invoice capture. With the combined power of human review and OCR technology, our solution offers 99.5% accuracy when capturing line item invoice data, making it a core tool for those looking to increase their AP forecasting abilities.

7. Create Contingency Plans for Various Scenarios

Businesses face a high degree of uncertainty during recessions, making it challenging to accurately predict the future. Therefore, it’s essential to create contingency plans for various scenarios and prepare for unexpected events.

Finance teams should first work with other departments to identify and prioritize potential risks, such as supply chain disruptions, decreased demand for products or services, and economic downturns. After identifying potential risks, teams can develop plans to effectively manage those areas.

Contingency plans may include measures such as reducing costs, diversifying the customer base, negotiating new payment terms, and increasing cash reserves. To prepare for unexpected events, teams should also consider stress testing their business operations. Stress testing involves simulating various scenarios to identify potential vulnerabilities and develop plans to manage those vulnerabilities.

Recession-Proof Your Business with MineralTree

At MineralTree, we understand the challenges that businesses face during a recession, and we’re here to help. Our TotalAP solution streamlines accounts payable processes, improves financial visibility and control, and reduces costs. Schedule a demo today to learn more about how MineralTree recession-proofs your business.

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We're transforming accounting by automating Accounts Payable and B2B Payments for mid-sized companies. Our award-winning solution has helped over one thousand businesses transform accounts payable from a source of inefficiency and fraud risk to a secure and strategic profit center that provides visibility into key cost drivers.