CEO Leadership Forums: Coaching Businesses for the Next Recession

Jedd Grennan, Jeremy Sloane, Geoffrey Gallo

Business leaders face more than just the prospect of victory. They have to be prepared to tackle the lows just as well as the highs. Whether it be in the market, their company or the economy itself, storms will come — storms like the Great Recession of 2008 — and the members of Group 2 of the Orlando CEO Leadership Forums have each weathered those storms throughout their careers.

This collection of more than 20 individuals, just like its Group 1 counterpart, consists of CEOs, partners and other leaders from across industries throughout Central Florida who come together to discuss and share their knowledge, expertise and experience.

Preparing for the Storm

With the previous recession only a decade behind them, these leaders have not forgotten the lessons they learned while at the helm in uncertain times. In the forums, they recognize the opportunity they have for sharing their hard-earned wisdom and expertise.

“It’s far too rare in the marketplace to have all these disciplines together in one room,” said Jeremy Sloane, founding partner of Watson, Sloane & Johnson PLLC. “We each have a different perspective. We view those things from our different standpoints and find new solutions.”

The solution for the next recession? They all agree the only way to combat the fear is to face it head-on. Only through self-awareness, evaluation and preparation, backed with knowledge from experts in their respective fields, can a business leader sail a team through rough waters.

“People need to learn to plan ahead when you’re creating a business plan or a budget, or anything,” said Ron Wilkinson, CFO with Nperspective. “You can plan for those situations, for adjustments needed to be made on the fly — that’s one of the things we all learned from last time.”

Nicole McMurray, Lauren Arevalo, Geoffrey Gallo
The Collective Vantage Point

The forums provide an opportunity for those wanting to know what kinds of adjustments they should be planning for, allowing them to ask questions and get answers — and sometimes to get answers to questions they hadn’t even thought to ask. “The CEO Leadership Forums help business owners make the ‘unknown’ known,” said Chris Bordner, CEO and managing partner of Synergy Wealth Alliance. “Armed with this knowledge, owners and executives can not only survive recession, they can thrive.”

The synergy of each perspective shared makes it easier to build a stable foundation on which to thrive, what the group refers to as a “brick house” rather than a “straw house.”

Evaluate

Sean Meder of BciCapital, a subsidiary of City National Bank, continued the house metaphor in his advice: “As a bank, we do business with brick houses. When you apply for a loan, a bank will ask, ‘What is your plan for the next recession?’ So you have to have that plan in place to establish that trust. We stress-test, assuming in a scenario that you’re going to lose X percentage of your business right now with usual cash flow; so, could you be sustainable? Well, if the answer is yes, then you’re probably a brick house and we’re probably going to be more willing to enter into that relationship.”

Wilkinson with Nperspective recommends careful examination of cash flow each day. “It’s the best time to grow your business in new and unexpected ways, but you have to have the capital to do it. And when people are spending all of their revenue on growth, they tend to not have the capital when there is a downturn.” To build your own brick house, he explained, keep extra reserves around and evaluate as you go.

Nicole McMurray, regional manager of AppleOne, urged business owners to look at their sales cycle, run rates for new accounts, and data from past downturns.

Build Relationships

McMurray also expanded on the value of sustaining relationships in these times: “We interview our clients now to make sure we’re in alignment with their plans. We pulled data of all clients who billed with us during the recession, and we work to sustain those relationships.”

AppleOne senior manager Lauren Arevalo elaborated on the importance of those connections internally as well. “I think we will truly help C-level managers and company owners, when or if we are at this point with the economy, by considering how can we help to retain staff, avoid layoffs and keep a company profitable.”

Diversify

Wilkinson recalled one client whose relationships saved him. “His company began making partnerships with tons of different businesses around town, expanding his product lines and his portfolio.” If one industry was struck particularly hard, that client would still have those other relationships to sustain him.

Fortify, Survive, Grow

When these conversations unfold in the forums, it becomes clear how businesses can survive the worst: “By building a solid business, so that if a recession occurs, you’re not left behind,” said Jed Grennan, managing partner of Grennan Fender.

Even more so, the table full of successful leaders who have found themselves stronger for their ability to adapt to every economic situation has proved an even more empowering fact: Hard times may be the best time to grow your business and push you in new directions.

About the author

Meaghan Branham

Meaghan Branham

Meaghan Branham is a writer and communications manager for i4 Business magazine. A Florida native who graduated from UCF with her BA in English literature in 2017, she looks forward to more opportunities to share the stories of those shaping Central Florida.

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