Looking forward: insights from top executives on managing through the crisis.

Author:Heffes, Ellen M.
Position::Business outlook

Who knows what the year ahead will bring for your business and what critical issues you--the senior finance executive--will face. And, even if you had a crystal ball at the beginning of last year, would you have predicted the actuals? For the year just beginning, what would you advise others in your shoes?

That's what we asked FEI's strategic partners. Late last year, Financial Executive Editor-in-Chief Ellen M. Heffes and Managing Editor Marian Raab asked two questions of C-suite executives in FEI strategic-partner organizations. The firms represent several business segments.

Here's what they said (responses are arranged alphabetically, by company):


What do you view as the most critical issue you and/or your clients' firm will face in the upcoming year?

In an altered lending landscape, rebuilding trust and access to strategic capital are the most critical issues faced by tomorrow's borrowers. To prevail in this risk-averse environment, organizations need to be more financially independent by expanding their pools of available capital and credit.

Moreover, they need to be ready to offer lenders the reassurances and transparency they will require.

Here are five practical suggestions: 1) monitor cash and control costs; 2) diversify capital sources and establish new lines of credit; 3) secure receivables/supply chains and scrutinize partners with a lender's eye; 4) expand assets through strategic investments and smart buys; and 5) weigh new capital mixes--including bank loans and private equity.

Going forward, one reality that will not change is that lenders will remain the ultimate deciders.

What advice would you give CFOs on managing their companies in these unprecedented economic times?

CFOs should ensure they don't lose sight of the well-being of their employees. In an economic down-turn, it can be tempting for leaders to focus on finances at the expense of people. However, just as your people are vulnerable in a downturn, they are critical in the upturn.


I recognize that it can be tough to maintain your people focus amid downturn pressures, but just as peacetime generals don't always make the shift to battlefield generals, leaders need to mentally switch gears from good times, to tough times to better times.

In my experience, the best antidote to anxiety is transparency and straight talk. It's worth sharing that with your Finance team, and encouraging the rest of your firm's management team to do likewise.


What do you view as the most critical issue you and/or your clients' firms will face in the upcoming year?

First, while secular growth trends in our core markets remain positive, we must nonetheless manage the expense side of our business to prudently and conservatively position our firm in the face of ongoing financial market uncertainty.


Second, we anticipate that the new administration in Washington will act swiftly to enact regulatory changes, many of which will directly impact our clients. A key priority this year is to ensure that we are agile and can quickly and intelligently respond to these changes on behalf of our clients.

Finally, even as we capture growth opportunities in the year ahead, we must continue to build on our traditional areas of success, while nurturing a culture of collaboration and shared values.


What advice would you give CFOs on managing their companies in these unprecedented economic times?

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