By Gary Pittsford, CFP®
President and CEO, Castle Wealth Advisors, LLC
First published in the July 2009 Indiana Chamber E-News

The business world continues to be challenging. For many companies, incomes are down and expenses are up. On Wall Street, the values of stocks are down and everyone’s retirement goals continue to suffer.

As the owner of a closely held family business, the following are some things you can be doing to help yourself, as well as your family, company and employees stay positive while we all anticipate economic recovery:

  • Rely on your business advisors for current general business information. Get involved in industry associations and ask them for financial data to make sure your business is where it should be. Read industry publications. Read national business magazines. Read local business newspapers. Attend your local Chamber and other networking events, and talk to other business members to find out how their businesses are doing.
  • Meet with your family and employees often. Share your gathered information in an encouraging way in order to keep negative speculation and gossip talk within your company to a minimum.
  • Provide a forum during your meetings for everyone to share their questions and fears pertaining to your business and its customers. Simply allowing everyone to talk through their worries is helpful and sometimes enlightening. Share information about the other tough times your company has survived, during the 80’s and 90’s, for instance, or some other event that could have turned fatal for the company but didn’t. Reiterate that every industry has good years and bad years and your industry is no different.
  • Be creative. Ask your family members and any employees who know your business well to come up with any ideas that might be helpful in surviving during tough times. Have key employees come forward with ideas that cut costs, increase sales, increase service to customers, and help make the company strong. Provide incentives to your employees for coming up with innovative and helpful ideas.
  • Watch your budget closely. You normally do this in good times, but you must especially do this in challenging times - not quarterly, not monthly, but weekly. Determine how your budget compares with your industry norms at this time. Are your payroll and other expenses in line? Top line sales are important, but the gross margin that you have to work with is more important. After all, the gross margin is what your business survives on.
  • Don’t forget marketing. Even though you are watching spending during tough times, don’t completely eliminate your marketing program. People might not be spending money on your products now, but you want your name to be on the top of their list when they are. Also focus on improving your customer service to maintain the customers you already have.
  • Have a business plan. Right now it is an ideal time to have a business plan that will get your company through at least the next two to three years. Take the time while business is slow to examine your business and put your plan in writing. This plan will prove to be invaluable to your business success in the short term and will also help you keep yourself, your family and your employees on track for success in the future.

 Gary Pittsford, CFP®, is President and CEO of Castle Wealth Advisors, LLC. Castle specializes in helping families and closely held business owners with valuations, succession planning, estate and income tax analysis and retirement income security. Castle’s senior partners work with clients throughout the country in making logical decisions that help them fulfill their personal and business financial goals. For more information visit, call 1-888-849-9559 or e-mail Gary directly at .