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Los Angeles Times:

Whittier Hearing Center Inc. has endured hard times before.

Eight recessions have come and gone since the hearing care company opened its doors in 1955. Even though the economy is souring again, the company’s owners expect that recent investments in staff education and equipment upgrades could mean higher sales this year.

“We’ve been through these recessionary periods many times,” said Mary Ann Gilbert, director of audiology and co-owner of the business, which offers tests, hearing aids and ear protection gear. “We survive by being very value-focused for the patients. That helps us because the patients trust us and we get increased referrals from them and the medical doctors in our community.”

Here are tips that could help your small business weather an economic downturn.

  • Operate lean. Check your balance sheet and income statement to look for places to free up cash. “Cash is king,” Morales said. The more of it on hand, the more options you have as a small-business owner.
  • Redo debt. If your company is in good health, consider increasing or signing up for a line of credit to provide future working capital. Restructure, reduce or optimize your other debt.
  • Manage inventory. Have a sale to move slow or obsolete inventory. Use the cash to pay off debt. Analyze your purchase patterns. See if you can shorten the cycle — the time you hold the inventory.
  • Review receivables. Just like inventory, unpaid receivables can tie up cash. Keep an eye on your biggest clients to make sure they can pay their bills on time. If you see warning signs, call them to make payment arrangements. Use a carrot-and-stick approach that offers discounts for early payments and charges interest on late payments.

Photo by MSDesigns.

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Originally posted by Rich Whittle on April 16, 2008 in Ideas.

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