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Deborah Edmondson
Deborah Edmondson, Central Desktop
Partner, VP Marketing
Tel: 843-368-2483

 

We’ve been meeting with “businesses who serve businesses”… attorneys, bankers, accountants and senior Chamber of Commerce officials, as well as community leaders. 

 

We’ve asked two simple questions:

  • How’s business?
  • What do you hear from the businesses that you work with?

 

We’ve gotten two basic answers:

  • Business has definitely picked up and we’re almost back to where we were before everything crashed in 2008.
  • We’re cautiously optimistic that things will soon get back to “normal”, but we’re still hunkered down and don’t plan any major expansions.

 

So, is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Here’s what makes me cautiously optimistic…

The Lowcountry businesses that have survived have clearly learned to deliver their value proposition at a high level of efficiency. They’ve shaved their expenses, especially variable expenses, refinanced their capital assets and have “right-sized” their work forces and physical space, in other words, their capacity.

 

Lowcountry businesses are lean and mean, which means that they’re poised to optimize profitability for their level of business volume, and maybe a bit more.

 

We keep hearing about growing traffic, inquires and sales. So, the business food chain growth appears good and it looks like at least slow growth could sustain for the medium-term (1-3 years).

 

Here’s what troubles me…

The bankers tell us that they have money to lend, but are reluctant to lend it because bank management and the regulators currently put a higher value on “preservation of assets” (which means cash) than they do on profitability (which requires risk). So, most business loans remain very low risk- refinances to lower interest costs and small expansions of existing lines of business to reach the limits of existing capacity.

 

What we’re not seeing is financing of innovative ideas or new businesses, especially small start-ups, unless they’re new franchise locations or otherwise low-risk proven enterprises. The exceptions are relatively large ventures with great business plans that will create many jobs.

 

We’re also hearing a lot of “We just need to get back to where we were in 2007.” Not much ambition for new opportunities or growth, even from successful survivors.

 

I understand the reluctance to risk getting burned, but I’m worried that the extremely risk-adverse attitude from both businesses and banks could unduly constrain Lowcountry business growth.

 

As always, you can find exceptions. We’re working with two businesses, helping to develop and then execute their growth plans. Both have strong entrepreneur leadership and both have figured out strategies to fund their growth without conventional borrowing. Not surprising that creative strategic planning can perhaps provide the crucial difference between a stagnant business and a growing enterprise.

 

So…

  • What will it take for the banks to take reasonable risk and lend money on innovative ideas and small start-ups?
  • What will it take for already successful business people to regain the ambition, confidence and creativity to grow and expand into complimentary business areas?

 

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

 

And, if you’re a creative Lowcountry entrepreneur wanting to grow an existing business, we want to hear from you. Please call 540-3759 or email info@mrgroup.biz.

 

Submitted by:  Paul Jacobson

                      President, Mission Resources Group

Copyright Mission Resources Group, 2011, All Rights Reserved

 

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