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This blog serves as a live report of the comments being made at the Successs in the City Success Strategies in a down economy seminar and panel discussion.  You will see speaker bios at the end of the report.

Christine Williamson, partner and accountant at Watkins Meegan began the discussion by saying that her staff is optimistic.
The key-word for surviving our current economic environment is adaptation– Darwin’s therory found that it may not be the fittest or strongest but the most adaptive that survive!

Adam August, partner at Holland and Knight said that if you are still here you are doing well.  If you know and embrace your core competencies and buckle down people are willing to pay for services that provide tangible and real results.  Take advantage of a slower environment to reconnect personally with clients and to solidify those relationships

Lesley Boucher, partner at Pensare Group said stop listening to the news in the morning, it’s not good to start your day with a negative.  Surround yourself with upbeat people – just like those people you find in Success in the City (thank you for saying that Lesley).  Lesley suggested the book of 14,000 Things to be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer.  Lesley discussed –  How to keep you team upbeat and shared a quote  “For leaders a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”  Rahm Emanuel.  Knowing what your real competitive advantage is key and know that “fear loves a void” – the more as a leader you communicate to your team the more you get your people engaged.  Yesterday Lworking with company on customer loyalty.  “Count your experience and use that to bolster your corporate confidence.” 

Leigh Basha, partner at Holland and Knight was working with her daughter on her economics homework last night and was intrigued to discover interesting historical facts about economic downturns –   Following the lowest point of a downturn it is followed by the highest point previously seen.  Leigh shared interesting points from Arnold Palmer on 9 strategies for keeping on course and beating the odds – some of which are – focus intently on profit generating activities, capitalize on new opportunities, upgrade your workforce, provide peace of mind in trying times, make use of incentive plans, reduce company operating expenses and improve employee compensation.

Lesley Boucher shared that you should do things to make you happy and make what you are doing fun.  
Christine Williamson was asked how to reduce tax liability at this time.  Christine offered that cash is king and you should know what your cash balance is at all times and keep that information up to date.  Keep you cash forecast current.  Assess what customers you should be touching and talking to.  Be ware of the potential for fraud in these tough time – “trust but verify” Ronald Regan.  Keep an eye on your corporate bottom-line.  You should be opening up your own checking account statements and review the image of your checks and those signatures.

Summary – cash is king and trust but verify.

Julia Loughran asked Adam August to look at the upside and talk about growth, M&A, acquisitions and outside investments

Adam August – when we go out the market place we buy when we see things on sales and now is precisely the time to deploy capital to buy and sell assets and equities are lower prices.  Do low-cost and no-cost advertising outreaching through strategic alliances.  There is really an opportunity now to do capital expenditures.  If possible it is a great time to purchase big items for your business to grow long-term. 

Lesley Boucher – customer loyalty can be a willingness to refer you to a customer they trust.  A loyal customer is an engine of growth for you company.  Loyal customers will buy more and serve as your virtual sales-force.  You need to develop a strategic approach to touch your customers.  Women are the most dynamic customers and can be your worst nightmare.  Customer satisfaction can give you a 5 times increase on your bottom-line.
Audience suggestion – go back to customers and ask what you are not doing right!  


Leigh Basha – financial strategies in a down economy – historically low interest rates and loan rates.  It is important to the business owner because your business should be one of your greatest assets.  Protect your assets and make a succession plan because Uncle Sam can take a 45% share of your business in the event of an owner’s death.  Critical to put in place a succession plan.  Ensure that the value of a business lasts.  Today is the best time historically to do this.  You can shift stock value to following generations – short term rate is less than 1% so you can shift wealth at a lower cost.  The stars have aligned for tremendous estate planning as we have never seen before.  “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Woody Allen

Christine Williamson – Get your tax return done early and don’t extend it this year.  With an extension, for a lot of business owners you pay based on the previous years income.  You need to know what your liability and exposure is.  If you are getting a refund, get it early, spend it and pump up the economy.  It reduces uncertainty.  A $250,000 write off has been extended in this Administration.  May be a good time to switch your company to an S Corp.  Payroll tax rates have been lowered.  COBRA changes will affect corporate payroll may create problems. 

Adam August – Issues businesses should never ignore.  “Trust no living soul and walk carefully among the dead” is what Adam’s grandfather cautioned.  Recognize that Llaw firms are service providers and they are also being impacted by this economic downturn.  Don’t wait until you are in a crisis, ask your attorney if costs can be fixed or capped.  Now is the time to build this relationship.  When laying people off it is a good idea to get an attorney to help you prepare for this and protect your business.  Form extended payment plans and reductions.

Lesley Boucher – back to basics.  Knowing who you are and what your advantage is.  Don’t be a wandering generality and the jack of all trades.  We get pulled in too many directions.  Know what you do well and why you do it.  Exude the attitude. It’s the attitude you bring every day has a tremendous impact.  Clear and forceful vision and go after customer loyalty.
Leigh Basha – Be well capitalized, cash is king and knowlege is power and plan and prepare.  Look to your greatest assets and put your succession plan in place NOW!  This is a great time to do it.

Christine Williamson – “The only thing I can control is my play, we have to think about our sponsors and supporters.” Tiger Woods.  Reality has checked in. Focus on the customer.  Be confident and adapt to your circumstances.

Adam August. – It is not a sprint it is a marathon.  Take the long view and know that we will look back and see that we are better off because what is happening today and the measures we have taken the time to implement when times are tough.

Magic wand question – what would you give your clients?
Leigh Basha – “Give clients certainty of the law, which is changing daily.” 
Lesley Boucher – “Take the time to relax which is where inspiration will be discovered.”
Christine Williamson – “Give your clients attention, calling them, visiting with them.”
Adam August – “Plan a vacation.” 

Audience member suggested Recovery.gov – weekly reports on where the stimulus money is going.

There has never been a better time to be generous! It will help you stand-out.  Lead with value. 

“Live with a theory of abundance” – Julia Loughran 

Book recommendation – World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott
Speaker Bios

Adam August – A partner at Holland & Knight, Adam practices in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings, commercial transactions, general corporate law and business bankruptcy. He counsels public and private company clients in a variety of industries including information technology, government contracting, software and telecommunications. He has been actively involved in merger, acquisition and disposition transactions with a combined value of over $1 billion, and financing/investment transactions and securities offerings worth over $600 million.  

Leigh Basha – As a partner at Holland & Knight, Leigh devotes her practice to her clients’ needs in the areas of domestic and international taxation, estate planning and administration, business law, and pre-marital agreements. Ms. Basha heads the firms International Estate Planning Practice.

Lesley Boucher – Lesley is the Managing Director and co-founder of the Pensare Group, a management consulting firm that works with motivated leaders to improve performance, enhance the ability to attract and retain customers and increase profitability.


Christine Williamson – Christine leads the Government Contracting & Technology Group of the regional DC based CPA firm Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Company.  She is a Member (Partner) and has been with the firm since 1991.  Christine is well known for her hands-on experience of providing clients of every size, the necessary, timely and pertinent accounting and tax information.  In this challenging economy Christine is working with clients to help them adapt to the changes we are all facing.  In the government contracting industry, Christine is well-known as one of the leading professionals.  Christine participates in firm management, is editor of the firms Technology Outlook newsletter, and has taught accounting courses for educational resources.

ModeratorJulia Loughran, ThoughtLinkJulia has extensive experience in helping government and commercial organizations use technology to increase productivity for virtual teams. Julia co-founded the company with Marcy Stahl in 1997. She is now the owner and President of ThoughtLink. Julia is responsible for the strategic leadership and continued rapid growth of the company. She focuses on leveraging the company’s successful track record to direct ThoughtLink’s further expansion into the government, international and commercial markets. Read More or read full resume.