And Now for the Good News…

Here are ten bright spots to savor amid the economic gloom.

David Knowlton, managing partner at investment-banking boutique Watch Hill Partners, just added two partners and a senior adviser to his 20-person firm in anticipation of future growth. “We’re going to come out of this,” he says. “How do you prepare for that today?” While an expanding investment bank at a time when many deals are on hold seems a bit counterintuitive, Knowlton maintains that boutique banks will do well because of their simple cost structures and straightforward business propositions. “We don’t have huge bureaucracies. We don’t have capital-markets arms. We do one thing, and that’s give advice, and we’re in a great position to offer that objectivity to clients who are dealing with this crisis,” he says.

Less Pain at the Pump

As of this writing, gas was well below $2 a gallon nationally. That’s down from more than twice that level last summer. The sharp decline has provided some measure of economic relief to both individuals and companies as it has eased commuting costs for workers and shipping costs for businesses, not to mention input costs for the many companies that rely on petroleum byproducts in their manufacturing processes.

So, there you have it. A tidy list of 10 things to consider in the months ahead. Of course, oil prices are down largely because of the falloff in global demand, but let’s stay focused on the positive.

Kate O’Sullivan is a senior writer at CFO.

Resistance Movement

No matter what stage of life you’re in, there’s a recession-proof industry ready to serve you.

You know times are tough when CFOs in recession-proof industries shy away from that term and instead suggest that “recession-resistant” is more accurate. Robert Ryder, CFO of Constellation Brands, which produces and markets 250 brands of beer, wine, and spirits, admits that business is solid, but points out that consumers are now gravitating toward the company’s lower-end products. “We’re in a fortunate industry where when times are good we do pretty well and when times are bad we do just the same.”

Child care is another area in which consumers tend not to cut back. Elizabeth Boland, CFO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which manages child-care centers at 700 companies, hospitals, and universities around the country, says business has remained strong even though the company does 15 percent of its business at corporate child-care centers located at financial-services firms. “Our clients have had a pretty long commitment to child care,” Boland says.

Death would seem to be as recession-resistant an industry as one could imagine, and in fact Hillenbrand Inc., which sells burial caskets and cremation products, has seen sales remain flat through this recession just as they have through past ones. CFO Cindy Lucchese notes that, “our products are not something that you choose to buy; they’re something that you need to buy.” Whether they’re something you want to buy may depend on how closely you’ve studied your most recent brokerage statements. — Kate Plourd


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