How local businesses can prepare to thrive even in an uncertain economic climate

“Crisis creates opportunity. That’s the sheer nature of it,” says EagleBank’s Lindsey Rheaume

Here’s why: It lets companies reassess their business models and become more efficient, more nimble, explained Rheaume, executive vice president and chief commercial and industrial lending officer at EagleBank.

Living in the backyard of the federal government also helps local businesses weather tough economic times, he said.

That’s not to say the pandemic and geopolitical crises affecting the world and the nation’s overall economy — driving supply chain issues, inflation, labor shortages and rising interest rates — have not created challenges locally. They definitely have, Rheaume told WTOP, but many Washington metropolitan area “businesses have been able to pivot. They were able to adjust. They were able to find a way through it.”

We asked Rheaume, who has worked with businesses across the region going on three decades, to offer the best tactics as small and medium-size businesses continue to navigate through the ups and downs of the current economy. He shared three pieces of advice.

Tip 1: Expect that there will be more unknowns to come

A key lesson learned from the current economic climate for newer businesses and green entrepreneurs should be the value of understanding that the economy fluctuates perpetually. A business’s risk factors therefore will always change as well, Rheaume said.

“As a business owner and management team, your ability to adapt to it and sense … what’s happening, that really gives you the edge over a lot of your competition,” he said.

Tip 2: Assess and begin rebuilding now for the upturn

For that same reason, every business should take the time to look forward not just back, he said. “This is an opportunity to really step up and seize market share,” Rheaume said. “Build up and be ready for that recovery on the other side.”

Work with your banking partner to evaluate where to pull back and where to invest, he suggested. It’s possible that despite the challenging environment, there are low-risk financial strategies that make sense for your business, Rheaume added.

Tip 3: Go local with a financial lender

It helps to work with a financial adviser who understands the local economy intrinsically, he said. That way, your banking partner has established knowledge of local economic cycles, of how federal budgets affect local economic factors and of the best ways to react based on past cycles, Rheaume said.

“We live in this community. This is our backyard,” he said, adding, “Many times we’ll have a client that will call us up saying, ‘I’m facing this issue,’ and it’s something we’ve had three or four other clients already call us on. We’re very conversant, we’re able to step up and say, ‘OK, here’s what we’re doing about it. And here’s how we suggest reacting to it.’ ”

When your clients are also your friends

Rheaume said that after 22 years as the DMV’s local bank, EagleBank and its team remains passionate about helping local businesses.

“Many of my clients are close friends. And I tell you, nothing thrills me more than when we execute on a business plan, and they get to where they want to be. … It really feels good because you’ve helped somebody along the way. You’ve seen them prosper, succeed. That’s really, really rewarding for us.”

To discover more insights for entrepreneurs, startups and SMBs shared during WTOP’s Small Business September, click here.

EagleBank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC.

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