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ROHNERT PARK ? For a business owner, keeping tabs on the bottom line is important at all times, but when the economy is in a downturn like it is today, the importance of knowing where the profits and losses are is key.

That was the message from ?Cash is (still) King: Practical Strategies for Turbulent Times,? a leadership forum sponsored by Exkalibur Advisors, Moss Adams, Bank of America, Heffernan Insurance Brokers and the Business Journal at the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park Sept. 10.

Panelista were Lary Kirchenbauer, president of business strategy adviser Exkalibur; Steve Jannicelli of the Moss Adams accounting firm; David Meddaugh, senior vice president and market manager for North Coast commercial banking at Bank of America; and Elizabeth Bishop, senior vice president and branch manager for Heffernen.

The theme that ran through the presentations and conversation was the importance of assessing where you are in terms of expectations and what you need to do or can do to keep the bottom line where you want it.

With the economy where it is today, ?clients are asking good questions now,? said Mr. Jannicelli.

Following is a summary of the panelists? presentations:

? Mr. Kirchenbauer?s presentation laid out seven steps a business owner can take to be the best leader they can be. He calls them Key Leadership Indicators.

1. Ready? Fire! Aim. In normal life, people tend to say Ready? Aim. Fire. However, Mr. Kirchenbauer stressed the importance of just getting things done. Sometimes that sense of urgency can take you to the place you may not have felt comfortable about after thinking too much.

2. Flexibility. Examples include buying less so you are not stuck with product and considering outsourcing.

3. Transparency. It is always important to keep everything open. Make your employees part of the solution. They know how things are going.

4. First Loss is Best Loss. If things go into a downturn, don?t price down 10 percent and then have to price it down again later. ?Don?t die the death of 1,000 cuts,? he said.

5. Cash. Timing is more important than amount.

6. Steven Levitt, author of ?Freakonomics,? said ?Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.? And that is what Mr. Kirchenbauer stressed. Create incentives for employees to get things done in a timely way.

7. Think. Remembering the good old-fashioned way of sitting down with a pen and a paper without distractions for 15 minutes and brainstorming can give clarity to an otherwise over-stimulating world.

? Mr. Janicelli stressed the importance of a balance sheet in his presentation, likening it to a scorecard in a sporting event. Unlike an income report, which just shows were you are this quarter or year versus where you were last year at the same time, a balance sheet will show a play by play so there is a complete picture of where the money has gone and when.

A tip Mr. Jannicelli gave is to segment the business and look at each part and see what is helping and what is hurting.

?And look at the 12-month picture,? he added. ?That takes the seasonality out of the picture.?

Answering the questions, ?How quickly do I get paid?? and ?How much money and inventory do I have?? will help to chart where you are. Knowledge of your assets and strengths of the company are important.

? Ms. Bishop discussed claims management and how to minimize workers? compensation insurance costs. She highlighted five points for business owners. In addition to the following five points, she mentioned that having a solid list of what is considered first aid and not workers? compensation claims can keep costs down.

1. Be aware of what an actual claim costs. Generally speaking, according to Ms. Bishop, the claim costs a company dollar for dollar times three.

2. How do indirect costs affect business? These can be larger.

3. If a claim is not filed right away, the costs rise quickly. If a claim is filed a week late, there is an 18 percent rise in cost. If it is filed a month late, that number rises to 45 percent.

4. Return to work. Having a return to work program available is critical because, according to Ms. Bishop, if an employee is out of work for 12 weeks, then there is only a 50 percent chance of their ever returning.

5. Team. Are you an effective captain of the team? Making your employees understand you care will be part of the solution.

? Mr. Meddaugh: Knowing how your bank is performing is critical to your business, he said.

Business owners also should know their bank?s strengths, lending style and limits. Can the bank, for instance, meet a business? capital needs for expansion? And could there be any issues with renewing credit lines and other loans?

He urged business owners to avoid surprises and decide what kinds of debt financing best meets their needs, whether it is unsecured or more expensive asset-based loans. As for growth rates, Mr. Meddaugh said balance is key ? there is such a thing as too much leverage.