Dealing with a down economy

This is one of several articles in which I ask a client or strategic partner of AMI to share some of the strategies and insights they are using to combat this tough economy. This series is designed to educate and encourage you by introducing ideas from other entrepreneurs and to increase exposure to those sharing this information with you. Deborah Steinthal is a Founding Partner of Scion Advisors, a business consulting firm in Napa, Ca. specializing in family owned wine businesses. Her firm provides consulting services to over 100 small businesses and working along side business owners Deborah and her team work to develop real world strategies for coping with risks and growth in the wine industry.

I recently spent 15 minutes talking with Deborah on a personal level and had a great conversation with her. She embodies a dynamic personality, is highly optimistic and loves to talk about her family. I know from working with Deborah that she is extremely knowledgeable in her field and passionate about her work. She sincerely cares very deeply about the success of her clients as well as other small businesses. When I asked Deborah to be interviewed for this project she did not hesitate and I’m sure she stayed up late one Sunday evening to answer these questions.

What services or products do you offer?
Deborah – Consulting services and business advisory services to business owners in the wine industry. We specialize in family business transitions.

Has your business been negatively or positively impacted during this economic downturn? and how?
Deborah – Emphasis has shifted: less long range strategic planning work and more short range business diagnostic, benchmarking, scenario planning and organization & team assessments.

What have you done to cope with these problems in your daily operations?
Deborah – More visibility with our key clients either through setting up more meetings or through more frequent email campaigns with useful educational content (How to …get through these uncertain times); more panel speaking, expanding geographically.

How have you modified your overall strategy to counter the effects of a down economy?
Deborah – We are staying true to our long term strategy, adjusting budget expectations, trying to get more smaller projects started with more clients, so we are ‘under the tent’ and positioned with more relationships when the economy comes back again.

How important is marketing to the success of your business?
Deborah – A top priority right now! Our website is our number 1 vehicle and is set up as a knowledgebase. All of our marketing drives our clients and prospects to our website and thanks to AMI, this vehicle is outstanding and core to our strategy right now. We bump into wine industry people all the time who thank us for being able to access our knowledgebase.

How has AMI contributed to the success of your company?
Deborah – AMI has worked seamlessly with us to create and launch the website last spring and to upgrade it since then. You (AMI) have been extremely responsive during these uncertain times and we value your collaboration.

What’s your plan to grow your business over the next 2 to 5 years?
Deborah – We hope to double in size in the next 2. More importantly than growing fast in size is building a business model that is sustainable, has continuity and a strong reputation; being able to target and work with the right clients and build long term relationships that count.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be helpful to other small business owners who might be feeling discouraged in these tough times?
Deborah – Get back to basics: run your financial scenarios from worst case (down 25% over last year) to best case; figure out how to be more relevant to your target customers than ever before; be fearless and focused on what matters in the near term; communicate with your team and customers regularly.

Thank you Deborah for taking the time to answer these questions and share your insights with others.

Please visit to learn more about Deborah Steinthal and her company Scion Advisors.

If you would like to be considered for an interview in future newsletter please call or email Andrew Hall with AMI Studios.