In my nearly 20 years in commercial banking, there is an evergreen business opportunity that quickens my pulse and unleashes my inner optimist: the outlook for the new year. And 2024 is no different.

LEARN MORE: Here is Arizona’s banking industry outlook for 2024

Sure, interest rates are at the highest since 2000. Global conflict is on the rise. Artificial intelligence feels like a bit of a wild card. None of that is within our control. But as business leaders in Arizona, we can dictate how we prepare to take advantage of new opportunities in the year ahead. And I have three simple axioms to help you do that. But first, let’s step back to hear what business leaders nationwide are thinking right now:

Recently, PwC released their Pulse Survey Results indicating that US business owners express more optimism about the economy than a year ago (recession concerns has dropped by 18% since last October). However, leaders continue to reference concerns about rising costs, managing labor and resources, reducing risk, and improving efficiencies.

Certainly, these concerns merit attention, but from a banker’s perspective, 2024 could be the chance to develop a business plan that withstands economic headwinds. Incorporating these three steps into your business plan can help better position your business for growth.

Megan Ackaert is Arizona commercial banking market executive for Wells Fargo and one of Az Business magazine’s Most Influential Women of 2020.

1. Don’t get sidetracked: Identify what you can control, and what you can’t

Too often, business owners bank on luck and pluck. They believe they can beat the market. That they can wait out the interest rate environment. Or that if they are strategic enough, it won’t apply to them. Unfortunately, these predilections, while understandable, are often fruitless, and always a distraction. With current macroeconomic, political, and social conditions, there are many distractions.

However, these factors are outside of individual control. While it is important to be aware of the environment, it is even more important to avoid allowing it to distract from your focus. By acknowledging the external impacts relevant to your business operations while focusing on product and practices, business owners can favorably position themselves by shifting their mindset to one of adaptability rather than one of playing defense.

Through focusing on the business at hand, providing quality products and services, improving the balance sheet, and increasing efficiency, business owners may be better positioned to address the needs of their companies rather than staying in a constant reactionary mode.

2. Don’t delay action: Engage in the present

Growth, advancement, and progression are all results of action. And, after the pandemic-induced business hiatus, now is the time to take action.

While every business leader wants to maintain and execute her or his own plan/strategy, companies are better served when their management team is surrounded by trusted advisors. 

Businesses should seek input from their accountants, bankers, attorneys, and other trusted advisors to ensure decisions are made with the greatest consideration. These advisors should also be able to help business owners identify yellow flags and their potential implications.

In recent years, low interest rates and excess liquidity have made it easy to ignore inefficiencies or balance sheet deviations. Businesses should consider taking decisive action to address any area that could be a risk to their capital, productivity, or efficiency. The cost of doing business has increased and an income statement should not be considered the only indicator of a company’s health.

As companies position themselves to weather economic volatility, it is important that they regularly stress test possible outcomes and scenarios to ensure the viability of their business. According to PwC nearly 50% of those surveyed cite the possibility of a reduced demand for goods or services as a top concern. Through regular stress testing businesses can address different scenarios in such a way that will allow for planning and action.

Inaction in today’s environment is potentially detrimental. Act now to make the most of your company’s potential.

3. Don’t ignore opportunity: Blue skies ahead

For businesses heading into 2024, the opportunities to improve efficiencies and favorably position themselves will be considerable, especially through digitization, cash flow, and capital deployment to grow the business. Here are some immediate fiscal management considerations:

Digitize: Make choices that allow for the best allocation of resources. Digitizing your cash flow management and payments process may allow you to put those people hours to growing your business.

Improve Cash Flow: Strategically timing when money is going out and coming in can make a difference not only to your cash flow, but to potential interest earnings.

Pounce on Growth: Companies that have been strategic and carefully maintained their balance sheets may be able to reap the benefits with opportunities for acquisitions and growth.

In conclusion: Seize the day

As 2024 arrivess, business owners have the chance to not only conduct business, but to excel. During a time of economic uncertainty, this next year is certain to be pivotal for many businesses. That can feel daunting, but those who stay focused, proactive and analytical can stack the odds in their favor.

Author: Megan Ackaert is Arizona commercial banking market executive for Wells Fargo and one of Az Business magazine’s Most Influential Women of 2020. Contact her at