Hoping Plan B won't become dreaded Plan C

About a month and a half ago, Lindsay Daniel and the staff at her architectural design firm implemented Plan B.

Daniel had spotted the downturn looming last year. Then the effects of a weak housing market, a tightening credit crunch and troubles with the local banks hit home this spring. Clients postponed projects.

Daniel and her staff devised three plans to get them through the downturn: Plan A, B and C.

Her company, Lindsay Daniel Architecture, provides design and architectural services to owners of high-end, single-family homes and the resort market. Many customers are closely linked to the financial services industry and use annual bonuses to renovate or add-on, Daniel said.

That didn't happen this year.

“When the banks are down, everybody is down,” she said, noting her sales volume has fallen 25 percent compared to last year.

The company zipped through Plan A: Contracting itself out to other firms. Work at those firms also slowed.

“Plan B was we go part-time,” Daniel said. “I gave everyone a choice. When recessions come, that means staff will have to be downsized. We decided we wanted to stay together.”

Daniel let go of the student intern. Four of her five employees now work part-time and have side jobs. She designed her computer system so employees can work from home to save on gas.

Daniel, 58, has endured four recessions, including being laid off during one at the start of her career. She said she has a list of customers wanting her services. But they're biding their time, waiting to see what happens with the economy.

She said she's confident she can avoid Plan C, which is layoffs.

“This kind of market is always one that swings hard. That's the nature of this business,” she said. “The sad part is this is the absolute best time to be designing and building. They can get the best customer service now.”