Belfast Telegraph

Act early to keep your options open!

Karen Wray
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The daily economic headlines currently paint a rather depressing picture, not only for individuals but also for most businesses. The continued economic squeeze, due to rising inflation and reduced demand for products and services, can only lead to more financial distress for the majority of business owners.

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The circumstances would appear to be forcing those businesses, which have struggled through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the edge of viability. Many businesses did not survive the consequences of the various lockdowns, but those that did had hoped for better times ahead.

This has not proven to be the case as not only has government support ended, leaving many businesses with further debt to repay, the rising energy costs are now almost crippling many businesses that had thought that they were beginning to see better times ahead. The impact of proposed Government intervention remains to be seen.

So, what should Directors and Shareholders be doing now? The simple answer is to “act early and seek professional advice”. This can sometimes be the hardest challenge of all. Especially in small businesses, the director and/or shareholder takes on all the responsibility, and it can be hard to admit that the business is facing financial difficulties.

Very often business owners are reluctant to seek impartial advice as they continue to hope for better days to come.

So where should you turn if you are facing a downturn in trading or financial distress? The best course of action is to enlist a business advisor, and there are many ways to get them involved.

Firstly, have them attend board meetings and offer constructive feedback as well as offer potential solutions.

Secondly, ask them to complete an independent review of the company's activities. This could involve looking at cash flow and providing advice on areas for improvement going forward.

And, thirdly, if you decide that you want to exit the market on a solvent basis, seek advice around an orderly wind-down.

The key is to ensure you have options available and the earlier advice is sought, the more options will be available to discuss. If time permits, the business advisor may even be able to discuss solvent restructuring options rather than insolvency procedures. However, if the business is no longer viable, the business advisor can provide advice on the most appropriate exit route for all concerned.

Your business advisors are here to help and should have the right skill set to do so, so reach out and have them identify the key areas to work on to move your business forward.

Usually, the hardest challenge for business owners is to ask for advice, but business owners who have sought advice in the past have always noted that this can also relieve the burden of dealing with the situation.