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The BUPA check for small firms

3 Mins

This year, as I predicted, there will be more business failures than last year (which was a record year and not in a good way!)

For the business owner, admitting there may be an issue is always the first hurdle to overcome – just as no-one every really wants to admit they may be ill.

To allow you to act before it’s too late, a proactive review of your business on an ongoing basis must be worth some serious consideration. Regard it as a “BUPA” health check if you like.

* Is your hardcore overdraft increasing and your account rarely moving into credit?

* Have your creditor days reached unrealistic levels?

* You lease rather than buy assets, which is what you always used to do.

* You think breaking even is good news.

* Your credit report is getting worse.

* The bank is never off your back and have asked for personal guarantees.

* Key staff are leaving.

* You are paying suppliers on the drip.

* Your VAT and PAYE are in arrears.

* Suppliers are asking for pro-forma payments.

So, now what do you do if the diagnosis is not favourable?

The issues mentioned require a two-pronged approach: emergency-room action; and long-term palliative care

Emergency room:

* Stop spending anything, unless absolutely essential.

* Beg, borrow (not steal!) funds from every available source.

* Talk to your staff, customers and suppliers and ask them to stand by you and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.

* Cut costs everywhere.

* Take advice and do what the professionals recommend.

Palliative care:

* Revisit and change your management structure and even style.

* Recognise the mistakes you made and put in place procedures to prevent it happening again.

* Reposition your business and maintain a competitive advantage.

* Line up new investment for the future.

* Expand your market and your products and services.

* Get the best financial advice and systems.

* Don’t overtrade, sell on quality and service, not price and only to people that will pay on time.

* Finally, if the end looks inevitable try and leave with some integrity.

I realise that pre-packs have become the norm but reputations are what businesses are usually sustained on. Don’t lose yours and don’t lose yourself.

Jo Haigh is head of corporate finance for MGR

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