6 Things To Think About When Dealing With A Distressed Business

We are in the midst of a global pandemic and hospitality is having a tough time of it, despite all of the help available businesses are struggling and businesses owners have a lot on their plate and are under a lot of pressure. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose yourself in the day to day running of your business which means that there is a good chance that you will be reacting rather than being on the front foot. The noted author Steven Covey described this as “being in the whirlwind” which is a great analogy. Whilst you are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic try and keep the following six things at the forefront of your thinking.

  1. Have a plan! – Take time to think things through and think carefully about where you want your business to be and the steps which will take you there. Keep the plan simple and keep it focused. Don’t try and do too much and ensure that all of your targets are measurable. Resist the temptation to adopt outlandish strategies or the temptation to “pivot” too far away from your comfort zone and area of expertise. Stretching yourself and your business is fine, but don’t set yourself up to fail by setting yourself unrealistic targets. When putting together your plan, think carefully about the financials, ensure that you have a comprehensive budget matched with a detailed “look forward” cash flow. Once you have a plan, don’t leave it to gather dust. Look at it regularly and measure your progress against it and if the facts change, then don’t hesitate to change your mind. We are in a fast-moving situation, a situation which requires you to be agile in your thinking and adaptable so you may need to make a few small changes along the way.
  2. Communicate – When all around you there is chaos, your team are looking to you to make sense of this chaos. They will want to know about your plan and how they will be involved and what it will mean for them as individuals. Ensure that you keep your communication clear and simple and don’t over-communicate as contradictory information will just unsettle people. Think long and hard about the best, most engaging ways in which you can communicate and ensure that your messages are appropriate for the intended audience. The other aspect of communication is being open and honest, it is hard to give people bad news but they will appreciate your being as honest as possible with them.
  3. Keep Calm & Carry On – How you, as a leader behaves will be key to the success of the business. If you look calm and unruffled then your team will see this and take comfort from this. No one wants their leader to run around shouting “don’t panic!” whilst doing just that. By all means, let your team know the seriousness of the situation but by having a plan and working through it, you will demonstrate that you are as in control
    of the situation as you can be.
  4. There is no “I” in the team – Now, more than ever is the time to work as a team. Involve your people in key decisions, involve them in blue sky sessions and involve them in as many decisions that impact on their work and their work environment as possible and they will reward you with loyalty and increased effort. As a leader, the majority of the burden will be on your shoulders, but the load is lighter if it is shared amongst a motivated and engaged group of people, all pulling together in the same direction with the same target. Ensuring that everyone understands your plan and believes in it is important, equally important is ensuring that people are kept up to date with progress (or lack of progress) towards your goals.
  5. Keep a close eye on your finances – if you don’t already do so (and you will be amazed at how many businesses don’t) make sure that you have robust and timely reporting of weekly numbers. You need to know where every penny goes, and you need to make sure that every penny counts. You should be looking at your cash on a weekly basis (or even daily) and you need to ensure that your forecasting is as robust as possible. Make sure that you are in constant communication with creditors, be clear as to who you can stretch and who you can’t. You need to be having honest conversations with your landlord and HMRC, given the circumstances, they will be reasonably sympathetic to your plight.
  6. Remember your fiduciary responsibility as directors  – If things take a turn for the worse, don’t hesitate to get advice from professionals and make sure you deal with people who have lots of experience of dealing with the sort of situation in which you find yourself. This isn’t the time to turn to your local solicitor or accountant, this is the time to consult with specialists such as insolvency practitioners or restructuring specialists, or at the very least with accountants who have experience with distressed businesses. Its never too early to get advice, especially if you are a statutory director as you have responsibilities to your creditors. Experts may also be able to access additional government funding which may help you.

About the author

Paolo Peretti is the founder and managing director of SBGC. He has over 30 years’ experience in the industry having operated at board level for the last 15 years. He has over 5 years’ experience as an MD and has led turnaround projects for businesses such as Vital Ingredient and Patisserie Valerie. In addition to this Paolo has worked with a number of small businesses, focusing on getting them ready for growth. Paolo is currently working as a board advisor for a wide and varied portfolio of businesses which range from a Last Mile Logistics Provider to an Artificial Intelligence firm. He has significant fundraising experience, having raised over £12 million for various businesses over the last few years.

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