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How To Succeed in Turning Around Distressed Companies


Many business owners/CEOs unfortunately don’t spot the signs that led to their company being on the verge of insolvency, or bankruptcy. Senior management has to constantly monitor the company’s performance (at least  on a monthly basis), so they can spot, and quickly react, to signs of distress. Some of the signs that your company may be in distress are:

  • Strained financial resources
  • demoralized senior management
  • fearful employees
  • unhappy customers
  • tense bankers
  • angry investors
  • competitors waiting to pounce

Is bankruptcy the right answer when you…

  • can’t pay the employees on time?
  • can’t pay your taxes?
  • can’t make your loan payment?
  • receive numerous calls from unpaid vendors?

Not necessarily!


The first step is to manage cashflow daily. Here are some steps you can take to avoid bankruptcy and fix your company:

1. Control cash & cut unnecessary costs

  1. create a daily cash-flow report;
  2. approve each expense before it’s being spent;
  3. collect your accounts receivables as quickly as possible, and offer cash discounts for faster payment (it’s cheaper than paying your bank for a line of credit);
  4. delay payments to your vendors;
  5. consider switching to lower cost vendors for essential services & supplies;
  6. evaluate your staffing needs and keep only employees who are bringing in, making, or servicing sales; and
  7. immediately after the cuts, inform all employees of your action.

2. Meet with key personnel and your board of directors or advisors

  1. Form an Advisory Board that will help guide and support you through the process.
  2. Get your key employees together to have a candid discussion on how to fix the company, ask for their cooperation and seek advice based on their expertise.
  3. Always share the reason for changes with employees so that you get their cooperation in preparing and executing a rescue plan.

3. Always be prepared

  1. Don’t go into any meeting without a plan of your own;
  2. People lose confidence in leaders who lack a plan and vision for their business;
  3. The key in this type of meeting is to be self-assured, open-minded and flexible; and
  4. Share your plan with investors, management and key employees

4. Meet with your key customers

Many time customers get their information – or misinformation from rumors. Key customers are becoming nervous and some are even looking for alternative suppliers. Inform your customers about your situation and tell them how you plan to correct it; be reassuring, but not deceitful.

5. Meet with your suppliers

Your company’s suppliers get extremely nervous when they hear rumors that one of their customers is having trouble. Develop a payment plan for each vendor, outlining the problems and how you plan to deal with them. Also, consider looking for new suppliers, which may allow you some breathing room to pay your old suppliers slower. Work-out a detailed plan with your most valued vendors.

6. Contact tax authorities

If you cannot pay your taxes, notify the authorities and work out a payment plan with them.

NEVER EVER stop paying your employees’ tax withholdings – that’s considered THEFT – it’s their tax money that you deposit in their account with the state and federal tax authorities. It is a criminal offense not to pay sales tax you have collected on behalf of the government.

7. Contact your bankers

Have a face-to-face meeting with your bankers. Give them the bad news AND your action plan. Appear confident and reassuring and be specific with your request for assistance.

To assess what stage your company is at, list all the challenges you face and suggested solutions. Then, map the workflow & workload in each department, prioritize the steps you are to take, while re-evaluating the cost/benefit of each step. Have a detailed written business plan – including sales & marketing, operations, and financial information. Just preparing a spreadsheet with a budget is not enough, as you need to evaluate all internal areas of your business, and look outside to find out what your competitors are doing, and evaluate your product/service offerings and the value you offer to your competitors. This is extremely important as the example below will show:


Case Study Avoiding Bankruptcy

One of my former clients had a business of selling music and video CDs through big box stores, supermarkets, and other retail outlets. His business was profitable for almost 15 years, but he did not see the signs that the business was going to be eliminated by iTunes and other music download services, and by the new streaming services that started to emerge. When I was introduced to this business after it sustained a few years of losses, all that was left to do was to close it down while trying to minimize the losses of the owner, who had personal guarantees to his lender. We did that by strategically selling the remaining inventory to other companies, which in my opinion may have found themselves in the same situation at a later stage. In this case, the owner was able to pay his secured lender in full, and was released from his personal guarantees.


One of the most important keys to success is to first recognize that there is a problem, and then decisively deal with the issues at hand. The sooner you identify the signs of distress and act to rectify the situation, the better are the chances to turnaround your company and achieve profitability. If your skills are not suitable for this task, then call in an expert who can help you lead the turnaround. NYC Advisors may be able to help you, so Let’s talk.


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