There are strategies that troubled companies can use to save themselves from dire straits and regain their former financial success. These same sort of strategies are valuable for business owners and financial executives to understand how their firms can avoid financial turbulence and failure.
We must first realize that business failure or bankruptcy never happens overnight. Normally there is a gradual trend of financial deterioration that is sometimes exacerbated by industry troubles. No doubt in the current 2009-2010 environment the auto industry is a poster child for a troubled industry, as an example.
Naturally firms that are on the very precipice of failure or bankruptcy do not have many options or time left. It has to fix itself, or sink. No business owners or entrepreneurs want to face bankruptcy, liquidation, and other creditor issues.
Do financially failing firms survive because of a revival in products or their services, or have they in fact executed on improved financial management. This is a challenging questions, because the very financial problems that beset a firm hinder it in getting new sales, acquiring inventory, and regaining supplier credibility.
Also, lets be realistic, banks and other finance companies do not throw themselves at failing firms with financial offers of loans, lines of credit, etc. In fact what usually happens is that the company is forced to pledge some or all assets at much higher rates, sometimes simply accentuating the financial problems that were already there.
So what are the financial strategies that a firm can undertake to avoid financial failure when it has been losing sales, not generating profits, and generally traveling down a potential death spiral?
There are three or four solid strategies that can save the firm. The first is ‘ assets ‘. The second is liabilities and debt, and the third we will simply call ‘ maneuverering ‘.
Assets have value. They can be sold, re financed,, or pledged to secure new financing. This type of strategy works best when it works for all parties, the company and the lender, or the company and another firm. However lets be clear that this is somewhat of a one shot strategy. It either must work or it doesn’t. Asset maneuvers have 3 stages of success: assets can be used to get a new loan, assets can be sold, or they can, in somewhat of a worst case scenario, be liquidated.
On the other side of assets on the balance sheet is debt and equity. Debt can be structured properly to ensure the lender gets a reasonable reward, and the company is able to both repay and survive. There are too many types of debt to consider for the purposes of this article – suffice to say that creativity in debt is somewhat unlimited. A firm could issue debt, as an example, and repay only when the company is earning profits again.This would normally entail higher rates, but again, as we have stated, the transaction has to make sense both for customer and lender. A solid alternative solution is to simply re – structure existing debt at new rates and amortizations.
Alternatively to debt a company with promise can bring in new equity or ownership. This is somewhat more risk for all as dilution of ownership is usually significant when a company is failing and bring in new equity capital.
Strategy 3: A firm sometimes has to look to the outside for help. Since the owners and managers are often too close to the problem it is somewhat of a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Outside consultants and industry experts can often bring a solution to the table. They have insights that management simply did not possess. These strategies include developing new sales and product strategies, bring in new management, or considering a strategic merger.
In summary, anyone who has worked through several business cycles over a number of years knows that companies can in fact be saved. Some go on to be the new super stars of their respective industry. The company must clearly uncover what the problem is, and then adapt strategies, financial or otherwise, to fix those problems