Insolvency Practitioners and Businesses in Distress

The 3 most important things to a business in distress: CASH, CASH, CASH

Following the reaction to the interest rate increase by the Bank of England on November 2nd, and recent articles by Insolvency Practitioners that up to 500,000 UK businesses are at risk of insolvency, you could be forgiven for thinking that the UK really is in store for a ‘storm of insolvencies’. It is true to say that many companies are just about surviving and that uncertainty over the final Brexit settlement has added to the problem. However, as we point out, cash is king when it comes to the survival of a business. This article explains why and looks at some of the actions that companies should take to improve their cash flow and their future prospects.

Cash and Cash flow. Isn’t it Obvious that they are Important?

Yes, it is pretty basic and obvious really, but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t true and also crucial to success. It’s also true that many businesses are not all that good at managing their cash and cash flow.

All accountants and insolvency practitioners will tell you that if a business doesn’t already run one, then a cash flow forecast must be prepared. There are many advantages a cash flow forecast brings, but the key ones are: control and prediction.

This is because when managers of a business really buy into producing a cash flow forecast, they start to understand how important good credit control is and where potential pinch points are in the business’s working capital.  Once a manager has accurate cash flow information, then they are in a position where they can consider taking the right action to overcome a problem, either by reducing costs or negotiating delayed payments to suppliers/creditors in the most effective manner.

In other words, if you understand your business’s pinch points you can talk to suppliers or other key creditors (the bank or HMRC) ahead of time and with an understanding of where the business is and where it will be over the coming months. This will impress them, and, in our experience make it easier to negotiate agreed time scales if the business is going through a period of distress and needs a breathing space.

A cash flow forecast gives a business discipline, because it makes a manager consider profitability on every payment because cash flow is in essence the business’ profit and loss account in terms of cash. This is just as true in the good times as it is in the bad times. And a cash flow forecast can help a business predict a bad time more quickly than otherwise, and work with its advisors, including insolvency practitioners to turn things around.

What Sort of Cash Flow Forecast is Needed?

The gold standard of cash flow forecasts is a rolling 13 week fully integrated cash flow:

Can a Cash Flow Forecast Save a Business in Distress?

Businesses become insolvent for many reasons, and there are times when not a lot can be done if the reason is because of some sort of unpredictable external shock or rapid change in tastes/demand.

However, we also see a lot of businesses become insolvent due to a lack of information about the business and therefore lack of control. So even if there are as many distressed businesses around as mentioned at the start of this article, it’s a fair bet that a good proportion of them could go a long way to improving their future outlook by focusing on cash flow.

That doesn’t mean that all you need to do is have a cash flow forecast: it’s what you do with it that counts, and that can be tough. Generally speaking, we recommend that the following are considered and taken into account:

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Insolvency practitioners are not just here for the times when administration and liquidation are the only options. Very often we play a big role in helping businesses in distress take the action needed to help turn things around. Cash flow forecasting is just one of those tools. Contact us or call us on 0208 088 0633 for a FREE initial consultation with one of our team.