There are many reasons why your company could enter into a difficult period forcing you to reexamine your operations. Typical factors that drive companies into periods of distress include a struggling economy, high debt loads, loss of a key customers or vendor, or operational issues.
Business owners that quickly react when they find themselves in a crisis will stem the hemorrhaging before the company is beyond saving.
At times like this, we may be tempted to bury our head in the sand, but you would be better served to address the situation directly. Now is the time for you to assess your situation and act thoughtfully and quickly. Businesses that experience turbulence will need to react and adapt before their company is hurt more significantly than circumstances warrant.
What can a business owner do? Winston Churchill stated: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Meaning you have an opportunity to make substantial structural changes that you might have been hesitant to avoid disruption or employee resistance.
Ask the Difficult Questions
When you find yourself in this situation, you need to challenge all your assumptions. Assess your business and determine how you have been impacted and start to think about difficult decisions. Some of the questions we suggest you ask, include:
- How is my industry being affected by current events?
- What are the short-term and long-term issues that I need to be aware of?
- Are any of my customers at risk?
- If so, how will a loss of their business impact mine?
- Are my customers spending the way they had previously?
- If not, from which customers do I expect to see the most significant change?
- How long do I expect my customers to retrench?
- How confident do I feel about the current pipeline of orders?
- Do I have suppliers that are in trouble?
- Will I be able to keep my supplier base through this crisis?
- If not, what alternatives do I have?
- Will I be able to retain key employees?
- Will morale at the company be affected?
- Which job reductions will provide the most financial benefit with a limited impact on operations?
- Do I have enough cash to weather the current market conditions?
- What is my current burn rate?
- When do I expect cash to be at a critical level?
- What steps can I take today to defer a cash crunch?
- If I find my company running low on cash, do I have access to other sources of liquidity, such as a line of credit or my personal wealth?
- Do I want to access these other sources of liquidity?
- Are they too high?
- Which expenses can/should be reduced?
- What can I do to control them?
- Are there expenses I can eliminate or defer?
- What will be the long-term impact of these changes?
Line of Credit/Debt:
- Do I have access to a line of credit? If so, is it enough?
- Can the line of credit be increased?
- If I don’t have one, can I set arrange for one today, before I have liquidity issues?
Now Is the Time to Evaluate
Each of these questions addresses significant operational concerns. They all center around a company’s ability to generate revenue and pay its bills. The two most important topics are expenses and cash since the business owner has the most control over them.
Now is the time to evaluate your cost structure; this is critical since revenue will fall at a faster rate than expenses. If you are put in the unfortunate situation where costs outstrip income, you will need to access cash balances, credit lines, or personal wealth to keep the company operating.
When extraordinary circumstances arise, people tend to wait and hope the situation will turn around quickly or not impact them that greatly. Unfortunately, this may be wishful thinking. Delay in making critical decisions can lead to more difficult and painful circumstances in the near future.
In our experience, the companies that need help finding capital during a downturn almost always delayed in asking these difficult questions. Business owners who survive a crisis learn valuable lessons. During these periods, business owners figure out what needs to be done to survive.
These questions are not easy, but by facing them head-on, your business will thrive once the dust has settled.
PCE has helped numerous companies that have faced financial challenges. We are here to help you with our experience and advice.