Management

Facing Financial Crisis

by Joanne Leitschuh

Isn’t business fun when everything is going well? It’s great to come into the office on a Monday morning and find that the customers are happy and like your product, the orders and cheques are steadily coming in and the staff has a high level of job satisfaction. But, if you have ever worked for a small company, you know there might be bends, rocks, and times of stormy weather along with the smooth sailing! It’s not surprising that when introducing big new strategies, growth and development, that there needs to be a stable hand at the helm and a capable crew.

Managers in long established firms as well as entrepreneurs see that no one is immune from financial ruin. We’ve all heard of companies that were bright shining examples of a profitable business, but somehow disaster struck. Later, the business was able to turn itself around or -- you heard of it no more. Small companies can look out for warning signs. Perhaps its overdraft limit is regularly being reached. Maybe it has trouble paying its quarterly taxes and pensions. Does the company abuse suppliers’ credit? If you are an entrepreneur, it’s good to be an optimist, but it’s not wise to ignore short-term cashflow problems. Something needs to be done. Maybe the business is growing too fast. There also could be a problem with funding or a plan has gone wrong.

Andrew Saunders, in an article written for Management Today, interviewed David Hayden, founder of a serviced e-mail provider, Critical Path. Hayden’s large company was highly successful but then it faced a devastating financial crisis. It was amazing how he turned it around. Here are some of his suggestions in preventing financial ruin:

1.) Face up to your difficulties and what’s causing them. Ignoring that month-end cashflow problem isn’t going to make it go away.
2.) Be a leader, not just a manager. Communicate your vision of where the business needs to go and promote people who are prepared to share it. Get rid of those who aren’t.
3.) Don’t try and do everything yourself. Stick to what you are good at and let others do the rest. If you’ve got the right team, they’ll thank you for it.
4.) If you don’t keep decent accounts, start now. And check them regularly. Too many small businesses fail because they have no proper accounting system and don’t spot trouble until it’s too late.
5.) Be honest. If you screwed up, admit it and say sorry. Staff, investors and even the bank manager will respond better to the unvarnished facts and an apology than to fudged half-truths that later turn out to be false.
6.) Commit yourself. Turnarounds are tough – better walk away now if you’re not prepared to put everything you’ve got into it.” 1

Some of Hayden’s suggestions could be helpful when facing financial difficulties, but it is tempting to panic when you are right in the middle of it! Like all crises in life, the only way through in peace and rest is to live from the inside out. If our hearts are true and clean, and we believe that we are being led by Someone who created us for a purpose, we can be assured that He will show us the next step. Each detailed plan and continuous action will bring in the business that is needed. For me, when I face tough times, the bedrock of my trust in God is exposed. Turnaround in a business occurs when each and everyone of the team does not only do what is expected, but is being alert to new and better ways of growth – professionally and personally.

Financial danger seems to come when there is not only neglect in the basics of good accounting, but when stagnation and complacency is present in hearts and minds. Sure, we can all get revved up to work harder and longer to avoid financial ruin, but success comes in the daily, minute-by-minute, simple obedience to what we believe we are supposed to put our hand to: the mail-shots, the phone calls, the polished presentations, the eye on expenses and the attention to service. God can do miracles – IF we ask. Business is a perfect arena for a living, active faith that involves all of the nitty gritty details of debits and credits. Good strategies for a financial turnaround are definitely better when they are not man-made.

1, 2. Saunders, Andrew, “How to Drag Your Firm Back From the Brink”, Management Today July, 2002.

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