Finances, Debt & Analysis in the Turnaround

A company’s financial picture at any given time is vitally important to all stakeholders, and never more so than during a turnaround. Financial results are the yardstick by which the business is measured. Outside lenders, creditors, and buyers continually desire affirmation that the company is viable and will be able to continue to meet all of its obligations, including non-financial commitments. Additionally, management relies on this financial information to plan the strategies for the turnaround and future business growth.

Most financial information available has historically been of a reporting nature–it reports prior performance by means of accounting information. The assembly of reliable predictive information on a regular basis is an important step toward profitability; reports such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, cash flow projections, vendor analyses, equities, return on cash, and profits from sales must be generated.

The company’s cash position can be summed up as follows: the money in the bank plus anticipated revenues from sales and financing activities minus any expected payments for direct costs, indirect costs, and general and administrative expenses. The accounts payable portion of the cash position measures the company’s ability to pay current vendors and repay creditors for goods and services delivered. The accounts receivable position is a tabulation of expected sales and fees to be received during a given period. The difference between the two types of accounts is a quick, short-term indicator of the current financial condition of the company.

Complete listings of all bills owed and obligations accrued must be made prior to the release of monies from sales and financing activities. These bills are prioritized for payment–especially payroll, taxes, utilities, and subcontract labor. Secondary obligations are suppliers (unless sole sources), interest due lenders, retirement plan funding, leases, and equipment payments. Cash is only to be disbursed according to priority payment schedules; failure to abide by this rule, regardless of circumstances, will cause problems in restoring positive (or enhanced) cash flow and reduce the likelihood of successful implementation of the turnaround plan.

Debt Structure

A business’s debt structure dictates the profit necessary to amortize it. Accumulated debts to suppliers, lenders, and financing sources need to be determined and paid form the gross profit streams. Paying past-due accounts from loans leads to business failures. For this reason, the gross profit must be managed with extreme care. First, management must estimate the amount of money to:

  • repay creditors over a reasonable time (reasonable = 7 years for structured debt, biweekly for contract labor, monthly for suppliers, and quarterly for taxes),
  • pay creditors for the current portion (<45 days), and
  • pay past-due creditors while remaining current to maintain credibility.

Suppliers, 1099s, direct costs, and indirect costs should be paid from operating funds–not loans. General and administrative expenses should be paid from gross profits.

Creditors should be made a part of the turnaround plan. Analyze and prioritize all debts, contact them, and discuss the projected payment plan for the debt owed. Amortization schedules for their accounts need to be explained and agreed to. Input from other creditors can then be used to draft a scheduling document to complement the accounts payable plan. Taken as a whole, the schedule will aid management in disbursing funds.

Management Analysis

Accumulating data can be a time waste if not turned into timely, useful information. As marketing, operational, and financial numbers are compiled, it should form the basis of the management information system. The resulting analysis will test and challenge beliefs about the company’s competitive position. Critical assessment of trends, patterns, and tendencies can generate ideas to further one’s mission, goals, and objectives. 

Analysis and action should commence hand in hand as the return-to-growth process unfolds. Merely stabilizing is not a permanent solution, but rather a step in the process toward profitable growth. As analysis is performed, opportunities are generated by involving key personnel in problem-solving meetings on a regular basis–the team management concept. For example, a change in product quality to match buyer demand–such as reducing product size while adding features–may be an opportunity discussed in problem-solving meetings.

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