Cash flow and insolvency

Last week I wrote a short blog post that was distributed to Landmark’s Online Copy subscribers; this service provides two draft blog/newsletter articles a week. The topic was insolvency and how small businesses can still find themselves technically insolvent if cash flow unexpectedly dries up, even if on paper their net asset position is positive.

The article is reproduced below. Feel free to use this. I recommend that you edit the copy slightly if you post to your website as this will avoid search engines treating the text as generic.

What exactly is insolvency?

The dictionary definition of insolvency is less than illuminating, it is:

The state of being insolvent…

Listed synonyms provide more detail:

bankruptcy · liquidation · failure · collapse · ruin · financial ruin · ruination · pennilessness · penury · impecuniousness · beggary · administration · receivership · folding · pauperdom

What these explanations do not provide is a definition of the state of insolvency. A simple definition could be the insolvency occurs when we are unable to meet our obligation to settle debts by the required due date.

In a business sense, a firm can be said to be insolvent its assets are less than its liabilities, but even this definition does not quite hit the spot.

Imagine that you use all your available cash reserves to purchase stock. To place this in a current context, you might consider this as a strategy to avoid supply line issues in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

You have no issue with doing this as you are owed a significant sum by your major customer that will restore your cash flow before bills and salaries are due at the end of the month.

But what happens if your customer is suffering cash flow issues and is unable to pay?

On paper, your business will be solvent. As long as your delayed payment from your customer does not become more serious, in time your cash flow will be restored, but how will you pay your bills at the end of the month?

Without private funds that you can introduce to see you through this impasse or the support of your bank, how will your staff and other creditors respond if you have to go cap in hand and explain there will be a delay in paying them?

Cash, liquidity, really is king, and lack of cash can actually place your business in the same position as an insolvent firm.

If you are concerned that you may be skating close to a cash flow crisis or a deeper insolvency, please call so that we can help you figure out your available options. For certain,  pretending that all will work out well in the end may not be the best strategy to apply.

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Bob Edwards

Bob has been working with practices across the UK offering novel ways to improve cross-sales and increase new client acquisitions. He is also interested in "step changes" in legislation that offer challenges, and therefore opportunities, for practitioners to provide new recurring and one-off support services to clients.

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