As a business starts to run aground, certain key warning signs of potential insolvency will alert you to seek advice.
In this article we’ll explore what these are. And if you need help, please use the live chat or call us for free, confidential advice on your company situation.
What are the Warning Signs of Insolvency?
- Insufficient cashflow – If your company consistently lacks the funds to cover essential operating expenses it’s simply a matter of time before it becomes insolvent.
- Overdraft Limit – If your company is also functioning at the limit of your overdraft this is a clear indication of cash flow problems.
- Creditor pressure – Are you under pressure from creditors? A payment demand could be just around the corner if lenders, credit card companies, HMRC, mortgage providers or other creditors regularly chase you for payments. If payment is still not forthcoming, a winding up petition could be the next step.
- Wage commitments – A business’ inability to pay its employees is a common indicator of looming insolvency.
- Secured finance – Be aware if you are factoring and or have a secured loan you are vulnerable to having the bank take control of your business and put in a receiver to secure their assets.
- Constantly Dealing with Problems – If you are spending most of your time ‘fire fighting’ and preventing problems from escalating, rather than focusing on the day-to-day activities of your business, you need to take a serious look at the overall health of your business. Simply going from one problem to the next is a strong indicator that your business is struggling.
Why is it so Important to Get an Early Warning That a Company is in Financial Trouble?
It’s important to know if a business is in trouble because directors who continue to trade while insolvent risk fines, being made personally responsible for company debts, or even a potential disqualification from directorship, as a result
One aspect of insolvency that surprises so many company directors is just how quickly it can sneak up on you. You’ll be aware that you are experiencing some problems paying your debts, but there is a definite line between being in debt and being insolvent. This is a position that, as a company director, you must keep a careful eye on. As soon as the company becomes insolvent, you must act to maximise the creditors’ interests.
Tests for Limited Company Insolvency
Insolvency is not an instant or immediate state. It can take weeks, months or even years for a faltering business to become insolvent The two basic methods of assessing whether your company is insolvent are as follows:
(1) Balance Sheet Test
Are your companies liabilities greater than your assets?
(2) Cash Flow Test
Do you owe more money at any given time than you can pay? An accurate balance sheet calculation should include contingent as well as prospective liabilities.
We have created an easy to use insolvency test calculator here.
Some people consider the following a third part of the test:
(3) The Legal Action Test
If you have received a statutory demand or a County Court Judgement, you should know these are precedents a creditor could use to follow up with a Winding up Petition, a final payment demand after which your company could be forcibly liquidated. Any legal action may be taken as a strong warning signal.
Litigation Threats and Creditor Pressure are Strong Symptoms of a Failing Business
Already mentioned but worth reiterating is that, the threat of litigation is a huge indicator that insolvency could be on the horizon. If you’ve received a County Court Judgement, Statutory Demand or Winding up Petition, this means you have creditors who are extremely anxious to get what is owed them and are now using the legal system to do so. That legal system is designed to escalate the situation to a point where those creditors can be paid, or you will have to close your limited company.