Self-confidence is a valuable trait for any CEO, but it should be blended with a willingness to accept help when it’s needed.

“You may have some trouble recognizing operational issues or early signs of operating challenges,” says Jorge Visitacion, senior vice president and team leader of the Capital Finance Division at Bridge Bank. “You may not want to admit there is a problem, but you need to recognize the early signs of a company that is in distress. If you don’t, the problem is only going to get worse.”

It’s not a sign of weakness to admit that your company is having trouble meeting financial obligations or that you need to bring in a third-party expert who specializes in financial turnarounds to help you get back on track.

Rather, it’s an indication that you’re willing to set aside your own ego and do what it takes to preserve the future of your business.

Smart Business spoke with Visitacion about how to identify those early warning signs and avert problems that can cripple your business.

How can hope and pride hurt your business?

Companies of all sizes and credit profiles are generally susceptible to the same challenges that can cause distress – whether it’s a factor that can be controlled by good management, or forces that are outside of anyone’s control, such as a recession.

The 2007 recession proved to be strenuous for a lot of companies as leaders relied on and hoped for a speedy recovery that didn’t come soon enough. The result was often the contraction of liquidity, or even insolvency for the company.

At that point, the odds of shoring up your liquidity with investors, lenders or equity sponsors become much greater.

How can you get an early read on trouble?

Look at what the market is doing, what your product is doing and where your margins are at, as well as the key components of your financial statements.

If you see a general decline in sales or cash flow, or slower turnover on your receivables in inventory or with payables, those are indicators that there could be a problem.

A strong relationship with your lender is crucial in identifying these indicators ahead of time. You may be hesitant to talk to lenders or creditors because you’re afraid you’ll be required to infuse additional capital or equity into your company.

You may also be concerned that the lender will reduce the line of credit you need to operate.

It may seem unfair, but a lender that loosens up on a credit structure to accommodate a distressed company with additional liquidity is only doing the borrower a disservice and potentially funding into the inevitable.

Companies that successfully recover from financial trouble do so because there is open communication and timely reporting from the borrower to the lender.

What assistance can a turnaround professional provide?

They can provide an unbiased, objective view of the overall financial health and condition of your business.

A turnaround professional can also be in a better position to put together a cash flow budget. It’s not going to be overly conservative or overly aggressive. It’s going to be realistic.

Lenders often have a contractual right to turn to turnaround professionals to help borrowers work through problems. They become the bank’s ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground.

What’s the key to finding the right match for your company?

Try to match the expertise of a turnaround professional with your specific industry.

You also want to look at their background and look at companies that they have worked with in the past. When you find the right person, or firm, they can often come in and within a couple days, identify what you need to do to solve your problem.

You have to view it as a partnership because you’re in it together. The ones who don’t want to work with their bank or with a turnaround professional more often than not end up filing for bankruptcy protection, or being liquidated by the bank.

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