No, this isn’t one of those articles about how to stop employees wasting time on the Internet.
I was pondering during my commute home whether there were any lessons that could be learnt from the game Angry-Birds and could be put to good use. Initially I dismissed the idea, despite the possibilities of claiming I was “only playing it for research purposes”, but it was an idea that refused to go away.
For the uninitiated, Angry Birds is a popular game, especially on smart phones, which is free and involves angry birds hurling themselves at evil green pigs in a satisfyingly destructive fashion. There are a variety of birds that can be used; small red ones that don’t do much, small blue birds that can turn themselves into three birds, bomb birds, speedy birds, you get the picture. The game was designed for use by stressed commuters, but frankly can be played expertly by toddlers.
Businesses in financial difficulties become skilled at fending off or at least delaying requests for payments from suppliers in order to juggle the cash flow. Most of these suppliers could be seen as the small unimpressive red birds – they get paid when it suits the business, unless they scream loudly. We all know HMRC are the equivalent of the black bomb birds – don’t pay and they will explode in a flurry of nasty letters and winding-up petitions/bankruptcy petitions that will destroy the business.
So far, so what? It’s the hidden threats that could destroy the business with little warning. The Angry Birds version of the white bird who drops eggs mid-flight that explode apparently from nowhere. The employee who claims constructive dismissal on the grounds of discrimination (uncapped awards can result), the large customer who suddenly goes into insolvency owing your business a substantial sum that means you now have to consider redundancies which you may not be able to afford, the bank decides it no longer wants to allow your business to use the overdraft, or the key supplier who unilaterally changes the terms of supply and demands payment within 7 days or worse on a pro forma basis for example.
Your business needs to adopt the green pig mentality in order to defend itself from the Angry Birds. In the game, the pigs start to wear tin hats and build defensive positions. I’m not suggesting that literally, but the first defence if you have a decent business weighed down with historic debts is your local Licenced Insolvency Practitioner. R3, the body that promotes advice from such regulated persons, has a handy website at www.r3.org.uk in order to find a local IP. The vast majority offer initial free meetings with no obligation and can suggest several ways of saving the business (yes, including the infamous “pre-pack” if appropriate) and letting it move forward without the burden of unaffordable debts. Key suppliers cannot be forced to supply you of course, but cashflow can be improved in order to ensure they are paid and supplies continue to flow. Again, licenced insolvency practitioners can become business advisers and help you restructure the business, or even introduce you to specialist turnaround advisers who can come into the business and help you on the ground save the business.
Choose the right licenced insolvency practitioner and the bank can be persuaded to change its stance and become more helpful. In some situations, banks have even increased the borrowing available to the business due to the efforts of the licenced insolvency practitioner and the trust engendered by taking professional advice from a trusted individual.
If you feel like your business is the green pigs under attack from myriad angry birds, it may well be time to take some friendly useful advice.
Next time, how Greece could be saved by Wii Sports…
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