After 28 years running his successful IT company, a series of events, including a failed acquisition, left former Dataflex managing director Brian Evans scrambling to save his business from collapse.
After enduring almost two years of financial and personal stress, he said seeking the assistance of a professional business restructuring and recovery team helped him negotiate and survive the hard times.
“To have someone to come in who knows the landscape, knows what emotions you’re feeling and to hold your hand and talk you through it … it’s a saviour,” Mr Evans said.
“They sat down with me, discussed the options and showed me a path forward.”
Mr Evans said as a business owner employing 50 to 60 staff across Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, he was “crushed” when Dataflex went into administration, but he felt immense relief when RSM partners Jonathon Colbran and Frank Pilato stepped in and took the reins.
“Many of my staff had been working with me for many years, and they were like family,” he said.
“RSM got involved and looked after everything so that everyone got what they were entitled to.
“Staff and creditors were looked after as best as possible. It was an enormous weight off my shoulders.”
Mr Colbran said while it was too late to restructure and turn around the business, he worked with Mr Evans to navigate through the administration process and was always conscious of the things that were important to him, including supporting the staff to ensure “as soft a landing as possible”.
He said many businesses are now really struggling due to the extended effects of the Omicron variant and it’s crucial for business owners, boards, shareholders or directors of not-for-profit groups to seek advice early if they are concerned about where their organisation is heading.
“It’s a common scenario that people are too scared to ask for help and often ring us when it’s too late,” he said.
“A business owner might be working 100 hours a week thinking they’ll get through it, or refinancing their house and investing in a business that’s not making money, but they’re often not dealing with the underlying problems.
“The key is to talk to somebody early on and explore the options that are available to help navigate through the difficult times.
“Depending on the type of business, there are about 10 different solutions that we can provide before we get to the two at the very end of the road – bankruptcy and liquidation.”
Being proactive, talking to a trusted advisor and having a ‘plan B’, especially during these uncertain times, can help business owners understand what options are available to them – whether they’re a sole trader, a large business or a not for profit.
Mr Colbran explained recovery experts can also discuss exit strategies to allow business owners to wind up their companies and get on with their lives if they choose that option.
“Following an initial phone call, we sit down with the business owners to discuss their concerns and their priorities and get a snapshot of the financial position of their business. From there we can map out a number of options that they can consider and choose from,” he said.
“We rarely need to step in and take control and the last option we discuss is bankruptcy or liquidation.
“People are often surprised by the options that are available to them to save their business, save their home or compromise debts.”
Following advice from his solicitor, Mr Evans sought professional help which took the stress out of a situation that was beyond his control.
“It’s not like you set out to go into administration, but when that’s the only option, the boys held my hand and helped me through it every step of the way,” he said.
“There’s nothing worse than trying really hard to do something and it fails. It’s heartbreaking.”
He said, like himself, many business owners struggle through with a “she’ll be right” attitude, but he recommends seeking advice when the writing is on the wall, “as opposed to sitting there trying to do it yourself with the wheels spinning and getting further into debt. I’d say they should be getting help as soon as possible”.
“I’m back to the person I was many years ago because the burden is gone. I probably haven’t been as happy as I am right now, ever.”