October 30, 2013

An Unconventional Path from “In Transition” to New Career

mazeby Cheryl Crumb

I reconnected with a colleague today who was “right-sized” by his employer after 15 years. He told me he’s currently an “in transition consultant”, a way to put food on the table while scrambling to find a new job.

In these uncertain times with high performers out of work, here are some less conventional ways to proceed.

Become conscious of your mood

The first step is simple, but not easy. Examine and reflect whether you’re feeling bitter about your “ex” and how you were unfairly treated after years of faithful service. While resentment is natural — and there are hundreds of friends who will fuel the evilness of The Dastardly Company — it’s essential to consciously put energy into accepting the situation.

Why … especially because feeling “victimized” makes you feel so “right” and them so “wrong”?
As human beings, we’re always communicating, and people can “hear” what we don’t say loudly. In other words, our bitterness will be evident to potential new employers, and that’s not something they find attractive. Employers are looking for resilient people with positive attitudes.

Consider that resentment is a choice we make (albeit unconsciously). That opens the possibility of our choosing acceptance, a counter-intuitive, but healthy alternative. To do so, we need to find a way to reframe the situation that allows us to move on to the future rather than getting stuck in the past. How? Come up with reasons why the business decision to let you go was smart. It’s not about right/wrong, but moving yourself through the change process.

Don’t automatically drift

The second step is to realize that we can design our future or drift into the future. Again, it’s our choice.

Let’s call my colleague “Fred”, and his project “Designing Fred”. Rather than drifting into applying for jobs similar to what he did previously (knee-jerk reaction), “designing” has two components “Reading Fred” and “Reading the World”. The former is getting to know yourself better and the second is increased knowledge on the world (business) since you will be uniting both.

Take a computer/pencil/paper and jot down answers to the following questions. Keep a journal so you can reflect, input, wait, sleep on it and input more. Allow yourself to float in the questions rather than look for “right” answers.
Reading Fred
  • What is the value that you bring to an organization? (This is not “resume speak”.)
  • What are activities you love doing, even if they don’t add up to a “job”?
    • For each, what about it gives you energy and joy?
  • If you could design the worst job in the world for you, what would it be asking you to do?
  • What are your talents? (Don’t be shy.)
  • What were key moments for you in life? What did they offer you or what did you learn?
  • What haven’t you done, but the thought sounds exciting? Why?
  • What environment brings out the best (worst) in you?
Ultimately, you’re a collection of talents and preferences that shouldn’t be constrained by the jobs you’ve previously held.

Reading The World
Your access to “the world” is through perceptions of senior level people in various fields. Your goal is to engage them in provocative conversation, not to sell yourself as a possible candidate, but to learn insights and perspectives. Consciously get outside of your comfort zone industries. Questions to ask them might include
  • As you look off to the future, what are the challenges you see organizations facing?
  • What are the changes you see coming down the pipe?
  • What is different about what you’re looking for now compared to a few years ago?
  • What kinds of jobs/roles are becoming more (less) necessary?
  • What are lessons you’ve learned from your customers/suppliers/shareholders?
  • Where recently were you blindsided? What did you learn from that?
  • What lessons have you learned through success and failure?

The results

Why are the questions valuable? These are the issues that will drive job creation. Consider that a job is the gap that exists between the world as it was and the world as it’s becoming. Why might an executive even engage with you? I believe that profound and extraordinary conversations are a gift to executives. These questions help them articulate thoughts never uttered but dancing in their heads.

So, if you were downsized out … consider that your Ideal Future might be something more invigorating than a repetition of the past.
Cheryl CrumbCheryl Crumb helps you get customers for keeps. She is an ISO 9000 accredited trainer, coach, transition consultant and facilitator who designs training programs to fit specific corporate needs. You’ll find more details on her website, the Experion website and LinkedIn.

October 23, 2013

Emotional Restructuring: The Sink and Drown Approach

sink and drown?by Florian Meyer

When you finally admit to yourself that your business is in trouble, you also have to admit to yourself that it was probably something you’ve done wrong that has left you in this position. And, you have to admit that fixing it will require you to make some emotionally difficult changes. Dr. Phil says, “If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep on getting what you got”.

But, it’s not always easy to see what you did wrong. And, when creditors are climbing all over you, it’s even more difficult to rationally identify what you need to change to solve the problem. “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp.”

Outside Help

Admitting that you need unemotional, objective, outside advice from someone with more experience at helping distressed businesses recover is a good first step.

Perhaps you’ve engaged consultants in the past only to end up feeling like you’ve paid them to tell you what you already know. As the joke goes, “When you ask consultants for the time, they’ll grab your wrist and tell you what time your watch says it is”.

The right consultant won’t tell you what you already know nor tell you what you necessarily want to hear. That’s just another version of “doing what you’ve been doing”. You can’t fix a problem you refuse to acknowledge. The solution begins by casting off that sense of failure, those feelings of guilt and self-blame over your inability to repay all your debts, and by committing yourself to taking those hard-to-swallow pills prescribed by your “business doctor”.

Chief Restructuring Officer

That “doctor” is usually referred to as a Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO). CROs specialize in healing distressed businesses. It’s important to remember that yours is not the first business they’ve helped recover from a tough financial dilemma. And, you have to remember that you’re paying them to tell you the unvarnished, painful truth and for recommending proven methods that have helped others in similar financial straits.

Yet, even the most experienced and successful CRO’s can lose the battle when their clients refuse to emotionally accept the forthright, unbiased recommendations that have worked so well for others. The most perplexing and frustrating challenge is the client who pays for a CRO’s well-founded advice and then chooses to ignore it completely. Isn’t that just another version of “doing what you’ve been doing?” You can throw a drowning man a life ring, but he has to choose to reach for it.

Case Study

In one particular case, we were asked to help a client after the bank moved its account to the Special Loans Department (for distressed companies). By the time we were engaged, its future was already looking very bleak.

The business was founded and successfully operated by the same family for over fifty years and distributed its products nationwide. However, the current family members who managed it were in positions that did not really suit their skills and abilities. Ineffective management that went uncorrected for too long progressively eroded the company’s financial health. Some were encouraged to move into positions that better suited their individual talents. Others, who decided to resign, were offered career counselling and financial support. The remaining family members were supported by existing professional managers and further strengthened by promoting other staff from within and hiring other managers from outside.
Creditor Proposal
Even with the improved management restructuring, we knew that the company could not survive unless it could jettison some of the debt from its very weak balance sheet. Rather than being forced into outright bankruptcy, the better approach for the company (and for its creditors) was to submit a Creditor Proposal under the Bankruptcy Act.

Suppliers had provided a lot of product (inventory) on credit. But, that inventory proved to be unsalable. Much of it had to be severely discounted or written off completely. A Creditor Proposal would, in effect, acknowledge that the unsecured creditors would have to share in the losses from the non-marketable inventory by accepting a reduced payment for those items over a number of years. The alternative was to receive nothing at all as the company slid into bankruptcy. Air Canada, among other notable companies, put itself through a Creditor Proposal, and is now reporting record profits.
When we proposed this option to the family members, they would not for an instant consider it nor investigate it as the logical and best approach for all parties involved. We threw them their life ring, and they chose not to reach for it.
Plan B
Instead, they went to one of the larger suppliers and asked for time to pay off their debt in return for an ownership position in the family-owned business. Consultants can only recommend – they can’t ultimately decide for their clients. If the family was adamant about taking this approach, we could only recommend that they offer only a minor ownership percentage that would allow the family members to retain control of the business.

Under the completely legal and frequently utilized Creditor Proposal, a company’s equity position is not compromised in any way. It would have left the family still owning 100% of the business. After the proposal had been fully paid off, the company would be in a much stronger financial position. The bank would most likely have removed its unfavourable Special Loans status, and it would clearly be worth a lot more should the family later decide to sell all or part of their business.

Instead of reaching for the life ring that would pull it to safety, the family, in its panic, grabbed an anchor that would pull the business, and them with it, to the bottom.
Tough Terms
They chose, instead, to offer the supplier a 45% ownership in the business with no additional cash injection or investment. The supplier modified the offer and accepted a 50% interest with immediate voting control over the business. AND, it included an option to take 100% control of the business.
The supplier take-over did nothing to strengthen the company’s financial position. It was still left facing very tough financial and operating decisions. The supplier had effectively used a previously written-off bad debt to acquire another company with no additional expenditure of cash. It then assumed complete control of its operations and moved it to a new location. The one family member that the new owner continued to employ was demoted from his senior position to a minor mid-level management job on a very short leash.
The Outcome
Jumping forward 18 months, we read in the business section of a national newspaper that the business was sold for over $30,000,000, and the original family members did not receive one penny from it. They were scraped away with only partial proceeds from the building they owned, and the last employed family member was asked to leave with a small severance.

Subsequently, the family came back to us and asked, “Why didn’t we listen to you about that Creditor Proposal?”

And, all we could say was, “Yes – why didn’t you?”

Florian MeyerFlorian Meyer is resourceful and imaginative Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) who maximizes the benefits of restructuring for the business. As a client recently said, “You never give up until a great solution has been developed and implemented.”
Florian has an MBA and CPA, CA and is a Principal of Newhouse Partners Inc. He has been consulting as interim CFO and CRO to a number of private and public companies since 1996, You can reach Florian at fmeyer@newhousepartners.com or 416-873-8684. You will find more details on the Experion Group website and LinkedIn.

October 16, 2013

Why Employers Need An Employment Policy Manual

by Jim White
A well-written Employment Policy Manual will clarify many of the expectations within the workplace. It will also minimize your risk of facing expensive litigation, such as a wrongful dismissal or a constructive dismissal lawsuit, by ensuring that your current employment practices conform to current employment-related legislation and case law. An Employment Policy Manual is like an insurance policy.

If you should find yourself facing a judge defending yourself against an employment-related lawsuit, the only reasonable defence that will work for you will be based on the documentation that you can provide that clearly shows due diligence on your part. The Employment Policy Manual, along with a clear ‘paper trail’ of disciplinary notes, etc., will be an important part of that due diligence defence.
From the point of view of your employees, both current and prospective, the Employment Policy Manual will clarify much of what is, or will be, expected of them during their employment. It will also clarify and communicate what they can expect of you, their employer.

The best employees will be looking for employment with organizations that present their employment practices in a clear and confident manner.

Ideally, the workplace expectations should be clearly communicated before the employment relationship is established. A copy of the Employment Policy Manual should be given to the prospective employee as part of the employment contract.

A well-written Employment Policy Manual, along with consistent application of those policies, will:
  • clarify and communicate many of the general expectations of the workplace;
  • ensure that everyone in the organization has the same understanding of the general parameters (non-job specific) within which they work;
  • help to ensure a degree of consistency in operations, output and quality;
  • be useful as a training and orientation tool;
  • serve as an arbitration device in the event of disputes;
  • be the basis for performance management, including discipline;
  • reflect the “personality” of the organization;
  • support good employer-employee relations;
  • attract the ‘right’ employees to the organization; and
  • reduce the chances of expensive litigation.
Jim WhiteJim White, JSW & ASSOCIATES, has over 40 years of experience involving close interaction with a very wide variety of organizations. He believes that one of the most important responsibilities of management in any organization is to ensure that all employees understand what is expected of them. You can contact Jim by e-mail at jwhite@j-s-w.com. You’ll find more about Jim on the Experion website and LinkedIn.

June 09, 2013

Cash Management

piggy bank with trail of coinsby James Phillipson and David Balmer

Cash management is essentially the process of managing working capital. One way to get a high level view of your business is to calculate its cash conversion cycle. This is the time that it takes to convert cash outflows that are needed to produce goods into cash through sales and collection of accounts receivable.


An example would be for CN Railway using their 2010 annual financial statements:
34.1 Days Receivable-$775 (Accounts Receivable)/$8,297 (Sales) x 365 days
14.5 Days Inventory-$210 (Material and Supplies)/$5,273 (Operating Expenses) x 365 days
(46.7) Days Payable-$675 (Trade payables and payroll)/$5,273 (Operating Expenses) x 365 days
1.9 Days

In their case, receivables and inventory are almost entirely financed by payables, so an increase in sales will require a minimal increase in working capital.


Management of a business should calculate the cash conversion cycle separately for different lines of business and for different geographic areas. A consolidated set of financials can mask significant differences between different businesses and countries.

The cash conversion cycle can be speeded up by collecting receivables faster, lowering inventory levels, and stretching payable payments. These actions can have consequences. Speeding up collections by implementing stricter collection and credit policies can reduce sales, as slow paying customers may no longer qualify for credit and other customers may switch to suppliers who do not demand payment as quickly. Reducing inventory may increase the chances of having to stop production because materials may have run out, or turning away business because the inventory to produce certain products may not be on hand. Stretching payments to suppliers can result in missed discounts, late charges, higher prices to finance delayed payments and delayed shipments until payment is received.

Accounts Receivable

Management of accounts receivable is influenced by a company’s credit policies, billing procedures and collection practices.

1. Credit policies and terms are critical for determining a company’s credit exposure. This will determine the risk profile of the customer and your credit exposure (credit limit).
  • Have a procedure to set and approve credit limits. Your gut is a bad prescription.
  • Use a credit application form to gather information and obtain permission to gather information from third parties such as credit rating agencies, banks and other suppliers.
  • Ask for financial statements.
  • Use credit agency reports and set up alerts for significant changes in ratings so that you can review a customer’s credit limit, based on the reasons for the change.
  • Review all credit limits at least annually and larger limits more frequently.
2. The information system that monitors AR should be integrated with the credit policies and terms, so that sales are in compliance and it will facilitate receivables management such as aging receivables.

3. How soon after shipment are sales invoiced? Delays in invoicing mean delays in receiving cash. A number of companies pay based on when they receive the invoice rather than the invoice date. How are the invoices delivered? Electronically, fax or mail?

4. How are you being paid?
  • Electronic credit to your bank account eliminates problems in collection. Either you have been paid or not. You can make this part of your terms of sale.
  • Cheques in the mail result in payment delay (mail float), deposit delays (going to the bank), uncertainty about payment (did they really issue the cheque) and risk of a mail strike delaying payment.
  • Reduces fraud as payments are made through the banking system so risk of cheque diversion is eliminated.
5. Do you have collection procedures about how overdue payments are followed up, who follows up, how they follow up and how they report progress to management?
  • Calculate days sales outstanding taking account of seasonality and analyze reasons for changes.
  • Set targets and compensate collections people for achieving them.
  • Make collections someone’s job and include it in their job description. Specify time to be allocated.
  • Collection calls should be polite and professional with the aim of moving your invoice(s) to the top of the pile.
  • Keep notes, follow up and diarize. Consider collection software.
  • Call before payment is due and shortly after, if it is not received. They must anticipate receiving the call. Establish a relationship.
  • Call at least weekly, when the invoice is overdue.
  • Ask for a commitment to pay. Ask for post-dated cheques.
  • Make it easy for them to pay by picking up cheques and accepting credit card payments.
  • Consider offering discounts for payment now.
  • Review the credit terms with them.
  • Management must manage the collection process.
  • Cut them off until they pay
  • Consider deposits/retainers/progress payments to reduce exposure.
  • Negotiate and renegotiate payment terms.
  • Escalate if not making progress on receiving payment, by using collection agencies and as a last resort, lawyers.
6. If you have a few larger customers, you may get a better result by having one person establishing an ongoing dialogue with them.

7. If your sales force is compensated by commission, consider changing the commission structure so that they are paid when the customer pays you.


Inventory is critical to most company’s sales and production activities. The amount of inventory being held depends on the company’s objectives.

Sales change over time so it is useful to determine how many months of sales each inventory item represents based on say the past 3 month’s sales/production volume.

Consider your supply lines, their length and the risk of interruption, and set policies accordingly.
For most slow moving inventory, focus on the maxim “cash is king” and liquidate it.
The information system that monitors inventory should be integrated with the production or sales systems to facilitate determination of aging, economic order quantities, supply alternatives, etc.

Accounts Payable

The primary objective is to make authorized payments to suppliers on a timely basis at an appropriate cost.

1. Consider using purchasing and other credit cards for high-volume, low dollar purchasing to, reduce processing costs, allow front end controls on types of purchases, and improved spending reporting. This can aid in negotiating supply agreements for specific types of purchases, such as office supplies.

2. Consider using electronic payments to pay suppliers, which will eliminate the costs of issuing cheques, reconciling and use of bank services such as positive pay to reduce fraud.

3. Electronic payments will also ensure that suppliers receive payments on time to earn cash discounts. A 1% discount for paying earlier is currently significantly more than the interest that can be earned on investing surplus cash.

4. Consider using payee positive pay, in addition to regular positive pay which just checks the cheque number and amount, against the issue file that you send to the bank.

5. Analyze your trade payables to determine which payables can be stretched without penalties. There are significant penalties for not paying some obligations on time such as payroll, and taxes in general. Utilities can and do shut off access to their services for non-payment.

6. Stretch your credit terms with selected suppliers to determine how sensitive they are to delays in payment. Explore the limits of their tolerance.

A focus by the CFO of a business on the management of the cash conversion cycle will often reduce significantly the working capital tied up in the operations of the business and release cash for re-investment. An excellent way to improve, and ensure that this focus is maintained, is to change the bonus structure to link the bonus to achieving working capital targets.
David Balmer CA CTP(CD)David Balmer is a Chartered Accountant with over twenty years of Treasury experience with companies such as RJR Nabisco, Cott Corporation and Maple Leaf Foods Inc. He has presented at treasury conferences in Canada and the United States. He has also earned treasury designations from treasury organizations in both the United States and United Kingdom. You’ll find more details on LinkedIn.

James PhillipsonJames Phillipson is a Chartered Accountant and a Principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc. with over twenty years experience in large and small businesses. He has provided financial counselling to his clients since 1996, often in the role of or as a coach to a Controller or Chief Financial Officer. James has experience in financial roles in a wide variety of businesses and industries. Contact James at James@MastermindSolutions.ca. You’ll find more details on the Experion website and LinkedIn.

May 30, 2013

Better - Faster - Cheaper

Skiingby Jay Perry

Regardless of what business we are in, we will always be challenged with a common task: to provide a product or service Better - Faster - Cheaper.

Look at any business. It is the same challenge. From the logging industry to manufacturing cars to computers to television news, always a better mouse trap. You are in business. What makes you think you are immune to the same challenge? You are not.

The Challenge

The challenge will always be the same. That sameness is actually providing the difference in the “day-to-day” that keeps us going to the shop to open the doors. Without having a challenge, you would have no interest in your business. As an owner, manager or supervisor, the job of looking for continued improvement to the efficiencies of your operation should be your primary concern.

Customers are no longer willing to pay for industry’s inefficiencies. Consumers are more educated (and protected) than before, also making demands that stretch our abilities. They make “unreasonable” requests. I say to you those “unreasonable” requests are going to be the new standard for minimum performance by your business. It is the business that responds to the marketplace’s requests that will soar above the crowd of competitors.

Keep Looking

Also, you should always be on the lookout for people to assist you in improving your business, making it run smoother, developing into a better place to do business for the community you serve. The people can come from outside your industry or could be as close as one of your vendors. Keep your eyes open for people who have a caring attitude toward others and enroll them into the supporting of your business.

The Lime

Here is an actual experience.
When I arrived into town late one evening, I went to the hotel restaurant. I felt like having a beer. After ordering one, I asked a server for a lime wedge. The woman I asked this of was not my server but one of the regular staff, filling salt shakers. After she was gone for what seemed a long time, she returned with a little bowl full of lime wedges. I asked her what had happened. She informed me that the kitchen was out of limes so she had to go clear across the hotel’s casino (very large) to the bar to get some for me. I recognized this as someone who would not let anything stand in her way of making the customer happy and subsequently talked to her about a job as Customer Service Rep at one of my clients’ businesses. She interviewed and took the job offer. She become their best performer in the month of December of her inaugural year.
You need to lookout for people who can make a contribution because they hold the view that part of their purpose is to help others. With the continuous improvement they can bring to your business, you can do what you do better, faster and cheaper.
Jay Perry
Improve the processes and you change the culture. Ally Business Coaching helps progressive companies manage both aspects of these kinds of transformations. Leadership is developed in people, not trained. With over 20 years of experience in developing leaders through a coaching style, Jay brings quick, effective and permanent improvements to clients all over North America. Here are the complete services. You’ll find more about Jay on the Experion website and LinkedIn.

May 15, 2013

Survive and Thrive In Turbulent Times

turbulenceby James Phillipson

When a business encounters turbulent times, there are many ways that the CFO/Controller and CEO can face the challenges to enhance the financial position and significantly improve opportunities to restore business growth. These strategies enhance the likelihood of the business surviving turbulent times and being put in a position to thrive again, when the environment improves.

Cash flow management

The management of cash flow is one of the cornerstones of most successful businesses and becomes much more critical when a business goes through turbulent times. We all agree that “cash is king” but many businesses leave the decisions about cash flow management to the clerical level staff and only occasionally instruct that minor changes be made. The CFO/Controller and CEO must have management of cash flow as one of their key areas of focus during challenging times.

Consider the possibility of your biggest debtor (often your biggest customer) being unable to meet established payment terms. In many businesses this would cause a potentially fatal cash flow crisis. This is not an unforeseeable event for many businesses in today’s economic climate.

So many actions can be taken to improve cash flow from working capital that it often only requires some focus and a determination to find the best way to reduce your risk. The first place to focus your attention is on collection of accounts receivable. See the article on speeding up the collection of receivables in the Mastermind archives

Consider your ability to release cash tied up in your business by managing the following:
  1. Payment of suppliers
  2. Reduction of inventory
  3. Speeding up the production cycle

Banking Facilities

We have all heard that “a banker is someone who only wants to sell you an umbrella when the sun is shining,” or some variation on that. Certainly, if you expect to have a downturn in financial results in the next few months, then now is the best time to ask for an increase in the facility that you have with your bank and to seek out other sources. After a downturn in operations causes the need for a larger facility, it is difficult to convince a banker that you are deserving of his umbrella — much better to ask before there are a few months of reduced profitability or even losses.

Key Performance Indicators

Take a few minutes to carefully assess the trends in your ratios and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) over the last two years. Consider how you can reverse any adverse trends and how you can improve those that are stable. It often helps to consider each of the factors in the calculation of the KPI, not just the result, as that is where the action step will need to be taken to yield the result. For example, when assessing the KPI of Days Sales Outstanding, examine the amounts outstanding from individual customers – say the twenty largest balances and any balance that is more than X days outstanding.

Update the KPI regularly and incorporate them into the ongoing reporting and management of the business. Include them in the budgeting process and report the KPI compared to budget.
Ensure that you investigate and take action on any KPI that changes from expectation. Challenge your management to improve on selected KPIs each month. For example, make next month the month in which you challenge your management to improve Days Sales Outstanding by 10% (and then illustrate the success by showing the effect on cash flow).

Ratios have the ability to reflect trends that are not easy to spot. If you track and graph your ratios on a monthly basis, with comparatives to previous periods and budget, you should be able to easily explain why a ratio has changed and what you propose to do to manage the situation, for better or worse.

For example, the Days Sales Outstanding and Days Inventory on hand are often effective warnings about cash flow problems and usually the first sign that more analysis and focus is required, so that management can develop a solution.

Disposal Of Non-core Assets

Consider every asset in your business as a candidate for disposal – no exceptions! There are often assets hidden in categories where the component part can be sold. For example, slow moving inventory, surplus or old equipment, waste, scrap, by-products, accounts receivable, business units, lines of business, product lines, etc.

If your challenge is caused by a downturn in business volumes, consider selling or sub-letting surplus space. One creative idea, in certain circumstances, is to “sell” your surplus capacity to a non-competing business that would need the same equipment. In other words, your business becomes a sub-contractor for them. A simple application is to use surplus space to provide storage for another business.

Take a page from retail businesses that sometimes have concessions in their premises, selling products that complement their lines of business. This can generate cash flow from the rental charge for the space, as well as draw additional traffic to your store. Is there a way to apply that to your business?
James PhillipsonJames Phillipson is a Chartered Accountant and a Principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc. with over twenty years experience in large and small businesses. He has provided financial counselling to his clients since 1996, often in the role of a Controller or Chief Financial Officer, for both public and private corporate clients. James has experience in financial roles in a wide variety of businesses and industries. This includes several large corporations and many medium-sized public and private companies. James can be contacted at james@mastermindsolutions.ca or 905-731-8255. You’ll find more details on the Experion website and LinkedIn.

May 02, 2013

Bankruptcy – ‘Creditor Proposal’ As A Business Funding Model

Gold coin graphby Florian Meyer

Hard as you try, does it feel like your business always has more debt than it can pay off? You’ve spoken to your banker, your family and friends, and no one is able to offer you any financial help. Does the constant debt pressure make you wonder whether it would be better to just throw in the towel and bankrupt the business? No … not yet!!!

There is a solution that could provide you with the breathing room you need to help you recover. And it’s legal.

Within the Canadian Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act (BIA), you are allowed to make a proposal to deal with your creditor debt and remain in business.

How To Start

First, you need to engage a Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) and a Trustee. The CRO works inside the business with you to develop and monitor a clear plan for moving the business into a more positive financial position and to encourage you to make some of the hard strategic decisions.

The Trustee works with you for the benefit of the creditors. The Trustee begins by preparing a Notice of Intention to File a Proposal (NOI) that is filed with the courts. That stays all creditor actions against you. In other words, creditors are legally prevented from doing anything to collect on the existing outstanding debts.

After the NOI is filed, you have to ensure that all obligations incurred in the future are paid as they become due. Within ten days of filing the NOI, you have to file a Cash Flow Plan with your Trustee and the courts. The Cash Flow Plan shows how you expect the company to generate enough cash flow to cover any new debts plus a portion of the historical debts that were stayed by the courts. Your CRO will help you prepare the Cash Flow Plan and will help present it to your Trustee.

The Creditor Proposal Meeting

With the cash flow filed, you have 20 days to develop a plan for the business and a plan to repay a portion of the historical debts before you are required to have the Creditor Proposal Meeting. It’s often possible to get extensions of up to six months for having the Creditor Proposal Meeting as long as the creditors are not disadvantaged. An extension requires court approval and needs a reasonable justification, such as: 
  1. You have not negotiated a settlement with the secured creditors, or
  2. Another activity that needs to be completed before the proposal is ready to be presented to the creditors.


Generally, you will offer to repay 15% to 20% of the existing, unsecured debt over a three to four year period. You send a cheque monthly to the Trustee who annually distributes the payment among all the creditors included in the NOI. The Trustee’s fees to administer the process are paid out of the pool allotted to pay the creditors, with no additional cost to you.

Bear in mind that a Creditor Proposal will not reduce your obligation to pay off any bank loans or other secured debts. By obtaining a secured interest for their loans, the secured creditors have acquired a legal interest in some or all of your company’s assets. You and your CRO will have to negotiate with them to arrange a repayment plan that eventually pays those debts in full.

After the Cash Flow has been filed and a repayment plan has been negotiated with your secured creditors, the CRO will work with your unsecured creditors to obtain their verbal agreement to the plan. Finally, the Trustee will hold an official Creditor Proposal Meeting to receive legal and court approval of the process.


The Creditor Proposal Process gives you a legal avenue for reducing your unsecured debt to a more manageable range of 15% to 20% with a defined schedule of how it will eventually be paid off. With the assistance of your CRO, you will develop a go-forward plan to bring your finances back to a much healthier position. Your CRO will help you negotiate an achievable repayment plan with your secured creditors and help you look for additional sources of financing, if needed. And, your time can be more effectively devoted to managing and improving the business to ensure that the plan works.


Now you can move the business forward with a much improved cash flow. The creditors are no longer calling to collect, and you have a new plan that allows you to move forward with the historical issues resolved.


As an example, I worked with a client that was behind in payments to the landlords and other vendors. It owed a large debt to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which was primarily unpaid payroll source deductions for which the owner was personally liable. At first glance, there simply seemed to be no way to move forward.

I stepped in as the CRO, connected the client with a Trustee, and introduced an accountant who could effectively manage the financial reporting. By helping the client work through and obtain approval of its Creditor Proposal we accomplished the following:
  1. Developed a go-forward plan that realistically gave the company a chance to succeed.
  2. Engaged a lawyer and obtained court approval to eliminate an obligation to a creditor who had inappropriately attempted to declare its claim as a secured debt.
  3. Established a six-month payment plan with CRA. They would no longer continue to chase for collection, and the accrued penalties and interest were stopped as of the date of the Notice of Intention to File a Proposal (NOI).
  4. We renegotiated with the landlords to have rent reduced to a level that the company could afford. The accountant worked with the internal staff to ensure that informative and timely monthly financial Statements were now being produced.
  5. After the six-month payment plan with CRA was completed, the plan began paying the unsecured creditors at 15% of the original obligation over the next four years.
Although it may feel as though there is no hope of keeping your business afloat, our legal system provides a life raft to give you a second chance.
Florian MeyerFlorian Meyer is resourceful and imaginative Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) who maximizes the benefits of restructuring for the business. As a client recently said, “You never give up until a great solution has been developed and implemented.”
Florian has an MBA and CPA, CA and is a Principal of Newhouse Partners Inc. He has been consulting as interim CFO and CRO to a number of private and public companies since 1996, You can reach Florian at fmeyer@newhousepartners.com or 416-873-8684. You will find more details on the Experion Group website and LinkedIn.