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Sole trader - trading out

14 April 2020

Useful links for this page - FAQs

Isnt it the most straightforward way of dealing with a cashflow problem?

If the business has suffered a downturn in circumstances because of a finite set of issues and the business is not fundamentally weakened, then yes. Including the largest companies, every business faces a cyclic cashflow problem. Measurement of success cannot be short term, but events dictate that every business will suffer at times, witness firms like the top retailers and top telecoms companies recently.

If you have been through warning signs, establishing insolvency and dos and dont's and you think your business is not that distressed then look at this option.

A key element of this policy is honesty.

Be honest with yourself, the employees, your creditors and your customers. Without this there is real risk that you will only make the current problems worse.

It is important that you carefully and honestly consider the problems facing the business. Ask yourself the following questions and gauge the answers:

  1. Is this business viable? If you could remove the problems or the pressure does it have a real long term future?
  2. Is money all it needs to sort the problems?
  3. Can you achieve sufficient sales, activity or momentum to cover your costs? We call this critical mass.
  4. Have you cut all costs to the minimum efficient level?
  5. Can you maintain the key people you need?
  6. Are you able to produce your service or product at a price that the market can sustain?
  7. Would it be better to close the business and look at other opportunities?
  8. Have you got the fight in you to keep battling on without support?
  9. Have you taken advice from professionals?
  10. Have you involved the key partners in your business?
  11. Are you fearful of taking decisions to close, restructure or sell the business and are seeking to trade out to avoid the personal ramifications of closure - such as bankruptcy?
  12. If your activity does rise can you:
  • a) Fund it - working capital problems are just as acute for too many sales as too few
  • b) Produce it - if your creditors will not supply will you be able to deliver sales
  • c) Justify any further credit you may have to take - is there a reasonable prospect of repaying that credit.

If you now believe that the business HAS a future and that the problems are not insurmountable then read on.

Trading out can be a very effective tool if handled correctly. There are a number of ways to do this. The key is to achieve a breathing space for the company.

"Informal" deal:

Merely calling the key creditors, explaining the position: you want to pay them back in full as fast as possible but cashflow is tight and can you pay them over an affordable timeframe, can work wonders. BUT do not do this without a planned approach. You must

  1. Work out your cashflow - be realistic. If a debtor is due to pay in 30 days check whether they are happy with the invoice and goods, check when they think they will pay. Then add on 10 days at least.
  2. Build a daily cashflow, if you cannot write spreadsheets use a simple form on a sheet of paper, but update every figure as you go.
  3. Not over promise. If it looks like you can pay all key creditors in 30-60 days ask for 60-90 days. Creditors will usually be happy to work with you if you are honest.
  4. Not break deals. But if it is unavoidable, write and call the creditors and explain carefully where the plan has not worked.

"Formal" deal:

This is not a formal insolvency deal such as a IVA. But the use of a professional turnaround practitioner can ensure that the "honest broker" effect achieves workable deal. Once again the deal broker will want to see evidence that the sole trader has planned their recovery and looked long and hard at the business and its cashflow. Some creditors may even accept write-downs of debt if they think the business will survive and prosper long term.

If you want to be introduced to such a service please email us.

New Finance allied to informal deal

As this suggests, the introduction of new money to the company at a time when you are seeking to do a deal with creditors can be a very strong sign that you are serious about the business' future. See refinancing for further details


Don't wait until legal actions have been taken against the company to ask for a deal. Try to plan the cashflow of the business well in advance - you have a legal obligation to do this! If you think the business has enough cash to trade they should consider the options and plan a way forward. Once again go to using the site and follow the advice. Worried about legal actions? go to that page for more details.

Keep a log of all calls and letters to creditors - that way you can check back.

Have a review meeting each week - if you are falling behind take action.

If the plan is clearly not working consider the other options on this site.

Don't wait too long to get professional turnaround help. Often an IVA can remove the stress and allow you to get back to running the business, not the deals with creditors.

Still got questions? then click here for Trading Out FAQs

Trading Out - frequently asked questions has much more information - if you consider this to be appropriate then read this page. If there are still unanswered questions contact us by email .

A Worried Director

The Ultimate Guide For Worried Directors

Worried about poor cashflow? Feel you have got into a bit of a mess? Covid-19?, How to pay wages on pay day? For reassuring advice on a range of issues download our free Ultimate Guide For Worried Directors today. Or just call us on 0800 9700539

"KSA Group which owns this site, will help you fix problems in your business. We won't charge for any initial advice or face to face meetings. We speak in English. We will save you money and your precious time.  You can come to any of our offices

"We also follow up any meeting with a full "solutions report" which runs on average to 13 pages valuable free advice!!  No other practitioner offers this service.  In this report we advise on ALL the options and explain them clearly.  We advise on a course of action given the information you have given us ( the more information we have the better we can advise!)"

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