Best Practices for Turning Around Distressed Companies: The First Steps

In this new series, Intralinks has partnered with Yoav M. Cohen, managing partner and CEO of NYC Advisors, LLC, to learn how to best execute turnarounds.

21 April 2020

Best Practices for Turning Around Distressed Companies

As the COVID-19 quarantine required the closing of all non-essential businesses throughout the U.S., your business may be struggling to stay afloat. Even if your business is an “essential business,” your sales are probably much lower than before, and cash flow is a major issue.

In good economic times, there are always some companies on the verge of insolvency or bankruptcy. However, now that the economy is basically shut down, many businesses are already in distress or will be facing the insurmountable challenges when the economy reopens for business.

Top of the list is lack of cash flow, as many expenses continue to be incurred while revenues are low or non-existent. You may find yourself having to deal with strained financial resources, demoralized senior management, fearful employees, unhappy customers, tense bankers, angry investors and competitors with stronger resources waiting to pounce.

Too much stress and worry about the situation may keep you from saving your company. You should first take advantage of the various loans that the SBA is offering, such as the Payment Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL) and others. It’s important to know that bankruptcy isn’t always the right answer and that you almost always have a way out if you act quickly and decisively.

So what steps can you take to avoid bankruptcy and fix your company?

Evaluation, Damage Control and Action Plan

First, list the challenges you face and solutions you can think of. Then, map the workflow and workload in each department, prioritize the steps you have to take, and re-evaluate the costs and benefits of each step. Having a detailed written business plan or a roadmap is key. Remember, it must include information on sales and marketing, operations, and financials. Many business owners think that simply maintaining a spreadsheet with a budget is enough to keep them out of trouble, but nothing is further from the truth. In these types of situations, you need to evaluate all areas of your business, look at what your competitors are doing, and evaluate your product or service offerings and the value you offer to your customers. Going beyond just a spreadsheet and into the details is extremely important.

After writing your business plan, you should begin executing on the following:

Step 1: Control cash and cut unnecessary costs by:

  1. Creating a daily cash-flow report (A must!)
  2. Approving each expense before it is spent
  3. Collecting your accounts receivables as quickly as possible, and offering cash discounts for faster payment (it’s usually cheaper than paying your bank for a line of credit)
  4. Delaying payments to your vendors – most of your vendors will be in the same boat, so work out a payment plan that both sides can live with
  5. Considering switching to lower-cost vendors for essential services and supplies
  6. Evaluating your staffing needs and keeping (or re-hiring) only employees who are bringing in, making, or servicing sales
  7. Reviewing all products or services offered to eliminate unprofitable solutions, and reduce the cost of production or service delivery
  8. Informing all employees of your actions and asking for their support after implementing these cuts

Step 2: Meet with key personnel and your board of directors or advisors:

  1. Form an advisory board that will help guide and support you through the restarting of your business and the turnaround process
  2. Bring your key employees together to have a candid discussion on how to rebuild the company — ask for their cooperation and seek advice based on their expertise
  3. Always share the reason for changes with employees. Informed employees will cooperate with you to save the company and their jobs.


When going through these steps, it is important to always be prepared. Don’t go into any meeting – with anyone – without a plan. People lose confidence in leaders who lack a plan and vision for their business. You should always be self-assured, yet open-minded and flexible, and be open enough to share your plan with investors, management and key employees.

Following these first steps should get you back on your feet and on your way to success. In my next post, I will continue to lay out the action plan – specifically on how to deal with customers, vendors and tax authorities.

Yoav M. Cohen

Yoav M. Cohen

Yoav M. Cohen is the Managing Partner of NYC Advisors, LLC, a business advisory firm providing interim and part-time CFO services, corporate restructuring and turnarounds, and other profit-enhancing services.