7 Warning Signs Your Business is in Financial Distress

Business Numbers Blog - 7 Warning Signs Your Business is in Financial Distress

It’s always a shock to see a seemingly successful company go under, but this doesn’t just happen out of the blue. There are always warning signs, and the survival of your business relies on you being able to recognise them. The sooner you can spot financial trouble, the sooner you can start working on a solution. Nothing good ever comes from burying your head in the sand, so it’s best to get well-acquainted with the red flags. Here are seven warning signs that your business is in danger.

1. Refinancing

Let's be clear: refinancing is common, and it's not always a sign of trouble, so long as you can afford the repayments. Borrowing money against the value of an asset is a sensible way of lowering interest rates, and it helps to free up cash for your business.

It's when you find yourself frequently refinancing that you need to worry. First, it indicates that your company is in poor financial health and struggling to make ends meet. What's more, lenders quickly grow suspicious of businesses that need to refinance all the time, and your credit score can take a hit, worsening your problems.

2. Poor Cash Flow

Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. It's the key to survival, investment and growth. So having enough cash to cover your outgoings is best, or you risk mounting debt.

Negative cash flow is part and parcel of launching or expanding your small business, so it's admissible for a short while. However, your business can only survive for a time without income. Therefore, you need at least enough cash to cover your outgoings to keep your company afloat.

Cash flow can often be unsteady for small businesses - all it takes is a few late customer payments to rock the boat. Therefore, it pays to be wary of premature expansion and overspending since these factors can significantly affect your cash flow.

3. Creditor Pressure

Being chased by creditors is one of the most worrying signs that your business is in financial distress. When dealing with an imbalanced cash flow, it can be tempting to delay your payments, but this short-sighted approach sparks a vicious cycle of financial problems.

It's best to stay in your creditors' good graces. Late payments can result in poor credit scores, making it difficult to secure loans in the future. Moreover, creditors won’t hesitate to chase you down or resort to legal action to claim what they’re owed. This is disastrous for any small business, so stay focused on the bigger picture and make your repayments on time.

4. Over-Reliance on Individual Projects or Contracts

A financially healthy business has multiple revenue streams and consistent income from several clients. Whilst losing contracts is never ideal, it shouldn't have the power to break your business. However, if the financial health of your business depends on one particular source of income, it's a sign that you're heading towards trouble.

Similarly, focusing all of your efforts on securing new customers at the expense of your existing ones indicates deeper financial issues. It's also unwise to antagonise your current clients. Studies show that customer acquisition is up to 95% more expensive than customer retention. Furthermore, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases your profit by 25-95%. Nurturing your current clientele is vital for the financial health of your business.

5. Low Staff Morale

Employee morale is often one of the most accurate indicators of how your business is doing. Therefore, it's essential to keep your staff satisfied. Reduced hours, contractual changes and pay freezes are all signs that a business is in trouble. As a result, morale plummets, with further troubling consequences for the company.

6. Unhealthy Office Atmosphere

Low office morale causes productivity to take a nosedive. Meanwhile, absenteeism rates begin to rise, which only exacerbates the problem. Moreover, staff will catch onto the fact that things are going badly for the business and may decide to jump before they're pushed, leading to a high turnover.

7. Your Customers Know Something’s Wrong

Your customers are savvy. It won't take them long to notice that your employees are dissatisfied or are getting less for their money than they used to. Unhappy customers will quickly defect to your competitors; word about your financial trouble may get around quickly. This is the last thing a struggling business needs, as it can often prove to be the final nail in the coffin. 


None of those mentioned above signs is an automatic death knell for your business. However, it's time to take action if you can spot several of these problems at once. The sooner you begin to fix these issues, the quicker your business can recover. So please don't wait for word to get around; put out the fire before it spreads.


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