The Sadness of Post House Business Failures

Life running a post house hasn’t been a bowl of cherries for several years, but the news this week has been dreadful.

Two post houses, one in London, the other with branches across the Uk, I read have called in the recievers or are up for sale. The livelihood of at least 40 people are affected.

I know, and have had great help from, the leaders of the two businesses who are facing the abyss, and my heart goes out to them.

Staring a payroll in the face with no cash coming in is a desperate place to be. And when one or two big clients stop paying on time, or at all, the cash flow dries up; the game is over, if emergency cash cannot be found. Sometimes finance can be raised against assets or some other short term loan arranged, but money is hard to come by and the emergency proceedures can only be used so often.

Right now there is little cheer for many established post businesses. They are victims, to some extent, of the relentless march of technology. Often the resale value of the equipment purchased over the last few years may be below the value of the loans still being repaid that purchased it, meaning finance cannot be raised in this bleak financial climate. And with workflows changing, making some expensive infrastructure redundant or demanding the purchase of new, expensive, infrastructure, the pain just multiplies.

The majority of the skilled people who work in these companies will, I expect, find work elsewhere, probably as freelancers until some prosperity returns, but little thought is given to the people with whom the buck stops.

For the owners and business leaders the nightmare is devastating. It is horrible having to dismantle your business, to have to let people go; people who have worked so hard for the company and have put so much trust in your management.

It is wearying and mind-numbing in the run up to the crisis, your ability to think almost paralysed with fear of the consequences.

Over the years I have met many people whose business have closed their doors. They feel huge relief when the fear is finally met, when the uncertainty is over. Waves of sadness and disappointment and what-ifs queue for attention in the months that follow, but once the weight of the final decision has been lifted, some the mourning process can begin, for it is a process and it is grieving.

Can business failures in the post industry be prevented? No, not every one of them of course. But my feeling is that across the UK facilities industry we have failed to educate ourselves in business and strategic thinking skills, so that in many cases failure is inevitable.

So often have we seen that once a good idea has been had, a business gets established and the idea is pursued blindly until its natural demise, all then is lost until the next good idea rises from the ashes.

It doesn’t have to be like that. We are the masters of change if we so choose, rather than slaves to the status-quo.

I would love to see the new generation of business owners and industry leaders embracing learning. I would like to see our industry cast aside the view that training is something you grudgingly arrange for junior staff, that taking a course in something means you aren’t up to the job in the first place.

Unless our businesses’ leaders take pride in knowing the latest strategic thinking, in developing and sharpening their strategic business skills, then the sadness of business failure will continue. And that is a tragedy for everyone who works in or builds a business.