In the face of South Africa’s current, tough economic climate, businesses are confronted with a series of formidable challenges, including loadshedding, increasing repo rates, petrol hikes and soaring interest rates. These difficult circumstances demand strategic foresight and proactive measures from business leaders to mitigate potential losses and safeguard their financial well-being. In this context, it becomes imperative for businesses to pre-emptively navigate these difficulties ensuring resilience and adaptability to secure a stable and prosperous future.

“Prudent cash flow management is critical during challenging economic conditions,” says PJ Veldhuizen, MD of commercial law firm Gillan & Veldhuizen.   Businesses should conduct regular cash flow analyses, identify potential shortfalls and plan accordingly to avoid liquidity crises. Adjusting payment schedules, reducing non-essential expenses and optimising working capital can all contribute to enhanced cash flow.

By proactively addressing financial challenges and adopting strategic measures businesses in South Africa can strengthen their resilience in the face of economic uncertainties and mitigate potential losses. Recommended measures that businesses can adopt to safeguard their financial stability include:

  1. Timely payments to creditors: Maintaining healthy relationships with creditors is essential during tough economic times. Strive to make timely payments to suppliers and creditors, as delays could strain relationships and lead to potential supply chain disruptions. Open communication with creditors can also help negotiate extended payment terms or alternative arrangements.

  1. Business rescue consideration: Businesses facing severe financial distress should consider business rescue as a proactive measure. Under the Companies Act, initiating business rescue proceedings allows a company to restructure its affairs with the aid of a business rescue practitioner, aiming to ensure the company’s sustainability and protect stakeholders’ interests.

  1. Mediation and dispute resolution: When facing financial difficulties and contractual disputes, businesses should explore mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods. Mediation offers a collaborative and cost-effective approach to resolving disputes, helping businesses reach mutually beneficial agreements with creditors, suppliers or other stakeholders.

  1. Insolvency assessment: If a business finds itself unable to meet its financial obligations, a proactive assessment of its solvency is essential to avoid personal liability. Seeking expert advice to understand the implications of insolvency and exploring restructuring options may provide viable solutions to avoid further financial distress or liquidation.

On a positive note, company liquidations in South Africa are showing a promising decline. According to recent data released by Statistics SA, the country has witnessed 802 liquidations so far this year, which is 14% less than the number recorded during the same six-month period last year. This downward trend of liquidations has been reported across most industries in the local economy, signifying a potential rebalancing of trends following a volatile period induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw significant spikes in business liquidations.

While challenges continue to persist, the declining trend in company liquidations provides a glimmer of hope for businesses and individuals alike. As the economy moves towards stabilisation, it is crucial for stakeholders to remain proactive in adopting measures to forestall potential losses and secure their financial interests.

Business leaders really must remain vigilant, adapt swiftly and seek expert guidance when navigating these testing times says Veldhuizen.

“Engaging with stakeholders transparently and seeking professional advice from insolvency experts and business rescue practitioners can significantly impact the trajectory of a struggling business.”