Even company liquidation does not have to mean the end of a business. Henry Ford – who made a huge contribution to solving the horse waste problem – had two company failures before forming the Ford Motor Company.
One in three babies born now are expected to be alive to celebrate their 100th birthday, according to the Office of National Statistics[i]. Now that’s all fine and dandy if you are one of those people and enjoy good health and have enough money left to see you through.
Statisticians seem to agree that the population of the UK as a whole will continue to grow – partly as a result of immigration and also through net natural increase (ie more births than deaths). Better living standards, health screening and medical treatment mean that we are likely to live longer. The country’s demographic profile is changing and it is clear that a larger percentage of elderly people will be dependent on a diminishing population of younger people. In an article which appeared in The Guardian[ii] quoted from the Office for National Statistics it claimed that the anticipated UK population will be 73m by 2037, with the number of people aged 80+ set to double.
All this sounds a bit worrying – an aging and growing population placing more and more pressure on resources, housing and the infrastructure as a whole – all being carried by a smaller percentage of the population who are working.
But we humans are remarkably resourceful and creative. Looking back to just over a hundred years ago, our forebears were facing what appeared to be an insurmountable problem. Victorian England was heavily dependent on the humble horse – to transport goods and people. There were tens of thousands of horses in London alone and as the human population grew so too did the demand for more horses. Now in case you didn’t know the average horse will produce about 16 kilos of manure a day and 2.4 gallons of urine[iii]. In New York there were well over 100,000 horses[iv]producing 1.5 tons of manure and an awful lot of urine – daily.
There were real hygiene problems in the streets of all large cities. This problem came to a head when in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted… “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”[v] The solution came on the back of man’s inventiveness – the motor car – hailed at the time as an environmental saviour. By 1912, dependence on motor vehicles outstripped that for horses.
Many business owners over the years have faced what they considered to be insurmountable problems – situations which appeared to be lost causes and when failure seemed inevitable and bankruptcy unavoidable. Very few businesses don’t face cash flow shortages at some point. These may be just short-term glitches or could be so serious as to threaten the very future existence of the enterprise. But just in the way that the Victorians seemed to be facing an impossible challenge, financial problems don’t always have to result in company liquidation.
Even company liquidation does not have to mean the end of a business. Henry Ford – who made a huge contribution to solving the horse waste problem – had two company failures before forming the Ford Motor Company. Despite the failure of the Detroit Automobile Company and Henry Ford Company, Henry Ford had the spirit and foresight to start again – and as they say, the rest is history.
If you are running a business which is financially, well, in the proverbial, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the problem. You need the advice of innovative and forward-thinking specialists who can come up with commercially aware solutions. Just as the Victorians were trying to think of ways to dispose of waste, the solution was in a different direction – find an alternative to the horse.
References and further reading
[ii] The Guardian
[v] Historic UK