This month at Blogzine we are dedicating articles to talk about different taboos. One of them is bankruptcy. In Belgium there is still a lot of taboo around, in other countries it’s a kind of rite of passage for entrepreneurs. In this honest article, our editor Angelo talks about his own experience with going bankrupt and recovering from it.
This year it has been 5 years since I had to close the books of my first company. A few wrong decisions, problems with investors and customers, caused me to see my dream go up in smoke within a few months.
My bankruptcy in 2015 has led me down a very dark path. Not only have I lost my relationship as a result, I have also made worse choices. In another article this month, I’ll talk about that in more detail.
I never really made a secret of the fact that I went bankrupt with my first company. Still, I’ve been careful about sharing the information with just anyone.
Experiencing bankruptcy is traumatic. Very often you have the feeling that you’re alone and you’re on your own. Even more often you have the feeling that everyone around you knows that you have made debts. It seems as if the whole world is staring at you and whispering behind your back. Which is not true, but still it feels like that.
Then why didn’t I ask for help?
The main reason why I didn’t ask for help might be my stubbornness and the will to do it alone. To solve only my problems. And by the time I finally had to admit that I couldn’t do it alone anymore, it was already too late.
Another reason is the fact that I was totally unaware of the fact that this happens so often. In Belgium there is such a taboo around bankruptcies that you hardly hear anything about it. You constantly read success stories of large companies and other successful entrepreneurs. That makes you even more afraid of what the people around you might think when things go wrong for you.
What impact does bankruptcy have?
During my bankruptcy and the months before, I had to deal a lot with angry people. People who relied on me and people with whom I used to get along very well. But the worst thing about a bankruptcy is that you’re almost doomed to disappoint all those people, especially if you still have to pay them money.
I tried to straighten a lot of things out, but because I was so messed up, each solution set a new problem in motion. One time I had just enough money to pay a bill for the case, but then again I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. And that’s how it went on and on.
After a while, there was no way out. My business went over and there was nothing left for me to do in my private life either. I was completely grounded.
How did I get back on my feet?
In the first place, I owe a lot to my family who took care of me. In addition, I also started looking for other help. But the biggest impact on my entire situation was in my hands. One day I called one of my former clients and explained everything, all the cards on the table. I told her what had happened, but that I was happy to do what I did for her company. I was very lucky when she told me that I could start working for her (a couple of hours a week).
The time I spent working for her has given me breathing space again. It also put a lot of things in perspective and made me identify my own weaknesses. During the period that I worked for her I also noticed how I could have tackled some things better and how I could train myself to do so.
Since a few years, failure has also been talked about more frankly. For example, there is the Failing Forward campaign in which entrepreneurs talk about how they dealt with the world and themselves when their ideas failed. To be truly creative, you have to dare to fail. Failing Forward wants to break the taboo on failing entrepreneurship.
In the meantime I have started a new business and I also dare to ask for more help when needed. Going through bankruptcy is scary, but at the same time it’s also a huge learning experience.
Was it really too late?
In recent years I’ve learned that I could have saved my business in time, without going down the wrong path. If I had identified my mistakes and the financial problems of my business more quickly, it might never have had to come this far. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, I was ignorant and too stubborn to ask for help.
In Belgium, there are a lot of organisations you can fall back on when you run into financial problems with your case. In many cases, you can also go to talk to your own bank. With a strong business plan and/or financial plan, you can try to get a loan that allows you to pay all creditors at once.
If you cannot count on the support of your financial institution, fortunately there are other options. These organisations help entrepreneurs in difficulties:
There’s no shame in going out of business. What is important is that you learn from it and grow as an entrepreneur. Because only by trial and error will you become a strong entrepreneur, or not and that is fine too! Not everyone has what it takes, but there is no harm in trying.