Silence is deadly


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Many of us have returned to work in 2024 praying to whatever deity we ascribe to that this year will not be the festering boil it was last year.

Now we are through the election, the roads are all fixed (insert sarcastic emoji here), there isn’t another scary mystery disease, and the tourism industry seems to have had its non-consensual  holiday cancelled, we have cause for hope; But the scars and skidmarks of the freshly fought financial battle remain.

Most sectors seem to be slowly recovering, and those which didn’t make it are being respectfully buried. But the full force of the collateral damage is now being felt.

Usually, at this time of the year, weight-loss pertains to becoming less-jiggly following an adamantly exclaimed new year’s resolution. But in business it can be a streamlining of non-essential roles, downsizing of premises or cutting of less profitable offerings from services.

Basically, we have had a couple of years to see what our true minimum operating expenses are – the fish tanks from the office, the beers on Friday and the new directors car each year have, for many, become things of the past.

Although this is bad, it’s not the worst part. The worst part is people are actually dying in the aftermath of what has occurred globally.

According to MATES in Construction NZ (a suicide prevention charity), one person in the construction industry takes their own life every week. This is not okay.

I have spoken to many of my construction clients about this and they have all said that the worst part of owning a construction company is sometimes letting one of your employees who’s now a great mate go and watching them and their family suffer and wonder if it was your fault as the boss.

Not being able to pay suppliers or subcontractors may also end entire social circles, break-up families, and decimate mental health through the perceived loss of mana and reputation, not to mention the more immediate issues such as losing a family home, liquidation and bankruptcy.

I am no psychiatric professional (or even an enthusiastic amateur), but after 20 years in the credit management industry I think there is something that we can do … actually two things: TALK and LISTEN.

Of course my first advice is, if you can pay, then do pay. If you are genuinely in a position, for whatever reason, that you can’t pay a creditor when due, TALK TO THEM!

Make the call that you want put-off the first one you make; Be honest and calm and discuss a realistic pathway forward; Do this with each party you are not able to pay; Have the slightly uncomfortable conversation now rather than the angry one later – the creditor will feel better with communication, a plan in place and feel respected that you are open and honest with them.

Also, they may know someone who can help, such as a credit management specialist with salt and pepper hair and a monthly article, or a business finance advisor, a tender procurement wizard or another helpful provider.

Money won’t kill you, but stress will. Not talking does not help.

We had a client not so long ago who I met with in his office. He looked stressed, tired and like he did not want to be there. I put aside my notes and asked him what was really going on as I would like to see if I could help. He told me what was going on, how his personal life had suffered and that he really wasn’t enjoying life.

I asked what would solve it. He said, “$230k to magically appear in my account so I don’t need to sack my two mates. I need them for the big project in six months, but if I keep them on we won’t make it six months. I also need a business mentor to show me how to run more efficiently and profitably – I seem to do a lot of work for not much money.”

He had tried all the ways he could think of, so I asked him what his mates suggested. He said, “I haven’t told anyone, it’s too embarrassing.”

I excused myself and called a business lending specialist that I know and trust who came to the office immediately. I introduced them and left.

The next day the $230k was in the bank, the business mentor was hired and week later we met again and the change in him was astounding. You never know who could hold the answer to your particular issue, and you won’t find out if you don’t ask.

I have attended the funerals of far too many good people who did not talk and ask for help through embarrassment, pride or fear. Please talk – I promise it won’t kill you.

Just a thought

If you need to talk, please call the MATES in Construction’s 24/7 Helpline, 0800 111 315

Related: I hate saying, “I told you so”

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Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr is the director of IPI Group Limited. He can be reached on 021 876 527 and nick@nzipi.com.

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