Closing a business in 1992 was the scariest thing I’ve done in my life.
We business owners balance two key roles. Most of us don’t balance them well.
- The first role is to find income. We South Africans take that seriously because we have no support net. Hunger is awfully motivating…
- The second role is as parent and partner, our responsibilities to our families.
We focus on income because it seems more urgent. In the harsh light of hindsight it wasn’t nearly as important as I thought. My life experience would have been a lot better making somewhat less money, while investing the hours saved in just “being” at home. Hindsight is perfect vision, of course, and I like to believe that I’ve got some of that right since then. I will write about it again in 2026 🙂
We South Africans grow up knowing that we are masters of our own destiny. However, there is a caveat to that. Sometimes the road to that destiny grows potholes. I closed my business during a pothole blizzard, the period before 1994 leading up to the country’s first democratic elections before.
We are enduring another such shift now. It’s not just the South African environment. The entire world is changing.
So, if there is writing on your wall, if you’re finding times are tougher than they’ve ever been before, if you are losing sleep over where your business is going, and where your money will come from, then you are in great company.
There are some challenges that we each face that are much better faced with some guidance and planning.
I really felt this as I faced closure in 1992 with no guidance and even less planning. My accountant offered no useful advice. I couldn’t speak to my bank because they were my main creditor. I couldn’t speak to any of my other creditors because they would take instant action to protect themselves. I couldn’t speak to my family because, well, I was ashamed. And I could not find a lawyer who could tell me what might happen during the process, and how to handle the fallout.
The next two years were the loneliest of my life.
It took ten years to realise how many other businesses closed during that time. When facing business closure, there are three periods that we should prepare for:
- Firstly, there is the period before closing the door finally. No matter how much time there is, whether it’s one month or six months or a year, there is much we can do to protect ourselves and our families from the fallout, without hurting our creditors and clients.
- Secondly, there is the date of closing. This is the short period during which the business closes formally, and the few weeks following. This is the transition from high status, self-employed, master of the business universe to status-free haunted shadow.
- Thirdly, there is the rest of our lives, starting immediately. This starts with the urgent replacement of our previous income, while running a defensive battle against ourselves and our ex-business’s creditors,
Closing that business was worse than getting divorced, and that was pretty darn bad. At least, when getting divorced, there is understanding and support from friends and family. But when closing a business there is almost no support. It’s like falling into a bottomless pit.
When closing a business the SA legal regime punishes the entrepreneur. Unlike the United States with its friendly approach designed to rehabilitate people as quickly as possible because of all the experience they’ve acquired, South Africa still wants to punish the culprit.
Not only do we lose our old income stream, but we are stopped from setting up a new income stream. I have spent the 21 years since my first CrashProof your Business seminar helping folk prosper through business closure. I have updated the strategies to reflect new opportunities that make post-closure success both certain and fast.
If you’re interested , please send me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
If there is enough interest I will set up a workshop showing how easy it is to survive closure, despite crushing debts, judgments, and garnishee orders, and anything else the universe can hurl at us…