I just finished reading your book, “Eliminate Debt Like a Pro.” I just reached acceptance and now I’m working on my plans.
Here’s the situation–my husband & I have owned a tourist lodging business for 10 years. We have used credit over the years when we had bad months or unexpected expenses and it slowly crept up. Then the recession hit. First we had the summer of 2008 with fuel prices over $4.50 per gallon and the American public decided not to travel. The credit cards got used a lot more. Then in early 2009 a number of our customers didn’t pay their recurring billing on time and in Jan & Feb we were late on a couple of credit card payments. All of our cards immediately lowered the available credit and jacked the interest rate. We were cut off.
So we pulled in our belts, sold some extra equipment and lots of junk on ebay. We changed up our business plan and 2009 was a pretty good year, we didn’t charge anything (a year of using cash–it can be done!), we negotiated lower interest and payment plans with our credit cards and managed to pay the agreed upon payments throughout the year. Then the unexpected occurred….two rock slides blocked tourist traffic to our area in late October. Who knew that 5 months later the roads would still be blocked. Our business fell by 80%.
We used up our savings (we had saved up after the earlier glitch) and now we are behind on everything. We tried an SBA emergengy loan, but we found out that we’re not GM or AIG…etc. (I still hold anger for them for stringing us along for 60 days asking for more documents.) I realized about 30 days ago that I had to have electricity, a phone, and my property to still have a business….so I stopped paying on the cards. I’ve been communicating with them all explaining the situation. I’ve tried to increase our income by offering discounts to make reservations early. My husband looked for work unsuccessfully–we live in a tourist town and everyone is in the same boat.
So here we are. $130k total credit card debt. A couple of payments left on one truck. One month behind on the mortgage, phone, electric, garbage, etc. Good news–one rock slide should be cleared in a couple of weeks and the other by the end of April. Business has naturally picked up with spring weather. Email marketing campaign is starting to work.
A major competitor lost their lease and we stand poised to gain a lot of their business. Our property is worth about $2M, so on paper we’re OK but we’re still scrambling every week to pay what has to be paid.
How should we go forward? Several of the credit card companies have told me that we won’t be able to “get back on the programs” we had arranged. One offered to settle but we don’t have that money right now. We have a good business in the most visited tourist area in the US but stuff happens. The property is mortgaged to us personally. The business is a C corp and it leases the property from us. The debt is about 50% in our personal names, and 50% in the corporate name (but of course personally guaranteed by us). Should we try to negotiate with the credit card companies again? Or should we look into bankruptcy?
I’ve read that most small businesses are usually unable to come out of reorganization. Also, if we did a personal bankruptcy would we be able to keep our property? (Although it is technically “rental” property–as managers we live here in a small cabin.) Any advice would be appreciated. By the way, I already feel better having spent hours surfing all the information you have posted–and writing this note–I said it out loud! (Gotta laugh, cried enough)
P.S. We’re not worried about our non-existent credit rating….We’re letting our motorhome be forclosed upon this week.
Your situation reminds me of a past client that had a similar business on a lake. They had a thriving marina and then guess what, the lake dried up and literally left boats hanging.
Rock slides, oy vey!
I think at this point your best approach would be to talk to a bankruptcy attorney in your state about a personal bankruptcy. This would probably be a Chapter 13 bankruptcy but that would allow you to force a repayment plan on your creditors in an attempt to keep the business going till the bloody rocks are cleared.
It doesn’t sound like you need to throw in the towel, just reorganize the debt, like the big companies do.
Let’s start with the bankruptcy attorney first. you might want to click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and if you don’t like them, see another. When you meet with the attorney don’t feel pressured or rushed into making a decision. You can certainly take what you learn from the meeting, go home, mull it over for a couple of days and then decide. Make sure the both of you go to the appointment.
Let me know where you are at after the meeting and thinking it over. Please.