French-speaking Belgian entrepreneurs who are suffering financial hardship attribute this above all to external factors, according to a survey of approximately 600 business leaders by UCM (Union of Middle Classes) and published on Thursday. More than two thirds say they have had financial problems in the past 5 years, and the reason quoted most often is “a downturn in turnover linked to the negative economic environment.” (52.3%) Other explanations are “difficulty getting funding” and non- or late- payments by one or more client(s), both coming in at 31.7%. It is a vicious circle, as entrepreneurs admit to a knock-on effect – first lowering their own salary (44.6%) and then paying their invoices late (44.4%). These “solutions” are a lot more frequent than the late payment of VAT, taxes, and social security contributions, or lowering employees’ salaries.
Though “only 7.8% of those surveyed” feel they were not sufficiently prepared when it comes to managing a company, and 5% admit “their initial business plan/core concept was inadequate”, thus sharing a responsibility in the difficulties encountered, it is striking to note that several existing assistance programs are rarely known: 43.9% of entrepreneurs are not aware that there are centres for struggling businesses, and 34.4% have never heard of the judicial reorganisation procedure.
To avoid financial difficulties and bankruptcies, management courses and support programs for new entrepreneurs are well supported, participants calling them “useful” (73.8%) and “very useful” (72%). At the same time, almost 38.7% of people polled say they have never received any training or support.