The ugly side of being an entrepreneur is that sometimes you fall behind on your important bills which will threaten your continued existence in business. For the typical Zimbo entrepreneur these are commercial rent, bank loans and most importantly suppliers. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) can often find its way creeping up forth in that order. Creditors typically try and resolve the issue through dialogue and payment plans to give the entrepreneur time to get back their finances in order. But in some cases, the time given is just not enough and the promised deadlines lapse and creditors get more agitated and seek legal recourse.

There are a couple of reasons why your business may face a temporary downturn. Competition could be taking your customers away and you may need a bit of time to react and get your house in order. Or it could be that your business is seasonal and you are in the down trough season or you may need to perhaps rethink your business model and retool. For whatever reason you are facing difficulties, you believe that you will soon turn your fortunes around and prosper. But for outside stakeholders, they may not share the same view and creditors might not care less, all they are concerned about is their money. Being a capitalist world that we live in, who would blame them?

Commercial Rent

Most commercial rental agreements include elements of guarantee surety and also required a deposit payment. Surety guarantee is whereby people pledge to pay any debts to the landlord that the tenant may incur during the course of the rental agreement. The deposit payment acts as a cushion when the tenant falls behind or damages the property in which case the deposit will be used to bring the property to its ideal state.

When the landlord sues you for non payment of rentals, there are limited options that you could pursue. The first one is to responding to the summons which is explained below under “Bank Loans” in more detail. The second one is to pack up and look for alternative and cheaper “accommodation” explained below under “Suppliers” in more detail.

Bank Loans

For entrepreneurs bank loans are typically in the form of collateralised loans meaning there is an immovable asset (stand or house) that has been bonded to obtain the loan. Banks do this in case the borrower defaults they can get their money back through auctioning off the asset. A temporary relief however, is that by simply defending your case in the courts of law (which costs a few thousands through lawyers) you can buy yourself one to two years of relief of which if you make good on your debts with the bank, they often drop the lawsuit against you. The downside is you have to spend between one and three thousand dollars to defend the case over that period of time, even if you are aware that you are at fault. By simply filing for a defence and following through with it, buys you plenty of time and you can save your immovable property from being sold off by the bank.

Suppliers

When suppliers get agitated and decide to sue or sent debt collectors, this typically comes with them stopping any further supplies to your business. The simple temporary solution is to switch to a different supplier whilst slowly paying off your debts with the previous suppliers. From my days running a small business in Harare CBD, most credit supplies were done on a handshake and through trust after a couple of cash dealings. Another way of avoiding this problem would be to expand upstream. Say, you are running a small restaurant in town; instead of buying meats, potatoes, mealier meal etc from third party suppliers, you can go into farming yourself and rear your own chickens, plant your own maize and potatoes so that you control the supply link to your shop. That way, you can make sure you will always have consistent supplies at your small restaurant.

ZIMRA

If you fall behind on your ZIMRA payments, ZIMRA sometimes comes knocking on your door and worse still they can garnish your account for any taxes owing to them. ZIMRA gives up to a maximum of 12 months for payment plans but typically they give about 6 months to settle and be up-to-date. So instead of paying that annual final tax as a lump sum, you can negotiate to spread it over 6 to 12 months. You can also negotiate to defer VAT on imported equipment for 90 days by applying to ZIMRA prior to the shipment arriving at the border post.

So there a couple of ways that you could wiggle out of a tight squeeze with creditors, you just need to have the right mental stamina to implement them and save your bottom. If you need more information on this subject or assistance with related issues please get in touch with Tanaka on landline 08677 130 017, cell 0732 469 712 or email tanaka@smezim.com