Help for fearful firms is at hand

IT IS ONE of the curiosities of the late Nineties that, just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is preaching economic stability and talking of trying to boost enterprise, Britain's boardrooms are trembling from the fear of corporate collapse.

This anxiety has not been lost on the leading accountancy and consulting firms including Arthur Andersen, who next week publish Corporate Turnaround - Managing Companies in Distress.

The book's authors are at pains to stress that not every case they come across is desperate. "Many companies at an early stage of decline would benefit from a mild dose of turnaround medicine", they write, while others need more vigorous "sorting out".

There is a lot of rigorous analysis and prescription along the way to providing the practical assistance, but anybody who thinks this is all about cost-cutting would be mistaken.

"The media have fuelled this myth by promoting the company doctor as some sort of corporate commando on a "seek and destroy" mission", the authors write.

"One of our fundamental propositions is that turnaround management is holistic. Successful turnarounds are based on addressing both strategic and operational issues. Rescue plans seek to cut costs and grow revenues. The perspective is both short and long-term."