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Doug Constable Group

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I would never have thought that after 8 years of building and operating a reputable business, I was now sitting opposite this white haired, lively gentleman, who was suggesting I declare bankruptcy. I had over $200K in personal credit card debt used for the business, and the company was in over $1M of debt. To make matters worse, my business partner had locked me out of the premises and my remote access to the company was denied, while I was being treated for a serious illness.

As I relayed my story to Doug, my bankruptcy adviser, I felt a lump rise in my throat and tears starting to flood my eyes. At 49 years of age, I was about to go bankrupt. I had so many questions. I’d spent days trawling through the ASIC website, trying to find some other way, only to be more confused. I had consulted with lawyers, but I was already in the hole. Where was I going to find the money to climb out?  Lawyers couldn’t guarantee a favorable outcome. Maybe a more promising result would’ve been the Roulette wheel at the Casino. Sleepless nights were the norm. I didn’t have a job, had been seriously ill and the money was being siphoned out of the company bank account by my partner. I didn’t even know how I was going to pay the rent.

I had so many questions for Doug. The first thing I noticed about him was his empathy. Not sympathy, but genuine empathy. He made you feel like he had stood right there in your shoes, and you felt that he could relate to your despair. It’s difficult to take the emotion out of a threatening situation.  Often lawyers would advise me to take the emotion out of it, which always seemed a little patronizing and lacking in empathy, but I understood it. The law works with facts, not emotion. Being a woman and naturally emotional, I consider emotion a fact. People do all sorts of things based on emotion.

All the thoughts that I had in my mind, Doug voiced during our discussion. Bankruptcy was a way to wipe the slate clean and start again. It could give you a new inspiration for life and your next venture. A better understanding, with more energy and the freedom to apply all I had learnt from the experience. The more Doug explained to me the facts of bankruptcy in a compassionate manner, the more it was appearing as a very exciting option. It was exactly what I needed to hear. There was life after bankruptcy. As an entrepreneur, who had failed for the first time and at such a mature age, it was difficult to maintain the inspiration to believe that I could start again.  How was I expected to be motivated, when I was going to be bankrupt? I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. It seemed that bankruptcy could free the shackles of this crippling debt and breathe life into me again.

I was surprised of how little I knew about bankruptcy. Did this bankruptcy stay on my credit file for 7 years? How would I ever be able to buy my own house? I was 49, and had invested everything into my business.

Doug explained the bankruptcy annulment process, where your bankruptcy was removed, as if it never occurred. This involved the Trustee calling a creditor’s meeting to negotiate a payment proposal of around ten cents of the dollar value of the debt. The reality for creditors is that by not accepting the offer, the likelihood of recovering their debt was nil. Agreeing to a payout figure, and the annulment of your bankruptcy meant creditors would get something, rather than nothing.

I also had the option of remaining bankrupt and not paying my debts and after three years my debts were cancelled. The only downside to this was that it would remain on my credit file for a total of 7 years, making it difficult for me to obtain finance.

I looked around my apartment, as Doug sat relaxed and at peace stroking my little whit dog. I was drowning in paperwork. How much work did I need to do to end this financial insanity that was hindering my progress to a better life? I raised the question in a panicky voice. Doug smiled and responded calmly. It would take 14 days to complete the statement of affairs and one of his team would do this with me over the phone. The statement was basically a report of where you sit financially right now.  How long would I need to wait till annulment? Generally, 6 months, although in some cases annulment can occur earlier.

Not that there was any plan for a holiday in the near future, but what if I managed to get myself on my feet and wanted a well deserved holiday? Could I leave the country? We all remember the Christopher Skase saga. Doug explained in his cheerful manner, that Trustees may want your passport, and that I needed to apply to the Trustee for permission to leave the country. Most people were allowed permission and this law was put in place to stop high flyers from skipping the country, e.g. Christopher Skase. All I needed to do was contact Doug’s team and they would arrange for the application form and the passport to be returned for my trip.

I looked down at my questions, and felt a sense of excitement and relief, as I thought about how amazing my next business venture would be. Hang on, what about running a business? If I was going to start over, I needed to know that I could own and operate a business. Is this possible when I am bankrupt? “Bankruptcy” Doug said, “does not stop you from running a business. You can run a business under your own ABN registration.” After answering all of the questions I had written across three sheets of paper  (To be shared with you on another day), Doug stood up to leave. He hugged me warmly and asked me to call him anytime with any questions. I contacted him at least four times, before I made a decision to go bankrupt.

Later that afternoon after Doug had left, I decided to finally visit my mailbox, which I had neglected for over a week. It was an out of sight, out of mind strategy  I employed to avoid the screaming credit card statements and overdue bills. Tucking the thirty or so grim looking envelopes under my arm, I took note of my feelings. The anxiety I felt when visiting the mailbox, the overwhelming fear that almost suffocated me, when blocked numbers called, and the intense feeling of hopelessness & despair, was all gone. Another affirmation that knowledge is power, and what I’d gained from sitting down with a bankruptcy adviser like Doug, was the knowledge that bankruptcy was a way to remove all the financial distress and almost all of my debts. Even though, Doug, didn’t speak of it, our consultation had opened my up my thinking. I had an understanding of the financial system and its way of controlling the masses, no different to religion. The only difference was that the monetary system affects everyone. You don’t have a choice in whether you follow it. It’s the system that controls the entire planet. Bankruptcy is a legal way of not paying your debts. Not because you don’t want to, but simply because you can’t.

That night, I slept like a baby, and since my first meeting with Doug, I was able to remove that fear of financial ruin from my mindset. Rather than an overwhelming sense of fear & despair, I was experiencing an incredible sense of freedom, and for the first time in my life.

Draft The Age Friday, February 23 2018 Thinking About Bankruptcy? When to zig, how to zag in business

By Doug Constable No Comments

We can cut through
We will challenge them
We will protect your interests

February 23, 2018

Melbourne’s Doug Constable describes himself as an ‘‘insolvency expert’’. He has faced his share of business difficulties and uses his background to help others navigate the difficult and stressful world of bankruptcy and debt management.

Mr Constable is the author of the book What To Do When You Can’t Pay Your Debts, and has decades of lived experience around knowing when to zig and how to zag in business.

As a consequence of bad business decisions, he has defaulted on debts, been through the bankruptcy courts several
times and was convicted of obtaining financial advantage by deception in 1997.

In 2013, he was denied a cafe liquor licence by Victorian authorities due to his prior convictions.

“I have certainly been through the business wringer but have come out the other side and believe I am uniquely placed to assist people facing issues of debt management and bankruptcy because of those experiences,’’ he says.

‘‘I don’t shy away from my past, it is what it is and I have had to face up to it, but at least I can channel those past indiscretions into assisting others.”

Bankruptcy law is complex. Most business owners don’t want to have to consider insolvency and liquidation –
certainly not before knowing the answers to a host of questions.

An accountant or solicitor who specialises in insolvency, liquidation and bankruptcy is one source of advice.

The Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) has an informative website for those considering bankruptcy.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has useful advice on its site for business owners,
creditors and consumers. ASIC’s advice for directors about the consequences of insolvent trading is equally comprehensive.

Constable says he is ‘‘passionate about helping people draw a line in the sand in times of financial distress’’, helping ailing businesses deal with creditors and avoiding bankruptcy if possible.

His company, Doug Constable Group, offers advice to entrepreneurs struggling to keep their businesses afloat; ‘‘business health checks’’ for companies in trouble; trustee and liquidator assistance, and of course, bankruptcy advice. “No individual works hard for his family to end up bankrupt. But things change, the economy fluctuates, a new government, a GFC, an insolvent debtor, a family tragedy, divorce, increase in taxes, unexpected debts, medical expenses and so many of life’s unexpected events could change everything,” he says.

“Often people prolong the inevitable because of embarrassment and a sense of shame.”

‘Sometimes it is better to draw a line in the sand and stop being harassed.’

-Doug Constable

He says clients need to remember that being in financial difficulty does not automatically make you a bad person.

‘‘While the first thing to do is avoid bankruptcy if you can, there comes a time when you need to sit back and look at the cost to yourselves and your families, both financially and emotionally.

‘‘Financially, do you have the capacity to repay the debt within a reasonable time?

‘‘Emotionally, are you willing to have the stress of struggling to make ends meet and continue to receive the calls pressing you for payment?

‘‘Sometimes it is better to draw a line in the sand and stop being harassed.

‘‘Options are available to those in financial difficulty that they may have not been aware of. ’’