Screening and defining the further process

The screening and decision on the further process for the company is done by the consultant.

The screening and decision on the further process for the company is done by the consultant. He/she is a very central person for the success of Early Warning and should therefore be a senior employee at the organization responsible for Early Warning.

He/she has the following important tasks, all with big importance for the quality, development and success of Early Warning:

  • Initial dialogue and screening of companies
  • Secure appropriate match with the right volunteer
  • Dialogue with volunteers – knowledge of both competencies and personality
  • Dialogue with lawyers
  • Coordinating different partners’ work with the individual company
  • Collecting experience allowing him/her to identify and formulate experiences, need for further knowledge and education, input to the training and other arrangements for volunteers

The profile of an Early Warning consultant
As mentioned above the consultant plays a very central role and has many and different types of tasks. Further he/she often meets a company owner, and often also his/her spouse, in deep personal crisis.

This means that he/she has to be able to handle company issues as well as personal and family issues simultaneously. One may define the most important abilities/competencies to be the following:

  • Able and willing to meet people in personal crisis
  • Crisis leadership: What can be done in order to make/keep the owner ‘on track’?
  • Turn-around knowledge: What are the key elements to consider in evaluating if a turn-around is possible?
  • Overview of insolvency: are there useful/possible solutions?
  • Financing: What is possible, what is not? How do banks evaluate a given situation?

In short, the consultant must be trained and experienced in many fields. There is not a single profile or education that qualifies a person to be EW consultant, many backgrounds can be relevant. The following should be considered when hiring (or appointing) consultants:

  • Interest, willingness and courage to meet people in personal crisis
  • Experience as a company manager (and preferably as owner-manager)
  • Ability/competence to quickly identify the most important questions in the individual company
  • Flexible and open-minded person, not dependent on using same approach or tool in every case
  • Experienced in consulting

Possible tools and inspiration in the screening process
You can find inspiration in some our more detailed descriptions mentioned below. Of course, from the beginning the consultant should consider whether or not the company is within the scope of the Early Warning programme.

The criteria may be different in different countries, but it should be noticed that also personal conditions may be relevant. Consultants will meet quite many cases where it is necessary to consider many and very different aspects.
You can find a paper explaining this topic here

A guide on how to handle the initial talk and screening meeting with the company owner can be found here

A more technical approach can be found here

To assess the turn-around possibilities you can get an overview of possible considerations in this paper here. This paper is mainly targeting the work of the volunteer advisors, but can also serve as inspiration for the consultant in the screening process.

The more analytical minded consultants might prefer a more technical approach.
In the next two links you will find a guideline to a GAP analysis and the corresponding Excel file:
Template & Guideline - Gap Analysis 20170907
Template & Guideline - Gap Analysis 20170917

Further tools from the pilot countries:
Action protocol by Madrid Spain
This tool provides a detailed description of the step-by-step approach to assisting companies in distress being applied by the Comunidad de Madrid. The Action Protocol covers the steps from the initial contact between the company and the consultant team, through the scheduling and implementation of the diagnosis, the processing of the collected information and the allocation of a volunteer advisor through the assistance and monitoring.

Application for registration
The application form being used by the Comunidad de Madrid in the Spanish pilot of Early Warning Europe shows the structure and required information for the company owner to receive the correct and timely assistance. It is a PDF file for digital signature, featuring the relevant disclaimers for data protection under Spanish and EU law.

Interview guide by EEA Greece
The Interview guide is a list of reflection points for consideration when managing the Early Warning assistance process to companies in distress. The reflections concern aspects of eligibility assessment, diagnosis, assistance and visibility.

Screening tool by EAA Greece
This document is the tool used by Early Warning consultants at the EEA for recording and analysing the companies in distress and the challenges they face. Composed of quantitative and qualitative questions, it allows for an in-depth mapping of the organisation, policies, market position, accountancy data and problems of the relevant company. As such, it is a key document in planning and managing the assistance correctly.

Use of machine learning and big data
The Danish Business Authority has developed a model that distinguishes companies in distress from financially well-functioning companies through machine learning using publicly available accounting data.

The purpose is to identify companies in distress, so that they can be given relevant advice in the early stages of their crisis, reducing the consequences of the distress. The base model is considered to be good at this identification, but it requires a high public digitisation level with training data available in sufficient quantity and quality.

The data model is considered to have proven that publicly available annual accounts can be meaningfully modelled for use in automated identification of companies in distress.. However, the automated process should always be seen as a basis, not substitute, for subsequent individual, qualitative processing of the model's results, considering local conditions and the circumstances of the individual company. These numbers cannot stand alone.