‘I help others when the ability the help themselves has reached their limit’
Partner, Charles Brook tells us about a typical day as an Insolvency Practitioner
I’m not going to try and kid anyone. The details of a typical day for me are unlikely to be much different to anybody else’s. Wake early, walk the dog, eat breakfast, wave goodbye to my wife and son as they head respectively to work and school and take myself to my office in Huddersfield where me and my fantastic team of colleagues spend our day working through paperwork, e-mails, telephone calls and meetings. It sounds tedious and it can be but hopefully, if I can convey a sense of what the job means to us, you’ll understand why it can be the best job in the World.
Being a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner carries with it a huge responsibility. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Corporate or a Personal insolvency specialist, the impact of your decisions can be immediate, dramatic, far-reaching and long lasting. Few professional qualifications place as much power in the hands of an individual and, speaking personally, this is a privilege and a burden that I feel every day and like or loathe in equal measure.
An old analogy of the insolvency profession likened us to ruthless soldiers from the dark-ages, entering the battlefield at the end of the day to bury the dead and bayonet the wounded.
Well, tired of being shunned at networking events perceived as the grim reaper or side-stepped like a modern-day plague doctor, and certainly since I obtained my own license in 2001 I have done my best to make sure that every client encounter and the way me and my colleagues operate completely dispels that impression.
I suspect that when people first consider approaching me for advice they imagine me dispensing a process, like a GP after hearing the symptoms, I’m sure that they expect me to reach for a product on a nearby shelf, hand it over with a hawkish grin and say “you need a liquidation” or “a pre-packaged administration will soon have you back on your feet”. The reality is very different.
It’s true that most people consult with an insolvency practitioner far too late. Business owners are typically reluctant to seek advice when they have a problem and when the problem is financially related their reluctance grows exponentially; pride, fear, embarrassment and impecuniosity combine to cloud their vision and it generally takes intervention by a concerned accountant or friend to guide them to my door. This is unfortunate because early intervention provides more opportunities for turning things around and it is in this aspect of my job that I get the greatest satisfaction; my job is to provide guidance and solutions to problems. I save businesses and livelihoods.
After almost 40 years of helping individuals to resolve daily problems arising in their business and personal lives I never tire of meeting people. I get excited at the prospect of hearing the story of their journey and the interaction of their personal and business lives. This is important because whatever I can do to help them right now will be informed by their history and by the aspirations they still hold for the future. Like all the best remedies, what I prescribe has to suit the individual and the business.
I don’t work alone. Accountants, lawyers, financiers, lenders, investors, business coaches and marketing specialists are my fellow curators and when I’m not working with and for my clients I’m associating with other advisers to make sure that I understand what they can also do to help the people that I meet. I like to meet people within their comfort zones and this also allows me to pick up on the visual signals in the business environment which add to my understanding of the client’s journey and the starting point for the task ahead.
And what of the task ahead? Well, me and my family of colleagues spend our days deploying strategies that we have worked out with our clients. We apply processes involving stringent and inflexible rules to an infinite variety of situations; we talk to and advise individuals, business owners, directors, shareholders, creditors, distraught employees and other stakeholders every day. It is a tough job and it doesn’t suit everyone. Part administrator, accountant, lawyer, doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, mentor, tutor, coach, counsellor, guru, inspirational speaker, pundit and comedian, every day is assured to call upon us to display the attributes of all these professions and more.
Working in insolvency isn’t easy. Becoming a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner and maintaining that status is a significant challenge in its own right; making and managing a business of it is bordering on foolhardy. It is a vocation, it consumes your time, your attention and your energy and, at the end of a tiring day when your mobile lights up with a message – a call to action for the day ahead, your mind is already there, planning and developing a strategy.
There are a good many more important professions than mine, we aren’t worthy of a true comparison with the medical, emergency response and military professions but, for me it does require an unstinting commitment to doing what is best and right – helping others when the ability to help themselves has reached the limit.
Daily, that is my passion and my privilege.