SMEs warned against mixing 'business and pleasure'
An insolvency firm has cautioned small business owners that intermingling “business and pleasure” can bring substantial risk to their business and personal wellbeing.
Earlier this year, Suncorp’s SME vs ME report revealed that almost two-thirds of small business owners’ wellbeing was suffering because their business and personal affairs were too intermingled.
Worrells partner Michael Griffin said many small business owners tended to treat the company bank account as their own, risking their personal assets if the company goes into insolvency.
“As insolvency practitioners who work with many accountants and their SME business owner clients on failed businesses every day, we agree with the comments arising from the survey,” said Mr Griffin.
“We see the effects from the substantial risks that business owners take on, which often lead to personal challenges resulting in exhaustion, high stress and pressure on financial obligations.”
Examples of mixing company and personal expenses include a company credit card used for day-to-day personal household expense, a leased motor vehicle that a spouse uses solely for private use, and school fees and home renovations paid for by the company, effectively eroding the corporate veil - which serves to protect directors, personally, from a company’s failure.
Mr Griffin said using company funds for personal use creates a loan account that the director owes to the company.
In the event the company winds up, liquidators are then forced to issue directors with a demand for the loan account’s balance, which can result in the director filing for personal bankruptcy and risking their personal assets.
“Putting aside the blatant crossover of business funds and facilities as personal resources, when company directors don’t have a capital base as security for bank finance, their home or relative’s home is often insisted on as collateral for finance to be granted,” he added.
“The emotional stress carried in possibly losing that asset can be enough to question if being ‘in business’ is worth it.”
Sole traders would not fare better without the corporate veil, taking on sole responsibility for debts, employees being paid, tax obligations being remitted, and landlord terms being met.
Mr Griffin said these “cocktail of obligations” often meant sole traders were paid last or not at all.
“Our wish is for those sole traders and company directors to not mix ‘business and pleasure’ in the businesses’ books and records, which applies to credit cards, drawings, and any leasing assets e.g. a vehicle, and more,” said Mr Griffin.