November 28, 2021

“We must isolate the impact of the Covid in the company’s accounts, whether negative or positive”

LA TRIBUNE – How did the companies you support get through the crisis?

Gwladys TOHIER – I run BAB Audit Conseil, a small auditing firm created in 2009 in Biarritz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) with an audit activity with a clientele of around fifty pretty SMEs in the transport and transport sectors. hotels, car dealerships and even construction, with turnover of 100 to 500 million euros. Their trajectories are very different. The transport did extremely well while for the building everything stopped for several months. For this sector, state aid and borrowing and leasing delays have played a very important role, perhaps even more than the state guaranteed loans (PGE) which have often been taken out. as a precaution. The construction industry has picked up very strongly in the Basque Country even if the sector is today faced with a lack of manpower and raw materials. Finally, for the hotel industry, we can also see on the Basque coast a power 10 recovery in activity, but with companies often more fragile and very worrying labor issues.

What are the concrete problems facing these business leaders?

Human resources are clearly the number one topic today! Almost all of the managers encounter, on the one hand, major recruitment difficulties and a shortage of manpower and, on the other hand, a problem of managing employees’ return to the office with the end of widespread teleworking. It is a very complicated situation because companies must both recruit and retain and retain their own employees who can be in high demand by the competition! We must manage to play on bonuses, teleworking, the company’s project and, more and more, on the balance with personal life, especially among the younger generations.

At the same time, many entrepreneurs are on the lookout for potential good external growth deals. For groups with strong backs, the opportunities are mechanically more numerous after almost 18 months of crisis with weakened companies in transport, construction, etc. My feeling is that there could be a phenomenon of market concentration in several sectors.

These more numerous opportunities correspond to companies in difficulty …

Yes, it has to do with the “whatever the cost” strategy which has been effective in helping businesses that were doing well. But it also saved companies which did not have the capacity to survive before the crisis and which will probably survive after this period of deconfinement! That said, there are also companies that were not far from dying 18 months ago and who have taken advantage of aid to rebound, pivot and clean up their economic model by repaying previous debts. But many questions will arise for these companies when it will be necessary to repay the EMP and resume normal deadlines while keeping their heads above water.

How do you see this exit from “whatever the cost”?

First, I believe that we must really insist on the importance of going towards amicable procedures such as conciliation or the ad hoc mandate without waiting to be in too great difficulty and to find oneself forced to go to court. collective procedure.

Court administrators have a role to play in resolving the crisis

But, more broadly, the major challenge will be to identify and isolate in the company’s accounts what is linked to the Covid crisis, whether positive or negative on the cash flow. This is the only way to assess whether the business is structurally viable or not. If this is the case, we must help it with tailor-made tools, if it is not viable, then unfortunately there is no point in continuing to help …

Since the Pacte law, the auditors no longer intervene on SMEs with less than 8 million euros in turnover. We think it would be useful if we could intervene punctually to reassure third parties, bankers, etc. Because today it is difficult to know if public aid or subsidies are going to the right place. The auditors are able to verify all of this.

Gwladys Tohier chairs the Regional Company of Auditors of Grande Aquitaine

(credits: DR).

Some observers estimate that at least 15% to 20% of SMEs will not survive the end of the crisis. Do you share this analysis?

Yes, I completely agree and you shouldn’t be surprised! There are still far fewer business liquidations today than in normal times because a number are kept alive artificially in some way. So, at some point, there will be a catching-up phenomenon with a peak in disappearances, that seems inevitable to me.

Personally, I would like us to be able to distinguish more between nature and the trajectory in order to differentiate between, on the one hand, family businesses which have kept a human touch, a link with the territory, which have always been healthy and which might have deserved to be helped more and, on the other hand, large groups. The problem is that the former risk finding themselves at the helm of the commercial court with, in any case, a debt cancellation, and potentially a takeover by a large, less local group with less good management. We, as auditors, can help the public authorities to see more clearly on this subject.

With the end of “whatever the cost”, the specter of a wave of bankruptcies resurfaces

What are the latest avenues for supporting businesses to get out of the crisis?

Many questions continue to be asked on the part of the public authorities and there are several options. Should we postpone the reimbursement of the EMP? Should it be spread over five or ten years, or even more? At this stage, it’s still a bit artistic blur. The only certainty is that the exit process from the EMP must be as smooth as possible, in particular to take into account the context of recovery complicated by the double shortage of labor and raw materials. On the other hand, I also say it clearly, companies which have taken an EMP just as a precaution and without really needing it must repay it as quickly as possible so that we can reinject this money into the economy! Personally, I would not understand that EMPs are kept in the accounts of companies that do not need them.

What I also know is that we will now have to do it on a case-by-case basis after the necessary period of whatever the cost. Each company has specific issues and stakeholders and managers must also become aware of all these interlocutors to whom they can turn to talk about their situation: lawyers, court administrators, accountants, auditors, etc.

“Many business leaders lack knowledge of the Pacte law”, Gilles de Margerie

What are the subjects on which you will focus as president of the Regional Company in the coming months?

There is the digital subject that we have been following very strongly since November 2020 with webinars every two months to present existing digital tools, to educate on what is feasible and why it may be relevant. With an average age of 57, there is still a lot of apprehension vis-à-vis digital technology within the profession even though there are many solutions that can simplify our daily life. At the same time, we launched the “explorers” program, which brings together promotions of ten professionals to train them in digital transformation, marketing and communication via video formats.

Finally, the objective is also to prevent as much as possible the difficulties of the companies by always doing more pedagogy to train and inform on all the amicable procedures. We must act now for companies in difficulty otherwise we risk missing the boat!