More business owners are seeking help for financial problems despite the relatively low level of bankruptcy.
The Dutch tax office has referred 1,465 companies this year to Over Rood, a volunteer-run organisation that helps companies in difficulty.
In 2020, when the government bankrolled businesses that were unable to trade during lockdown, the number dropped to 607.
The figure is relatively low despite the Netherlands being in recession, with the economy contracting in each of the first three quarters of 2023.
The statistics agency CBS recorded 3,123 bankruptcies in the last 12 months, one-third of the level of 2013 when the country was emerging from a major financial crisis.
Banks have also become more pro-active in trying to solve businesses’ problems if they fall behind on payments. A new legal procedure, the WHOA, allows courts to order creditors to work with struggling businesses to come up with a repayment plan before they move for closure.
But Over Rood told NOS that many companies were only just staying afloat as they battled rising costs and falling sales.
The organisation is staffed by former entrepreneurs, many of whom have experience of their own companies getting into trouble.
Jeroen Berends, who previously owned a flower company and now works one day a week at Over Rood’s Apeldoorn Branch, said the number of referrals had quadrupled in the last year.
“One thing you see is business owners instructing their bank to claim back the rent they’ve paid,” he said. “They don’t realise they can be evicted if they do that.
“Every week when I sit with clients I think: if only I’d had that help. It takes courage to decide to stop.”
Gé Gijssen, business adviser with the chamber of commerce (KvK), said he was consulted by dozens of people every day. “Often it’s not the owner themselves, but a partner or a mother who’s worried about a tax debt or rent arrears. Sometimes all they need is a listening ear.”
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