Trouble ahead: the warning signs
Big Business
Trouble ahead: the warning signs
Trouble ahead: the warning signs
Sole Trader

Trouble ahead: the warning signs
A checklist for spotting the warning signs that there may be troubles ahead

The big idea

In the introduction to her book, Business Nightmares, Rachel Elnaugh (2008), the dragon from Dragon’s Den whose Red Letter Days business very publicly went into administration, says that, despite the title, she intended the book to be positive. She set out to illuminate some of the struggles that can happen and the opportunities that can emerge out of crisis. From her own experience, she shares the sense of relief and liberation, rather than the expected depression, when her business finally collapsed.

The idea behind including this tool is to both highlight some of the struggles you might encounter and to illustrate that even if the worst happens there is still a route through. Rachel’s fall from grace was very public, which is why she wanted to highlight the fact that it is generally only success that is reported while the real problems and issues are swept under the carpet. She describes it as “exploding the myth that business is all plain sailing”. (Elnaugh, 2008: viii)


This tool is designed to help you think about the warning signs that your business might be in trouble. It is in a sense a reality check, the sharpest of organisational audits, to assess the health of the business. It might not feel like a comfortable exercise, which could mean that questions like these have been in the back of your mind but it has been difficult to face them. So, deep breath and give it a go!

The Tool

The tool consists of a questionnaire based on some of the common warning signs that there might be trouble ahead for your business. Try and answer them as honestly as you can. If it is not occurring now, do you think it is possible that it might arise within the next quarter or even six months? This is a tool you can use quickly on your own but you may then choose to share the results with other people.