Turnaround consultants have a tough time getting their clients to talk about them. When they are attempting to save a troubled business, the owner is usually too upset to discuss their efforts. After the crisis, when the business is back on track, the business owner just wants to forget that he or she almost lost everything.

"It's one thing to run a company when things are going well," said Joel Getzler, president of Getzler & Co., a New York-based turnaround company. "It takes a totally different mind-set when things aren't going well."

Things aren't going well for thousands of small companies around the country. Forget the dot-com disasters; most of them are dead and buried. Many traditional businesses, especially in the apparel and textile industry, are failing but the smart owners are reaching out for professional help.

Getzler said an entrepreneur's unsinkable optimism actually hurts his or her chances for saving a troubled business.

"They say, 'It will get better tomorrow ... the big order is coming tomorrow,'" said Getzler. "The exact thing (optimism) that got them to where they are starts hurting the business when there is a problem."

Business owners don't suddenly become stupid, but too often they ignore how the economy or overall market conditions are negatively affecting their business.

No matter what kind of business you operate, here are three things Getzler recommends doing right now:

- Prepare a short-term cash projection. Estimate your cash needs for the next two to three months to set your spending priorities. Identify ways to reduce expenses.

-Prioritize payments. Determine who your crucial vendors are the ones you can't operate without. If you owe vendors who aren't currently providing supplies, hold off, or reduce those monthly payments.

- Review staffing levels. Ask yourself, "Does this person really contribute to my business?" If not, let him or her go.

Getzler, whose father, Abe, started the business in 1968, said the firm has been extremely busy in the last three months as the economy weakened. (The week we spoke, he received nine referrals).

Short-term work

Most of the time, they are in and out of a business within a few months, dealing with creditors and sorting out a variety of problems.

"Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job," said Getzler, adding that his firm is usually brought in by the business owner's bank or board.


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