To Bankruptcy And Beyond

“To infinity and beyond!” is Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase in the movie Toy Story, but it is also a helpful way to think about the bankruptcy process. Infinity and bankruptcy both may seem like the end of the line, but, in theory, there’s more out there to explore for those who are brave enough to try.

When one of our Milwaukee-area business clients comes into our office to talk about filing for bankruptcy, all most can think about is the act of filing itself. They aren’t thinking about what it will be like to come out the other side. But there is another side, just like there is something beyond infinity.

While common knowledge would say that there can be nothing beyond infinity, in geometry, if you go beyond infinity, you start coming back to your starting point from the opposite direction. Filing for bankruptcy can be like that as well. Bankruptcy pushes you toward a limit, and when you can go no further, you suddenly find yourself on the other side, with a business that is different, but still alive and kicking.

Need further persuasion that filing for bankruptcy is only the beginning? Take a look at this episode of the NPR podcast Planet Money — you can listen to it or read the transcript. It’s a look at the American bankruptcy system through the eyes of the owner of a chain of appliance stores.

It goes into a lot of detail about the shame Roddey Player felt when he filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the business his father built. All that he and his family had worked for for the past 60 years seemed to be slipping away on his watch, and everyone in town knew about it because the local papers covered the case almost from the minute it was filed. His own son, who was away at college texted him, “you OK?” after hearing the news of the bankruptcy second-hand.

Player was not okay, but his story does not end there. He filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, which allows for reorganizations instead of forcing a liquidation. He was able to convince his creditors and the bankruptcy judge that they would ultimately be better off if he remained in business. Today, his company is back on its feet, and is even expanding.

Player and his business went to bankruptcy and beyond, and that is what we help our clients do every day. Not every business owner wants to keep the doors open— and some who would like to are unable to— but enough businesses do make it through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process to prove that it still works.

Our firm has years of experience shepherding businesses through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, and we are always interested in helping others who are not ready to give up the fight. We help businesses go to bankruptcy and beyond!