Regularly I come across interesting business experiences of others, and such was the case this weekend. I was chatting with a friend in the pub and he was telling me about his early business career when he was considering becoming an accountant. To gain experience he was working for a large firm of company administrators.
On one of his jobs he was ‘holding the fort’ at a medium sized publisher which was in administration. Late one afternoon he suddenly found a bailiff standing in the office who was planning to empty the place to recover his rent. The timing of his arrival was 4.17 in the afternoon.
I would find this a pretty threatening situation, especially as the receiver was trying to sell the company as a going concern. If it was emptied out, there would be no going concern to sell, so some swift thinking was needed – either that or someone to stump up the money PDQ.
My friend had watched a programme on bailiffs some time before and remembered a quaint little legal point. He thought quickly, and asked the bailiff for a few minutes to take some action. During those few minutes he called the Met Office, which was able to inform him that sundown that day was 4.07 pm.
On returning to the bailiff he informed said bailiff that he would have to return the next morning. The bailiff enquired what made him think he could get him to do that. Well, the reason is simple – by law a bailiff can only collect rent between sunrise and sunset, and as he arrived 10 minutes after sunset he had to go and come back the next day.
What my friend did not know was that the Partner was completing the sale of the company as a going concern. By the time the bailiff returned the next morning the rent was paid and my friend received a rather large bonus for saving the day.
The law has funny ways of working. The one which always amazed me was the Whitewash Procedure. Until October 2008 you could not use the assets of the company you were purchasing to acquire its shares (this law was repealed and now you can I am told). So every time I was purchasing a company my lawyer would shake his head and tell me we could not do it the way we wanted to.
The procedure to solve this was simple. Simply sit back. The lawyer would put on his most pensive face and tell me that he knew away around it. I never quite figured out why we had to go through this charade other than jacking up the legal fees, but every time the problem was solved.
I would hope that none of you are ever faced with a bailiff whether collecting rent or anything else, but I do hope you are in a position to buy other companies or even sell your own. In either case, it is good to be well informed in advance and Google is a good place to start doing your research. That and talking to people who have gone through a similar experience.