While there are a few who still argue that we aren't in a recession, economists like Paul Krugman aren't bothering to quibble about it. "We're in an economy with deteriorating employment and incomes, collapsing home prices, and business retrenchment. Is it also an economy in recession? Who cares?"
What's in a name, right? What about these names: Corporate Downsizing, Reduction in Force, Restructuring, Reengineered, Right-Sizing—different names that all mean the same thing: cutting costs to remain profitable, typically by laying off workers and shutting down less-profitable operations.
In today's economy, manufacturing has been particularly hard hit. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment in the manufacturing sector was over 7 percent in March 2013. In January of this year, over 50,000 workers filed for unemployment. And the commerce department reported that orders of durable goods—long-lasting pieces of equipment like airplanes or heavy machinery—fell 13.2% in August. Put more plainly, companies are closing down production facilities and manufacturing plants in an effort to remain competitive. But before you turn out the lights, what do you do with all that machinery and used equipment?
If you can’t repurpose your used equipment, the most common solution is to liquidate it. Fortunately, there are many companies who deal in used equipment and refurbished machinery, companies that will often purchase all your onsite equipment in one transaction. (And if you’re in a position to purchase used equipment, these dealers can offer very competitive prices.)
While liquidating part or all of your used equipment is a straightforward concept, the "how" isn't always as easy. For smaller enterprises, the US Small Business Administration suggests the following steps:
- Talk to your lawyer and accountant. This step should be self-evident. You need to know about any legal ramifications and accounting requirements.
- Scrutinize your assets: inventory, assess, and prepare each item for sale. This would include creating detailed descriptions of each item and cleaning or repairing your used equipment. Keep in mind that you can also donate used equipment for a tax write-off. If you must dispose of your item, make sure you adhere to any legal requirements.
- Secure your merchandise. This might be seen as overly cautious, but industrial theft does happen. Make sure no one can steal or damage the equipment before you can sell it.
- Establish the liquidation value of your assets. For this step, you should hire a professional appraiser. Typically, you can expect roughly 20% less than the retail value of your used equipment. Many companies that deal in used equipment can provide appraisals for your equipment.
- Make certain that a sale is worthwhile. Going through with a liquidation is not always the best choice. There might be other things to consider. For instance, once you deduct all the expenses related to the sale of an item, you might find you're not making any money at all. Talk to your accountant and lawyer to see if there are other options.
- Choose the best type of sale for your merchandise. There are various methods of selling your used equipment along with different buyers. You might prefer standard retail sales or find that an auction would suit you better. Similar companies or competitors are the most common choices for buyers, but there are also used machinery dealers who might offer you a better price. If time isn't an issue, you might consider consignment sales. Internet sales are also a possibility.
- Select the best time for your sale. This simply means that you should know your prospective buyer and plan your sale accordingly. Put simply, don't try to sell a snowblower in July. Similarly, don't schedule a sale when your target audience can't attend.
- Arrange to hold your sale at the most appropriate location. This step is closely related to step 7. To ensure success, you want your target buyer to be there. Consequently, you want to set up a time and location that are best suited to your potential buyer. You want to make it as easy as possible for your targeted buyer to purchase your used equipment. But don't forget you can also reach people remotely through a website. Some buyers might be just as willing to bid on items online. Nevertheless, the SBA says it's usually best to hold your sale on the premises and that most items look better in the context in which they are used.
- Hire an expert to conduct your sale. Don't think that doing it yourself will save money. Hiring an expert will save you much more than trying to do it yourself. Whether you decide to hire an auctioneer, a dealer, or a broker, make sure you hire a professional.
- Use a non-recourse bill of sale. In addition to conducting the sales event, your sales professional will also manage the paperwork and legal transfer of ownership. However, it's up to you to make sure everything is done correctly. Each item should be sold "As is, Where is." You don't want to get caught up in suits over implied warranties or something similar.
The fact is, regardless of what we call our present economy, budgets are tightening and companies can’t afford to mismanage their assets. Asset management strategies, including liquidating machinery and equipment that is no longer needed, can be the difference between gainful employment and another reported layoff on the BLS spreadsheet.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000)
"Are We Already in A Recession?" Christopher Matthews, Time, Inc. 2013 (http://business.time.com/2012/10/01/are-we-already-in-a-recession/#ixzz2R2K2JY5Y)
US Small Business Association (http://www.sba.gov/content/liquidating-assets)