A Christmas Carol – how Dickens got it all wrong

December 11th, 2017
11 December

I have always enjoyed the timeless morality play that is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the atmosphere gripping, the storyline endlessly compelling. As an insolvency practitioner I also appreciate the detail which the author sprinkles like snowflakes throughout this famous short story (it’s all about the detail, folks).

When it comes to the three spectres that visit Scrooge, however, I am not sure that Dickens has got it completely right. 

From the point-of-view of the business that is facing up to the unwelcome prospect of going to the wall, the first two spirits resonate pretty well. The Ghost of Christmas Past, in these terms, represents the happier times in the company’s history; the first order, the new premises, banking in the black – every business has its own version of when things were going well, of when the staff were dancing at Mr Fezziwig’s Christmas party as it were.

Many of our clients would also see the analogy with The Ghost of Christmas Present and their own sobering experiences in the reality of business life – the missed opportunity, changing market conditions, the unfriendly exchange rate, the irreversible effects of negative cash flow and so on. Whatever the particular circumstance that brings them to the brink, fighting an unequal battle to keep the business afloat is something they are all familiar with.

But Dickens got it wrong, I think, when he presented The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come as a ghastly apparition pointing his bony hand towards nothing but the grave. It is, unfortunately, a common image applied to Insolvency Practitioners, but once the business owner has grasped the nettle and acknowledged insolvency there is a clearly defined upward path that we can take together towards a new future for the individuals concerned.

Indeed, Scrooge memorably faces up to his own problems – in the end and when he throws open the window to send the little boy racing through the snowy streets of London to buy the biggest turkey in the shop, the reader can feel the relief flooding into Ebenezer’s life. Many of our clients feel this way once the pressure is off them!

The future is not so frightening when you can see that the way forward has been clearly marked out for you. Speaking with an IP sooner rather than later can often avoid or reduce the effects of the “bony hand”….. So to all our colleagues and clients- past, present and future – here’s to a Happy Christmas ….. and a prosperous and solvent 2018.