2022 was a difficult year for many companies. In fact it was an even more difficult one than the previous problem years. While the Corona pandemic in the form of fragile supply chains has not quite been overcome even after almost three years, galloping energy costs, rising interest rates and a threatening shortage of staff are creating new, additional risk factors. An interview with Martin Hammer and Uwe Köstens about the current situation, the outlook for 2023 and why restructuring experts are often "buzzkills".

Mr. Köstens, some of the forecasts for economic development in autumn and next year sounded very dramatic. Nevertheless, the great wave of bankruptcies has so far failed to materialise. Is the mood worse than the situation after all?

 Many companies, especially the owner-managed small and medium-sized enterprises, were already badly hit before the Ukraine war. However, the tsunami expected in the wake of the pandemic turned out to be a gentle Baltic wave because the state flooded the economy with liquidity. Even if the statistics do not yet show it, in my estimation there are very many companies that are ready for insolvency, because they did not recognise the need for comprehensive efficiency improvements and restructuring in 2020 and 2021 or simply slept through it – and did so precisely because of the comfortable subsidies they received. These companies are now going directly into liquidation, insolvency or self-administration. Many are being kept alive artificially by the banks.

Which sectors are particularly affected?

Hammer: The question of who is not affected could be answered more quickly. Above all, all manufacturing companies, because they suffer the most from high energy costs. Cheap energy has long been the backbone of German. This basis for business has now fallen through the floor. At the same time, industry has neglected structural digital transformation for years because things were going so well economically. This is now falling doubly flat in our faces. We were lulled into a pseudo-certainty that things would always continue the way they were. The fact that this is no longer the case is itself a cause for concern for the economy as a whole, but on the other hand it also gives us hope that the long overdue changes and reorganisations are now finally being tackled. (or possible alternative ending: but it also gives us hope that the long overdue changes and reorganisations are now being kick-started.)

You have specialised in medium-sized companies...

Köstens: Correct, they are suffering the most at the moment. Large companies, such as those listed on the Dax, are not hit nearly as hard by the current situation because these companies have a completely different equity base. Look at the automotive industry: while the OEMs are achieving record results, the suppliers are going down in rows because they cannot change their business model as quickly as they need to, for example by pushing ahead with e-mobility. The German SME sector is caught in a dilemma which, in my view, is going to be very difficult to scramble out of.

Hammer: Let me give you an example: A large, German consumer goods manufacturer, 200 million turnover, 900 employees, as a classic enomyc customer. The company has always grown moderately. In 2021, it achieved a record result. To avoid future supply bottlenecks as much as possible, the company stocked up on vast quantities of spare parts in 2021. Then, at the beginning of 2022, the Ukraine war breaks out and the consumption behaviour of people changes completely overnight. Thus, a business model that worked well for 20 years becomes a restructuring case within six months.

What can be learned from such cases? What do you advise your clients?

Köstens: The markets are so volatile that solid planning for several years has become very difficult. What this means is that companies are having to think and plan much more in terms of scenarios. They must be able to integrate scenarios into existing planning and track their plans very closely on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis in order to be able to manage proactively instead of reactively. This is something that very few of our clients are doing at the moment, especially when business is good. Larger companies are doing it, and the listed ones simply because of their reporting obligations. But the people in the upper middle class sector are usually react much too late. When we come across a company of this kind, our job is also to do a "buzzkill", because we prefer to plan conservatively rather than optimistically and to have a more critical but also a more realistic view of things. Why? Because our experience shows that it is naïve to believe that the market will sort everything out once things have gone off the rails for three months. In all the 1,300 or so projects we have carried through, this approach has worked in perhaps two percent of the cases. 

How does this new, highly dynamic and difficult environment change your work?

Köstens: Redevelopment is becoming more and more complex and difficult, the requirements are towering ever higher and the time windows for preparing decisions are squeezing ever narrower. That's why we as advisors have to be even faster and even more consistent. Today, you must be capable of assessing the future viability and fresh money needs of a company within a few weeks only and do your arguing or rejecting on a thin information basis. Historically, we come from pre-insolvency advice, the aim of which is to avoid insolvency. In the meantime, however, we are coming more and more to the realisation that what is needed is the courage to take up clear positions especially against the background of volatile markets. If a company has no future in the current form, then you must say so. This can then be an effective means of restructuring from insolvency in order to be able to act more quickly. But as a consultant of course, you certainly need a great deal of experience and determination to take this path.

Hammer: With the current complexity of the projects, it is not only the expertise of the individual consultants that counts, but also the substance of the consulting firm. In order to build up the fundamental knowledge required for successful restructuring, you must have been established on the market for a while and have carried out many projects. In my view, this development will lead to the long-established players dominating the market again in the next few years at the expense of smaller consulting firms. We are also observing an increasingly selective selection process among banks in the matter of which consultancies can be trusted as partners for such complex projects. Our proven expertise over many years are certainly a big advantage here, especially under pressure and in special situations.

enomyc will be 20 years old in 2023. You both founded the company. What are your plans?

Hammer: When we founded our real estate team in mid-2021, it was not yet foreseeable that interest rates would rise so high or that many of the large project developers would have massive problems to face. Looking back, this was even more clearly an important strategic step.

Köstens: Professional reinforcement in the M&A area is also complementary to our business model, because when a company is no longer going strong, raising equity capital, selling shares or gaining shareholders are important issues. This means we are well positioned for the crisis.

Hammer: Four years ago, we consciously began to transform ourselves with our rebranding as enomyc. In the process, we also brought younger consultants on board and significantly rejuvenated and expanded our partner level. We want to pass on our experience to them and in the process create a sustainable foundation with our enomyc DNA. I hope our younger advisors in particular will take on more responsibility in our company on a continuous basis and benefit from our many years of crisis-tested expertise, especially in this unique macroeconomic situation. We are on the right track.

It remains exciting. Mr Hammer, Mr Köstens - thank you very much for the interview!


We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our committed readers, business partners and, above all, our experts and colleagues for their continued support and the high level of interest they maintain in our interviews, articles and podcasts. We now say goodbye 2022 in the Christmas break and look forward keenly to entertaining and informing you with our many hard-hitting, critical and above all interesting contributions in the new year.

We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, reflective holidays and a healthy and successful 2023.

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