Business liquidations have increased while voluntary administration cases have declined over the past couple of years, leading to concern that companies are not being proactive enough to avoid failure.
However, there is also concern that the high cost and complexity of voluntary administration is prohibiting firms from taking action.
Business recovery specialists say many struggling firms, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, could have avoided liquidation if they had acted sooner.
"Sometimes secured creditors push the button to place a company into receivership because the business owners fail to communicate with them," said Daniel Zhang of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway.
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January is traditionally a tough time for retail businesses especially, as consumers reduce spending in favour of paying off accounts left over from the silly season.
While the number of businesses going under was nowhere near crisis levels, Zhang said there were more liquidations than there normally would be, and many could have been prevented.
Fewer than 10 per cent of the cases his firm works on are voluntary administration. However, that should be at least 20 per cent, he said.
"Often we see that the owners have failed to communicate adequately. It could be a shame thing or if results haven't improved since last time, they may be embarrassed," he said.
Often businesses were forced into liquidation because it was the easiest and quickest way to move forward as help had not been sought early enough. Many directors and business owners did not understand the laws around restructuring and insolvency, Zhang said.
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Craig Garner, chief executive of Business Mentors NZ, said too many New Zealand businesses failed unnecessarily.
He agreed many owners felt ashamed about struggling and seeking help before it was too late.
"The New Zealand psyche celebrates our can-do attitude, so, sadly, asking for help is often mistakenly perceived as a weakness.
"With financial issues early intervention is the key," Garner said.
"Financial literacy, or lack of it, is a significant problem in New Zealand. The solution is accessible and relevant education, and working alongside people with the skills and knowledge to ensure the knowledge and systems are applied."
He said the only failure was "not seeking help".
John Fisk, head of business recovery at PwC and chairman of the Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association, said there was a "low base" of voluntary administration appointments in New Zealand.
Voluntary administration was a common route taken by struggling hospitality and retail businesses, but often many firms left it too late for any turnaround work and liquidation was the only option, he said.
"There are situations where we would be involved with where we've said; 'Look if we'd been asked to get involved 12 months earlier we could have saved this business'."
At least one in five cases PwC had done work on over the past year had been reminiscent of this sentiment, he said.
"Where you identify an issue early, it certainly creates the opportunity to do some turnaround work that will keep the business going and hopefully enable it to flourish."
But often when a business was struggling directors were not interested in spending money on professional advice, he said.
Another deterrent to seeking help earlier may also be associated with the cost.
Voluntary administration tended to be more expensive, and required two meetings with creditors - one within a week of being appointed, Fisk said.
"Voluntary administration, if it can be streamlined so that the costs are lowered, that would be one factor that would make it more attractive for small- to medium-sized businesses to use as a restructuring tool."
New Zealand needed a process that covered the cost to encourage small firms to consider the option, he said.
"We need to have a process that is going to be much more positive for businesses and you won't see businesses being unnecessarily liquidated, and hopefully a better return for the creditors."