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Prepared for an Emergency

Coping successfully with a corporate crisis with the Steinbeis+Akademie certification course

Everyday life for German SMEs often feels like a constant attempt to navigate through one crisis to another. It’s not uncommon for there to be only one remaining option: to declare insolvency. But what can companies do to head off this possibility, or brace themselves for the impact of customers going into liquidation? Support is offered by the zeb/business.school, a Steinbeis Transfer Institute. Launching in early 2024, a certification course on the Corporate Recovery of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), which was developed in partnership with the Steinbeis+Akademie, will equip executives not only with the expertise to identify crises early but also with an understanding of legal and taxation factors.

Germany – The Sick Man of Europe. Just one of the headlines that featured in the international business press at the turn of the millennium. In the end, the then chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his cabinet saw this assessment of the economy as an opportunity to initiate one of the biggest structural reforms in the German economy since the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) of the 1950s. The measures that were introduced, which went down in post-war German history as the Hartz IV reforms, laid a foundation for an upturn in the economy that lasted for more than a decade.

And now the media are once again returning to Germany’s reputation as the sick man of Europe. Regardless of whether this view is shared by others, the famous Mittelstand – the SMEs considered the powerhouse of the German economy – once again finds itself navigating through choppy waters. After years of declining business liquidations, the number of companies required to file for insolvency has been rapidly increasing since January of this year. According to figures issued by the Federal Statistical Office, in July 2023 the number of corporate insolvencies rose by 23.8% compared to the previous year.[1]

As a rule, insolvency proceedings are the very last phase of a corporate crisis. The number of companies actually facing an existential crisis is thus likely to be many times higher. Not only does this development pose threats to an increasing number of SMEs sliding into a crisis, it can also endanger the existence of SMEs that are essentially flourishing – especially if their suppliers or customers were to disappear from the market due to insolvency.

Spotting crises and reacting appropriately

It’s never possible to rule out the possibility of a financial crisis over the lifetime of a company, but that’s not the issue. Much more important is that companies are able to react promptly at the first signs of a crisis, and if a client does plunge into insolvency, firms should first focus clearly on their own interests. Being in a position to spot the early signals of a pending crisis is just as important as knowing your rights when it comes to the insolvency proceedings of customers.

To acquire or refresh the knowledge companies require, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute zeb/business.school has joined forces with the Steinbeis+Akademie and in early 2024 will begin offering a certification course on corporate recovery management. Spanning three modules, each encompassing twelve hours of classroom-based instruction, participants are equipped with the know-how to recognize the signs of a corporate crisis and take effective countermeasures in good time. During the course, a variety of extrajudicial restructuring options are explained. These are based on standard S6 of the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany (IDW). Drawing on examples for illustration purposes, instruction is also provided on the tools of judicial business recovery under restructuring or insolvency proceedings.

In addition to looking at company restructuring measures, course participants are introduced to taxation frameworks, such as the taxation of profits emerging from restructuring, as well as the legal framework for all stakeholders affected by a corporate crisis. To explain the legal environment, particular emphasis is laid on ensuring people in senior management, their advisors, and involved banks and financial institutions are made aware of prevailing risks. Finally, participants are provided with an overview of their legal rights as well as their options as creditors during financial turnarounds. The course culminates in a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) from the Steinbeis+Akademie.

The certification course run by the zeb/business.school, which goes by the title Corporate Recovery of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), is aimed at business leaders and managers of SMEs, as well as people working at banks and institutions offering financing. The goal is to provide participants with an opportunity to acquire the necessary expertise in response to the increasing number of business recovery and restructuring processes. Management consultants, tax consultants, and attorneys are equipped with the tools required to offer clients competent advice during a crisis in the areas that matter most. To offer high levels of professionalism and ensure the certification course is based closely on business practice, the lecturing team is also experienced in continuing professional development.

The brains behind the certification course  

The course lecturers – Steffen Rohn, a district court judge, Professor Dr. habil. Bernd Romeike, and Professor Dr. Tobias Schulze – bring extensive experience to the field of corporate restructuring, with a longstanding involvement in staff training on behalf of a variety of institutions. As an insolvency judge, Steffen Rohn has been involved in corporate insolvencies for over 25 years, including major insolvencies spanning a variety of business sectors. Professor Dr. habil. Bernd Romeike has been lecturing in economics and business administration at universities outside Germany for over a decade. As a board member of a consulting company, he has successfully advised a large number of medium-sized enterprises, particularly on out-of-court business recovery. Professor Dr. Tobias Schulze has extensive experience both as an insolvency administrator and in the area of legal support for medium-sized companies involved in complex restructuring processes.


Prof. Dr. habil. Michael Lister (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Institute zeb/business.school (Baden-Baden)

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Norbert Grünwald (author)
Deputy Chairman
TGZ Schwerin/Wismar

Prof. Dr. habil. Bernd Romeike (author)

Steffen Rohn (author)
Rostock District Court

Prof. Dr. Tobias Schulze (author)
Attorney at Law

[1] Press releases of the Federal Statistical Office No. 314. August 11, 2023