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Stand Guard Bankruptcy can sneak up on you if you aren't paying attention. To keep your business safe, be on the lookout for these warning signs.

By C.J. Prince

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just because it is costlier and more difficult to file for bankruptcy now than in years past does not mean that fewer businesses will wind up doing it, particularly if former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's warning of a recession later this year materializes. A January poll by the American Bankruptcy Institute found that 71 percent of respondents anticipate bankruptcies among small and midmarket businesses to rise substantially in 2007. "It's the law of gravity," explains John Penn, bankruptcy attorney with Haynes and Boone, one of the nation's fastest-growing law firms. "What goes up will come down."

At least that's true for some over-leveraged businesses that have simply kept borrowing to plug the holes and keep from sinking, says Jennifer Emens-Butler, partner at Obuchowski & Emens-Butler, a firm that specializes in business and consumer bankruptcy. "If they have not fixed what is broken, when interest rates rise even slightly or hedge funds start calling in their loans for whatever reason, that could [result in] a pretty serious crash."

The trick to avoiding bankruptcy is to ditch denial and recognize the warning signs six months to a year before a minor cash flow problem mushrooms into a dire situation. Here are a few things to watch out for.

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