Reports that Canadian subscription box supplier Nerd Block has gone to the wall is bad news for an army of suppliers waiting on months of unpaid invoices.

Subscription boxes are big business, and the market is growing by the day. With the success of major brands such as Loot Crate charging £20 or more for a monthly box of goodies delivered to your door, similar companies have sprung up around the world.

Vertu Corporation Limited, the well-known British manufacturer of luxury smartphones, has finally filed for insolvency after being passed between owners since 2012.

The company was known for its spangly, jewel-encrusted handsets which came with equally ludicrous price tags. Its entry-level handset cost a cool £6,500; prices stretched to more than £250,000 for the garish Vertu Signature Cobra.

Taking the decision to stop supplying a client can be one of the hardest decisions any company has to take. With every piece of business so hard won it can be difficult to take a firm line with your credit control and potentially prejudice further income.

But when a customer persistently refuses to pay in full and on time, sometimes you are left with little option but to act.

Along with traffic wardens, politicians, journalists and merchant bankers, debt collection is one of those professions that has a perennial problem with its public image.

But while the unfortunate association between debt collection and burly, menacing men using dubious means to take money from the poor and unfortunate may still persist, as with many things in life, there is significant gap between perception and reality.

Credit Notes are essentially a negative invoice used to rectify mistakes or credit amounts raised in your sales invoice. They may be used to credit all or part of an invoice depending on the circumstances and serve as an accounting record for both parties to counter the invoicing error.

The Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) has attracted sharp criticism for claiming that there is “no evidence” that late payments by supermarkets cause problems for suppliers.

Christine Tacon made the comments to Food Manufacture magazine, claiming that in the four years she has been in the role, retailers were honouring an average of 98 per cent of invoices on time.

The remarks have attracted disbelief and outrage from suppliers’ representatives in the industry. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) pointed out the the government recognised there was a chronic cross-industry problem with late payments affecting SMEs, which make up 96 per cent of UK food and drink manufacturers.

A fine example of how not to carry out debt collection appeared in Singapore newspapers this week after three men were jailed for their part in a farcical incident.

Andra Chew Keng Leng, 40, Lim Boon Tiong, 43, and David Tan, 37, all employees of a debt recovery firm called Double Ace Associates, were sent with three colleagues to collect a debt from a food stall owner at Singapore’s Funan Digitalife Mall.

With a little under a month before the UK goes to the polls - again - following PM Theresa May’s snap general election call, it is difficult to know on what ‘issues’ the public will be basing their votes.

Such has been the mad scramble caused by the election call, the major political parties have not yet even got round to publishing their manifestos - even the Tories, it seems, were caught on the hop by their leader’s out-of-leftfield decision.

One issue we’re sure all small business owners would like to see feature prominently is so-called late payment culture.

Excuses, excuses… one of the most frustrating aspects of chasing unpaid invoices is dealing with the reasons customers give for paying late. When you have worked in the debt collection industry for as long as we have you can be sure we have heard some imaginative answers, along with some that are so old they were probably being used in Roman times.

The key thing to remember when faced with late payment excuses is this - your company is owed the money and you have every right to seek payment. Even when the explanations provided by the client appear to be genuine, if an agreed payment deadline has expired, you are entitled to be paid on time and in full and you have every right to pursue the payment.

New York publishing house Condé Nast has reportedly come up with a novel solution to the tricky issue of ensuring its contributors get paid on time.

As reported here, the magazine empire behind global titles such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and Tatler has decided to offer freelance writers an offer they cannot refuse - Condé Nast has very generously offered to pay invoices early, in return for a small reduction in the payment. Must be to cover all of the extra admin involved.

Not being paid on time is one of the biggest worries facing small business owners. Trying to recover outstanding debts can feel like a very lonely process if you are not aware of the help available.

One important thing to remember is this - as a creditor, the law is on your side. Since 1998, UK businesses have been legally entitled to charge interest on overdue payments owed by another company.

In the current political climate, you can hardly move for hearing talk about borders, trade agreements, slamming shut doors and opening the windows of opportunity.

But let’s face it, for many in business, such talk is a mere distraction. Money talks, and the world is just one big open market of opportunity. Wherever a deal can be done or an investment can be made, business will follow.

When a client starts to miss payment deadlines and debts mount up, it is natural to start to wonder - do they have the means to pay?

When companies get into financial difficulties, it can leave suppliers who are owed money in a tricky situation. As the saying goes, you can’t get blood out of a stone. If a business does not have any ready money available, debts will go unpaid.

The Scottish government has been forced into an embarrassing admission after it was revealed that it fails to pay a fifth of invoices on time. After the late payments figures were made public by the Scottish Labour party, the ruling SNP’s Finance Secretary Derek MacKay had to confirm they were correct during a Parliamentary session at Holyrood.

The government has ordered all large businesses to disclose information on payment practices as it seeks to crackdown on late payment culture. From April, all enterprises which meet the qualifying criteria face a statutory Duty to Report information including the average time taken to pay invoices and details of payment dispute protocols.

The reports, which must be submitted twice a year, will be published online, giving suppliers access to critical information on the payment practices of potential larger clients.

In today’s economic climate, business customers and clients are increasingly asking for - and in many cases expecting - credit from their suppliers.

There are obviously many benefits to offering credit. It shows a willingness to be flexible which fosters stronger business relationships, and it helps to secure or keep important contracts. Used properly, extending credit for goods and services can give your business a competitive advantage and boost income.

In the B2B world, practically every enterprise will extend credit to a client or customer at some point or another.

For vendors and resellers, credit facilities are a familiar part of payment terms. But even service providers will regularly be in the habit of extending credit to clients - remember, time is money, and any work you do before the first payment date can be considered as credit.

Irish courts are experiencing sharp spike in the number of cases linked to international debt collection. A recent flurry of media coverage has brought attention to the operations of so-called ‘vulture funds’ as they apparently step up debt recovery in Ireland.

Vulture funds are financial organisations such as investment trusts, private equity firms and hedge funds which look for opportunities to make a profit from debt collection. They buy up debts at a discounted rate from organisations which no longer wish to be liable for them and then seek to recover more than they paid.

The scourge of unpaid invoices threatening the survival of small and medium sized businesses is an international problem. In Australia, things have got so bad that some companies are turning to desperate debt collection methods to try to recover money owed to them.

As a new report revealed that the average Australian business is typically owed £23,000 in outstanding invoices, one industry spokesman suggested hard pressed firms are ready to return to an old and infamous solution - biker gangs.

Consider the following scenario. You are a small, up and coming web design company contracted to create a brand new site for a consumer-facing business. They want the works, attention grabbing graphic design, cutting edge multimedia content, intuitive and interactive navigation, and quality text content. Your small team spends weeks painstakingly programming the source code and curating the content to the client’s specifications. Finally, the site is ready to go live. You are rightly very proud of what you have created.

At this point, the client suddenly goes quiet. Won’t answer the phone, won’t return emails. The payment period on your invoice lapses. You offer to negotiate, still nothing. What do you do?

A new report has confirmed the shocking impact that unpaid B2B debts have on the UK economy.

A survey of SMEs by Amicus Commercial Finance found that the average small business in the UK writes off a staggering £12,000 each year in unpaid invoices, mainly from larger customers and clients.

Taken across the entire economy, that adds up to an unbelievable £50bn a year in lost revenue - or £134 million lost to bad debt every single day.

Three quarters of the businesses surveyed said they had written off debts entirely in the past year. Amongst the worst affected group, businesses with 50 to 249 employees, a quarter of all invoices are not being paid on time, if at all.

 

The only thing anyone can be certain about at this stage following June’s vote for the UK to leave the EU is that no one is going to be certain about anything else very quickly. Brexit has understandably created huge interest and nervousness in the business community as companies try to work out how the break from Britain’s largest trading partner will impact on them.

When it comes to managing your finances in business, knowledge really is power. And this is never more the case than when you are signing agreements to sell your products and services.

As a creditor, the main thing you want to know is whether you are going to be paid fairly and on time. The last thing any business wants to do is get into an arrangement and end up not getting paid.

They call it the greatest show on Earth. With 11,000 athletes from 207 countries taking part in 306 events, the 2016 Rio Olympics did not disappoint in terms of size, delivering a mammoth festival of sport unrivalled by anything else on the planet. But with mammoth size comes mammoth challenge, namely the gigantic task of organising and running the show. Staging the greatest show on Earth demands one of the biggest logistical operations - and a truly global effort.

Having to deal with invoices that are not paid on time is stressful for any business owner. Late payments can seriously disrupt cash flow, take precious time to sort out, and can sour relationships with clients.

Most late payments are one offs and arise from perfectly understandable circumstances. With a little dialogue and a little patience, most can be resolved amicably. But what about that small minority of clients who persistently pay late?

For thousands of small to medium sized businesses, cash flow is probably the single most important aspect of financial management. And yet when it comes to planning and forecasting, it often receives scant attention. Indeed, many businesses unfortunately only realise how crucial cash flow is when problems occur.

Small and medium sized businesses need to be aware of a rising wave of frauds affecting companies big and small. The current most frequently used type of fraud is often called “Fake CEO Fraud” and we would urge all UK businesses to stay vigilant or potentially stand to lose significant sums.

So you have just won a new client. You aced the bidding process, the initial project meetings went well and the money is good. You can’t wait to get started, when out of the blue you get the following note from their finance people:

“Please be advised that our payment terms are 60 days from date of invoice. This will override any payment terms stated on your invoice. Payments will be processed accordingly on the final Friday of each month.”

What do you do?

A brother and sister from Greater Manchester have been convicted of fraud after using a network of sham companies to defraud businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mohammed Ali and Samira Saddique set up a string of fake businesses, specialising mainly in so-called debt collection, but in reality the companies were nothing more than a vehicle for advance fee fraud on an industrial scale.

Work has stopped on the restoration of Lancaster Castle after the company working on it was placed into administration. York based William Anelay Ltd, one of Britain’s oldest heritage restoration and construction companies, had been working on a programme of work to repair 70 per cent of the castle’s roofs and deal with weather damage to the fabric of the 1,000-year-old Grade II Listed building.

Having to chase late payments is sadly an experience most people in business have to go through at one time or another. But knowing when irritating delays have crossed the line into a breakdown in the business relationship can be difficult to fathom.

Cash flow is important, but long-term survival depends on holding on to the clients that you invested in.

If a French client owes you money, you can apply a certain amount of pressure to encourage payment, and many clients will pay up eventually. But in some cases, you’ll need to instruct a lawyer in France to collect the money you’re owed.

Debt collection in France is a slightly different procedure, compared to debt collection in the UK. This blog provides a rough guide to your options and the types of court action you could bring.

French courts will uphold court judgements made in other parts of the EU and, in some cases, outside the EU as well. For the purposes of this article, we are referring only to court action taking place in France against clients who live and work there.

We recently blogged about Crowdmix, the London-based start-up that went into administration. It’s a sad fact that many businesses fail within their first year. This can’t always be prevented: starting a business is tough. But there are certainly things you can do to avoid disaster.

Profit is important to all businesses, but don’t underestimate the importance of cash flow either.

 

London based start-up Crowdmix Ltd was in the process of developing a social media music platform. But before it could even launch its product fully, it ran out of money despite having previously raised £14 million in funding.

As of Monday 11 July, 2016, it has left its creditors, many of them freelance contractors, tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket. If you’re owed money by Crowdmix the prognosis for recovery is not good, so let’s look at what happens next.

Four scammers from East Lancashire have been jailed for fraud and money laundering offences after using a string of fake debt collection companies to fraudulently obtain thousands of pounds from SME’s to pay fictitious debts.

Thomas Moffett, Elliot Reed, Nancy Shaw and Gary Oliphant were imprisoned at Preston Crown Court on July the 5th 2016.

The group was part of a total of 18 people sentenced for their role in the scam, for offences including conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and money laundering.

British businesses are facing a unique set of circumstances right now - the global economy is emerging from the deepest recession in living memory, domestic trade is uncertain with the EU Referendum looming, and there are issues of legislation from the National Living Wage to auto-enrolment pensions that are affecting company finances on a national scale too.

With all of this in mind, what are the implications for businesses of all sizes when it comes to getting paid for the work they do?

When Tesco was exposed for its long payment delays, it exposed an ugly trend among large businesses: delay, delay and delay some more, until your supplier is on its knees. And while the supermarket provided an extreme example of this unethical practice, a shockingly large percentage of global businesses see late payment to suppliers as a “fact of life”.

We recently wrote about a large fraud case involving at least six connected companies. Each of these companies used false accounts, identity theft and fake documents to achieve large amounts of credit. When the goods arrived, they immediately vanished, but they were never paid for. The suppliers were left out of pocket, and the fraudsters disappeared with the proceeds.

Clearly, this was a very large and highly organised fraud, and 6 companies known to be involved have been liquidated. This kind of operation is unusual, but increasing in prevalence and we suspect it will only get worse as more criminals start to hear about it.

The Insolvency Service has just completed an investigation into a network of fraudulent companies in the UK. The implications of this investigation should act as a cautionary tale for anyone that offers credit to their customers.

In this case, scammers used fake financial accounts to acquire goods on credit with suppliers, using fake details and false documents to elevate credit limits artificially. As the scam progressed, these companies acquired goods they had no intention of paying for and unwary suppliers continued to offer credit, because all of the companies looked profitable on paper.

The phrase 'no win, no fee' is screamed at you from a hundred adverts a day, usually in relation to personal injury claims, PPI mis-selling and so on, but it is also used in the context of no win, no fee debt collection - meaning you only pay commission to the b2b debt collection company if they are successful in recovering what you are owed.

It's worded all sorts of different ways, so you might also see 'no collection = no commission' on some ads, but it boils down to the same thing - if you don't win back your money from the debtor, then you have nothing to pay.

When you work with a company in the same country, you have a common legal framework that links you and its a relatively simple process to track down errant debtors if payment problems occur. Dealing with clients overseas is more hazardous, and the risks can catch out many small businesses. Here are some practical tips that can prevent significant problems when dealing with overseas clients.

Dealing with an Insolvent client can kill a profitable business. If your client becomes insolvent it will have a significant knock-on effect, that will impact on your company cashflow, leaving you as a creditor with unpaid invoices that will likely never be paid.

In 2015, more than 100,000 UK businesses found themselves as creditors to an insolvent business, and many will have found their cash flow at serious risk as a result. Any business, irrespective of size, is at risk if their client becomes insolvent but for freelancers and micro-businesses these risks are magnified.

Small businesses are extremely vulnerable to cash flow problems, and even the slightest slip in payment dates can leave the business unable to pay its suppliers and even staff salaries. In many cases, big suppliers don’t pay their smaller suppliers quickly enough to keep the small businesses running, and as a result the small business finds it simply can’t make ends meet.

News that one of the oldest agricultural firms in Lancashire has entered administration has been met with shock and dismay. Riley Brothers International Haulage Ltd, the most recent iteration of a company with a history stretching back more than a century, entered administration on the 18th of December 2015 with the loss of more than 130 jobs.

When you sign up a new customer or client, it’s tempting to skip the formalities. New customers are always keen and it seems like nothing can go wrong. The last thing you want to do is sour the relationship, or risk losing a client to a competitor. If you ask for a deposit, are you at risk of scaring them away?

In truth, most businesses are used to paying deposits especially if they are dealing with freelancers or micro businesses, and there are plenty of good reasons that you should ask for one.

Most businesses have experienced the worry and inconvenience of a client that always pays late. Short of ditching the client (and we are perfectly comfortable with advocating that as a tactic), there’s no rapid solution to the problem. But you can improve your chances of getting paid if you subtly change your credit control processes.

In this article we will explore a few easy ways to help you manage those 'tricky' clients and the excuses they use to delay payment beyong agreed credit terms.

This may seem obvious, but can your client or customer actually afford to pay your unpaid invoice? If they can afford to pay, will they pay on time (if at all)? The only way to get answers to these important questions is to source credit information, either from a third party provider or direct from Companies House.

If you are new to credit reports Safe Collections have some tips on how you can find the data you need to make an informed credit decision.

If, despite your best efforts, you have invoices outstanding, don’t take it personally. According to research 88% of UK businesses have been affected by late payments.

So how does your company go about recovering the monies that are outstanding?

When you have an unpaid invoice, it can be difficult to know how to handle it especially if you are a small or micro business. Profitable business relationships are built on personal relationships so it can feel tricky to pursue what is owed without damaging the relationship.

But business is business and you are doing nothing wrong in expecting prompt payment from your customers and by chasing your money if they fail to pay as agreed. So what is the process for chasing up an unpaid invoice?

Although many small and medium-sized businesses know the importance of background credit checks on new customers, a lack of familiarity with the process of actually carrying out a credit check can lead many to overlook this crucial step in their risk management.

Safe Collections have teamed up with credit check specialists Experian to make it easy and affordable for freelancers and fledgling businesses to begin credit checking new customers.

Late payment is a constant problem for businesses in the UK and overseas. Credit terms are ignored and following up can be difficult for some companies, especially if you are a very small or micro business.

This is not how it should be. Every business, irrespective of size, should expect their customers to honour the agreed credit terms and pay in full and on time.

It doesn't seem like rocket science to suggest that if a customer goes bust, you might want to stop supplying them; in fact, if you're doing your credit control properly, you'll probably want to restrict their account long before they publicly declare insolvency.

Under new government plans, due to come into force this October, you might find you are banned from taking such action, once your customer's financial woes are made public knowledge.

The payment practices of the UK's biggest companies have been under scrutiny for a while now, with voluntary efforts such as the Prompt Payment Code attracting criticism for being 'toothless' in terms of enforcement action.

Meanwhile though, nobody really wants to see a situation where it is mandatory to take late payers to court, or to enforce penalties and interest - after all, sometimes you might simply want to extend the deadline as a gesture of good faith to a valued customer.

When it comes to avoiding bad debt the old adage "prevention is better than cure" is a very useful rule to follow. As we tell any business owner that will listen, it is absolutely imperative that before you extend a customer credit you answer the following questions:

  • Does this customer have the financial means to pay?
  • Are they prepared to pay promptly or at all?

The UK's small businesses are facing even longer overdue invoices than at the worst point of the recession, according to figures from ABFA.

In a report published earlier this month, the Asset Based Finance Association revealed that, in 2009 when the recession peaked, firms with turnover of less than £1 million per year were waiting on average 61 days for invoices to be paid.

Hardly a month goes by without a new government or industry scheme aimed at preventing late payment - since the EU Late Payment Directive was introduced, we've seen the voluntary Prompt Payment Code, proposals to name and shame poor performers on a public database, the Supply Chain Finance Scheme to raise funds against outstanding invoices, and several suggestions of new conciliation schemes.

Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli took a hard line in Hungary by invoking a prompt payment policy that left Lotus with no tyres as the first practice session approached on the Friday.

Payments are due on a quarterly basis and, according to reports in the Telegraph and other national newspapers, Lotus owed about £350,000 for three months' worth of wheels.

A whole raft of new ideas have been announced in the past few months, from a 'conciliation service' for small businesses that are owed money, to forcing big brands to publicise their payment terms, to trade associations going to war (figuratively speaking) on behalf of their members.

It might all feel a little bit like Groundhog Day - again. Publicising payment terms is already a principle of the totally voluntary and largely toothless Prompt Payment Code, we already have mediation, and unless you're actually a member of a very active and involved trade association, that part's likely to leave you feeling cold.

The smallest firms in the UK are being paid late, in some cases by over a year, due to a lack of urgency and a sense of awkwardness about chasing clients for payment, new figures suggest.

A survey carried out by online accounts software provider FreeAgent revealed that just one in seven micro-businesses that issue invoices have never had to deal with an instance of late payment.

Greece's government has imposed capital controls and closed banks until after a July 5 referendum on a deal with European creditors.

The following information is provided for any company concerned about customers based in Greece and the impact the capital controls will have on their cashflow in the short term.  This guide covers basic credit control information, if you have customers already behind on payment arrangements allowing further credit is at best ill-advised.

As a debt recovery company tasked with chasing down overdue payments, it makes sense for us to be a signatory of the Prompt Payment Code, the voluntary code of conduct for all businesses when it comes to paying suppliers.

We recently signed up to the PPC and, as part of the process, were asked to provide the names and contact details of 'referees' - satisfied former suppliers who could vouch for us as regular prompt payers - and these were, in turn, contacted by the Chartered Institute of Credit Management, who act as administrators of the PPC.

Two directors of Lancashire-based Worldwide Sports Investments Limited have been disqaulified following an investigation by the Official Receiver’s Public Interest Unit.  The directors operated a high pressure sales scam purporting to offer investments in a golf course and hotel development in Portugal.

44 year old director Mr Christopher Smullen received a disqualification order on the 26th May 2015 banning him from managing, promoting or being a director of a limited company for 13 years from the 16th of June 2015.

Snoop Dogg has issued a legal claim against brewers Pabst for monies he believes are owed after his licensing deal went sour according to an article on the Associated Press.  Snoop, whos real name is Calvin Broadus Jr, signed a three year deal with Pabst in 2011 to be the face of their new Blast drink and received a cool $250,000 down payment.  With a further $20,000 due for every tenth mention of the beer on social media, at his concerts or during TV appearances.

The granting of royal assent to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 should be good news for creditors, particularly those who are left owed money by a business customer who has gone into corporate insolvency.

That is because there are several measures included in the legislation that should leave more money in the pot to pay creditors what they are owed, even after the administrators take out their fee; and there may also be the option to pursue a company's former directors personally for redress.

One of the biggest obstacles to recovering an outstanding debt has always been if a company ceases trading - this is basically a dead end, as once the company ceases to exist, it's impossible to continue chasing the individuals who ran it. Or is it?

Under the terms of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, which received royal assent on March 26th 2015, new rules will apply to disqualified directors, and particularly to any losses incurred by creditors due to director misconduct.

We always say that in good credit control, prevention is better than cure - collections and recovery action should be for the bad debts you didn't see coming, not the ones you did.

But how do you know who's going to pay on time, and who's not going to pay at all?

If you've worked in credit control for long enough, it will be instinctive, a kind of sixth sense based on the myriad different factors that contribute towards a company's risk profile.

Last week, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 gained royal assent, meaning broadly speaking, the various measures that have already been outlined by BIS, the Insolvency Service and other government departments should be brought into law without any major changes.

What does this mean for creditors? Actually there are some broad sweeping measures, and some more specific ones, which should combine to tip the balance more fairly in the direction of creditors.

In a frankly astounding turn of events, Debt Guard Solicitors have proposed introducing a right for big businesses to opt out of paying on time.

Read that again, because it's an almost unbelievable statement - a commercial debt recovery firm suggesting that big brands should have the opportunity to simply opt out of being punished for late payment.

Mr Lawrence McGovern, director of Railtrades Ltd (“Railtrades”) has received a 6 year disqualification order for disposing of the company’s assets worth an estimated £52,000 and paying almost that amount to connected third parties.

Mr McGovern’s disqualification from 15 December 2014 follows a disqualification order made in the County Court at Romford on 14 November 2014 by Deputy District Judge Dudderidge. The application on 28 May 2014 was by the Insolvency Service on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

We all know healthy cash flow is the life blood of any small business, but when your cash flow is interrupted, survival depends on having funds in reserve - and the same is true of your customers.

So it helps to know how many small businesses out there have savings set aside 'for a rainy day', and how many would be unable to pay you if their own income was interrupted.

The figures don't make for encouraging reading - according to a report from British personal and commercial banking providers Aldermore, fewer than one in three businesses have a savings account at all.

Of those that do, 21% have less than £5,000 saved, and 7% have nothing at all.

Changes to the way companies calculate the VAT on invoices that are subject to Prompt Payment Discounts could effectively rule them out as a way of encouraging clients to pay early.

Until now, businesses have been allowed to calculate VAT based on the discounted invoice price, and display this on their communications with customers.

If the customer fails to pay in time to benefit from the Prompt Payment Discount, the business has been able to charge the full invoice amount, without having to recalculate the VAT.

Where do small businesses turn for help when they suffer due to late payment? Under new government plans, there could soon be a Small Business Conciliation Service tasked with tackling that precise problem.

That's not its official name as yet - and in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you already know of a 'conciliation service' for small business disputes, in the form of mediation.

Risk is an unavoidable part of business, particularly if you provide credit to your clients - even in the sense of invoicing for work done only once it has been delivered, let alone more complex credit arrangements that involve the lending of money.

The new year is always a good time to take a fresh look at things; for many companies it is the start of a new financial year too, while those whose accounting is aligned with the tax year have the first quarter of the new calendar year to put processes in place.

A fundamental characteristic of late payment legislation so far has been its voluntary nature - nobody forces big businesses to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code, and nobody forces SMEs to charge penalty fees on late payments.

Now one organisation is calling for this to change, with a policy paper that suggests making several aspects of late payment legislation unavoidable for creditors and debtors alike.

It doesn't matter how much you like a bucket; if it won't hold water anymore, it's time to get a new bucket, and that is just what the government needs.

They are now embarking on yet another review of the Prompt Payment Code to try and make it actually work, and their plan to do this is to take advice from organisations like the City of London Corporation, Aviva and Barclays.

Premier Foods - owners of the Mr Kipling brand, along with several other household names - have encountered their fair share of negative press recently, since it emerged that they were demanding that suppliers should invest in the company in order to continue receiving orders.

Yep, that's right - suppliers to Premier Foods, many of them fairly small foodservice businesses, were apparently told that if they wanted to keep receiving future orders, they had to put their own money into Premier in the form of investment finance.

For small businesses, the internet has proved to be a great levelling ground, making winning custom less about size and brand power, and more about simply topping the search results.

But as more people prefer to pay remotely for goods and services, are small businesses at risk of losing custom - or worse, going unpaid for work done - due to their lack of good electronic payments technology?

Lord Sugar, the artist formerly known as Sir Alan, has made his feelings on late payments very clear - and, like us, he's less than impressed with the government's efforts to tackle the problem.

In particular, during the second reading debate on the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, he criticised the lack of "practical, common-sense" solutions to the problems faced by small businesses.

This Saturday December 6th is Small Business Saturday, an annual initiative to support small businesses throughout the UK, and it's not just about visiting your local independent gift shop.

Much of the focus will be on the nation's high streets and town centres, where free parking and special offers will encourage many people to finish off their Christmas shopping at small independent retailers.

Finding a supplier for your business can be a tricky process at the best of times; so many online businesses rely heavily on customer testimonials.  So what do you do if you are a new business, say a new Debt Collection business and you want to impress potential customers?  Are you going to be honest about the fact the business is new and try and offer a great service or do you "fake it till you make it"? 

Unfortunately for many businesses trying to find a reputable debt recovery partner the latter seems to be the preferred option, with many so called debt collectors recycling or just stealing testimonials from other sources.  Now not only is this dishonest and as such contrary to the Advertising Standards Authority rules on misleading statements, it also shows a marked lack of invention and imagination.  As such, we've decided to offer a helping hand to all those debt collection companies out there with fake testimonials by providing some suggested "testimonials" of our own.

A company called "The Emergency Services (Media Dept) Limited" that falsely claimed to be linked to the emergency services in an attempt to convince small businesses in to placing adverts in its publications has been wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

Telesales operators from the company would cold call small businesses across the country and claim to be "connected" to the Police or other emergency services and then try to sell advertising space in a magazine, with the funds raised allegedly going to support these services. In reality these funds were largely destined for the owners and no one else.

We have previously covered how unpaid invoice spammers target credit control failures using an archaic .arj file to spread malicious software, but a new and considerably more dangerous threat has just started to land in inboxes throughout the UK and across the globe.

This latests threat is more insidious as it uses a well known file format to deliver a malicious payload specifically designed to steal sensitive financial data from users.

The zombie apocalypse could be coming sooner than you think, with R3, the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, warning that an even greater number of companies are now showing the hallmarks of being 'zombies'.

It's a term that rose to prominence at the height of the recession, and was used to refer to those firms capable of covering their outgoings, but only just - and which would therefore very quickly fall into insolvency if their interest rates rose, or their cash flow was interrupted.

A dairy-free chocolatier was forced to threaten supermarket giant Tesco with a winding-up petition after they failed to pay for part of their order for five months - leaving him without his staff's Christmas wages.

Moo Free Chocolates produce dairy-free and gluten-free confectionery, with an annual turnover of around £1 million.

But when a £2 million order came in from Tesco, co-founder Mike Jessop was understandably excited.

If you deal with customers in the Americas - including not just the USA, but also Canada, Mexico and Brazil - you should be aware of the increased likelihood of a very late payment becoming an uncollectable bad debt.

According to a report from credit insurers Atradius, a whopping 52% of the most overdue payments in the region are simply never collected, compared with 35% in Europe.

Credit control failures are a worry at the best of times, and none of us want to be left with overdue invoices to chase - or with unpaid invoices of our own that become subject to debt recovery action with interest and penalties added on top.

But a lax approach to credit control has taken a new turn in recent days, as a large number of spam emails have started circulating which claim to be chasing overdue invoices.

The Scottish Question is about to be answered, and whether the majority vote Yes or No, changes are on the horizon for the Scottish economy and for those of us labelled rUK, short for either the 'rest of the UK' or more disparagingly, the 'remnant UK'.

We're not arguing in favour of either viewpoint - that's for the Scottish public to decide - but it's important that English businesses should be aware of the ramifications that may arise from a vote either way.

Whether you're in business on your own, or part of a company, it's essential to protect your income - and one of the greatest areas of risk is when you extend a line of credit to a customer.

Remember, any time you carry out work, or provide goods or services, without taking payment upfront, you are effectively investing in your customers company.

When working with clients who are based overseas, there are several things you should take into account - ideally, from the moment you begin working for them, rather than later in the process when you encounter a previously unconsidered obstacle.

Here are some of the main issues at hand, and how you can work around them, or even with them, to make the best possible client relationship.

Making sure you get paid promptly every time, without fail, is about more than just issuing invoices promptly (although that can help).

There are several ways to increase your chance of receiving payment in full and on time - and here are some of the main points to consider.

Business overdrafts have been called the 'hidden credit crunch' following the news that while traditional bank business loans have fallen 9% in the past two years, the banks have called in 23% of overdrafts in the same period.

The figures come from a report by finance providers LDF, who say traditional bank business loans fell from £187 billion to £170 billion in the two years to March 2014, while overdrafts fell from £18.2 billion to £14.1 billion.

An unpaid invoice is a nightmare we would all prefer to avoid, but you're not necessarily just at the whim of your customers when it comes to whether or not you get paid on time.

It's also important to make sure you are invoicing properly - from the moment you take on a new customer, to how you deal with late payments - so you don't lose a single penny through your own fault and poor admin procedures.

EU legislators have been working for two years on a 'right to be forgotten' - specifically, the right to request that information about your past should be removed from the Internet, or made inaccessible when people search for your name on a search engine.

But this week, the Court of Justice of the European Union seemed to find a 'right to be forgotten' already in European law, in a preliminary ruling relating to a case brought by a Spanish man against Google and its Spanish subsidiary.

We often warn that late payment can be more than just an inconvenience for many small firms, as the interruption to cash flow can put them at risk of failing to pay their own debts, bills and invoices - potentially leading to insolvency.

Now newly published figures from R3, the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, show the extent to which this is the case, with late payment cited as a major or primary factor in the failure of one in five companies in the past year.

Late payments to SMEs must not be an acceptable way for big businesses to boost their own profits, according to business secretary Vince Cable, who is taking action to improve the transparency of corporate payment practices.

In a recent government consultation, the majority of respondents voted in favour of disclosure as a means of tackling late payments - and the government is now planning to require publication of payment practices by large companies.

The Prompt Payment Code will also be strengthened, with signatories held more accountable for their actions - although it is worth remembering that this is currently still a voluntary initiative.

Whether you're in business on your own, or part of a company, it's essential to protect your income - and one of the greatest areas of risk is when you extend a line of credit to a customer.

Remember, any time you carry out work, or provide goods or services, without taking payment upfront, you effectively become a creditor.

That means you need to think carefully about several different factors, for instance:

If you're a Guardian reader, you may have seen Safe Collections' collections and partnerships manager Adam Home quoted in a Guardian Professional article on May 12th.

Tim Aldred's piece looked at the case for credit control teams as a way for businesses to safeguard their cash flow and, ultimately, to stay in business by avoiding late payment.

Adam was happy to share his ideas with Tim for the piece that you can find here: "Does your business need a credit control team?" ((c) Guardian News & Media Ltd) and we're going to expand on some of those points below.

 

Today, Safe Collections marks it's 30th birthday and it is our pleasure to turn the blog over to our Managing Director and founder Sid Home for a few words on the company and how the landscape has changed.

Most people have heard of credit checks - even if what you immediately think of is the background check the bank runs when you apply for a credit card, loan or mortgage.

In principle, securing a credit report from Experian on a new customer is the same process, even if you are not lending them money; any goods or services provided upfront, to be paid for later, still represent a line of credit, and a risk to you if the customer fails to pay.

But how do you know who will pay in full and on time, and who is a higher credit risk?

    A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY    

THE REBEL ALLIANCE SECURED A FAMOUS VICTORY    

BLASTING THE DEATH STAR OUT OF THE SKY    

WITH MOMENTS TO SPARE              

BUT THEIR ACTIONS CAME AT A PRICE...              

EMPIRE CONTRACTS CONTAIN A NON-PAYMENT CLAUSE    

ALLOWING PAYMENT TO BE WITHHELD    

IN THE EVENT OF REBEL ACTION

    IT IS NO SURPRISE THAT    

DARTH VADER'S FORMER HOME    

CAME TO BE KNOWN AS THE DEBT STAR   

A publicly accessible database of company directorships could soon become a reality, following the conclusion of a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The proposals outline plans for a central registry of company beneficial ownership information - including details of trustees, where relevant, and of individuals with ownership of more than 25% of the shares in a company, or the equivalent proportion of its voting rights.

Recently we featured an article on an individual called Phillip Buffett and his "Uber Intelligence" group of companies. This individual came to our attention when we were tasked by two freelancers to pursue unpaid invoices totalling over £10k.

It soon became apparent to us that the individual in question was a known fraudster, with a history of criminality and a penchant for defrauding individuals, businesses and even professional athletes.  He was also already serving a seven year ban as a director for his previous frauds.

Unless you have the luxury of an in-house credit controller - which is something even some larger firms can't afford - you might be tempted to take a head-in-the-sand approach to chasing overdue invoices, and simply try to pretend they never happen.

Sadly they do happen, even from trusted long-term customers, and that can lead in turn to some soul-searching: Why didn't they pay? Did I do something wrong? Is there no trust in business any more?

Many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK are effectively being forced to loan money to large firms interest-free, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

In one of a pair of landmark reports issued since the beginning of the year, the FSB warns that late payments and unreasonable renegotiation of payment terms is taking money out of the hands of SMEs, and allowing it to languish for longer in the accounts of the nation's largest corporations.

Many SMEs are aware of the importance of a 'level playing field' when it comes to prompt payments - including the right to be paid on time by big brands, without them using their clout to negotiate longer terms, or their complexity as an excuse for failing to pay at all.

But when you start trading across borders, things can very quickly become even more complicated, because in other countries, even small business clients might be used to significantly different payment terms than they would be in the UK.

The OFT has refused to renew the consumer credit licences of debt purchaser HFO Capital Limited, and two associated debt collectors, HFO Services Limited and Roxburghe (UK) Limited.

Back in March of 2013 we ran an article called "Dodgy Debt Collection Agencies Liquidated" that featured the story of how the Insolvency Service had liquidated two companies run by a Mr Stuart Paul Cooper of Topping Street, Blackpool.

Then it all went quiet and we heard no mention of the name Stuart Paul Cooper until an eagle eyed reader contacted us this week.  They informed us that the infamous Mr Stuart Paul Cooper is now serving a three year jail sentence for fraud. So what happened?

It's good to know that, when a dodgy dealer makes off with client money and there's no record of where it's gone, they will face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

New figures from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills show that the BIS Criminal Enforcement Team achieved 198 successful prosecutions in the 2012-13 financial year.

Following on from part one "Going Dutch: Contractor Debt Recovery in the Netherlands" we speak to Alex Tucker, the contractor who found himself at loggerheads with the Dutch agency and find out more about what brought him to this point.

Working for overseas clients is either a gamble, or a logical expansion, depending on which way you look at it - but as a self-employed contractor, you need to be confident that you will be paid promptly, as international debts can be more difficult to pursue.

A recent client handled by Safe Collections demonstrates this well; Alex Tucker had every reason to expect prompt settlement of his invoices by his Dutch client. He had worked with the company, both as a self-employed individual and as temporary staff, since 2005, as well as supplying services via a third-party limited company.

The Professional Contractors Group have called for an anonymous hotline to be created, allowing small business owners to 'name and shame' large companies that pay late or otherwise try to use their 'brand power' to manipulate payment terms.

While the PCG are calling it a 'witness protection' hotline, we prefer to call it Slimeshoppers, as it doesn't get much lower than a big business trying to use their size as an excuse to withhold payment to small suppliers.

Late payment of invoices is now - for the first time in recent years - the single greatest risk to creditors, even outranking debtor insolvency in a report from credit risk insurer Coface UK.

According to the insurer, 60% of the claims it received in the first nine months of 2013 arose due to "a customer's protracted default" - that is, either late or non-payment.

The world of credit control brings to mind the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know."

Admittedly he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, but the same applies to your customers' financial situations, and effective credit control eliminates as much of the 'unknown' as possible, and maximises the 'known knowns'.

Slow payments represent a substantial risk to small and medium-sized businesses, who must often meet the cost of materials and labour for a month or more while waiting for customers to settle invoices.

But SMB cash flows were recently given what seemed to be a much-needed shot in the arm, in the form of the Prompt Payment Code - a commitment from big firms to pay their invoices as soon as reasonably possible, rather than withholding important funds from their SMB suppliers.

The Experian Late Payment Index published on Monday shows again that the bigger a company is, the later it is likely to pay its suppliers, making for a timely reminder of the true nature of 'brand power' and its potential negative impact on small companies' cash flow.

In the third quarter of 2013, the smallest firms, with just one or two employees, paid an average of 20.62 days beyond agreed terms on overdue invoices - the smallest delay among UK companies of all sizes, and a slight improvement from 20.78 days in the previous quarter.

It seems only fitting that Halloween week should be the moment when Blockbuster Video - one of the UK's biggest zombie businesses - reveals that, for the second time in ten months, it is lurching back into the corporate graveyard.

Zombie businesses are those that are only just surviving, but would be unlikely or unable to continue to do so if there were any kind of substantial shock to their ongoing operations.

That pretty much sums up Blockbuster's situation, as current owners Gordon Brothers Europe have been unable to bring the company into the 21st century; former US parent company Dish still own the digital rights to the brand, and competitors like LoveFilm, Netflix and Sky have already cornered the British market for streaming films.

 

The Centre for Retail Research has published its latest Who's Gone Bust? report, giving an insight into how retail companies have been affected by five years of economic turbulence.

Worryingly for all involved in the sector, it appears that conditions are getting worse; 2012 saw 54 companies fail, matching the previous highest total set in 2008, and with 39 brands failing by the end of August alone, 2013 is on track to be even worse.

Britain's small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute some 99.9% to the private sector - but are facing losses of around £3.7 billion due to poor credit control and debt collection processes.

A report from Exact, a provider of business and finance software, tallies up the costs of non-payment to UK SMEs, with some fairly alarming figures for individual examples of unpaid invoices.

Research from the Bank of Cyprus UK reveals the extent to which British business owners are worried about their cash flow - even in the face of decent sales figures, and to a greater degree than they are concerned about the wider economy.

The findings fly in the face of recent headlines in the mainstream media, where you might be forgiven for thinking the state of the nation's finances as a whole is the biggest obstacle facing small to medium-sized businesses.

Local authorities have been urged to manage their debt collection processes more responsibly, in order to cut down on the 1.8 million instances each year in which bailiffs are hired to recover overdue council tax payments and similar arrears.

Figures from the Money Advice Trust show substantial regional variation in the use of bailiffs by local authorities - but hint at a worryingly high prevalence of bailiffs being used to collect county court judgments nationwide.

Otium Corporation Ltd have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, particularly in a Daily Record report of how they left one aerospace contractor out of pocket by £9,000 after their payments to him simply stopped.

Stuart Jack was on a one-year contract to work at BAE Systems in Prestwick, but his payments did not come directly from BAE - instead, they went through Otium Corporation's Ltd’s service address in Batley, West Yorkshire.

A recently published Late Payments Report makes 11 recommendations that MPs believe could help small businesses to receive what they are owed more promptly from their big-business customers.

MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth Debbie Abrahams convened and chaired a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the issue of prompt payment for small businesses, which heard evidence from several large FTSE companies, as well as affected SMEs.

Have you heard the one about the Croydon conman who paid for his shopping in Harrods with a £245,000 dud cheque?

It's no joke - 49-year-old Philip Buffett of Fairfield Road faces a jail term for fraud after paying with a cheque from a closed account for goods including a £183,000 Hublot watch.

Ireland has announced the wording of its Code of Conduct on Prompt Payments, a voluntary charter similar to that in place in the UK.

Small business minister John Perry announced the Code on July 1st; it is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

A former West Yorkshire Police Detective Sergeant has been convicted of money laundering after standing accused of operating or being involved in the operation of fraudulent debt elimination companies and escort agencies.

DS Christopher Taylor ran Wakefield-based First Debt Recovery, established in 2008 and supposedly drawing on his experience with the CID and Fraud Squad.

However, it was later alleged that First Debt Recovery had been laundering money for several businesses operated by Anthony Muldoon, including five bogus debt elimination firms and a total of 28 escort agencies.

Superman is BACK with the cinematic release of Man of Steel, and it got us to thinking about whether or not the Kryptonian comicbook hero would be a worthy addition to the Safe Collections team.

We know he'd be a bit unpredictable - always nipping off into the nearest phone booth or flying off to save the world - but given that he'd be saving our skins in the process, we're willing to make some allowances.

SMEs in the north-east are stop-gapping their cash flow problems by turning to pawnbrokers, according to a report in local news publication The Journal.

With bank lending hard to come by and many other conventional forms of finance also suffering during the downturn, sole traders and SMEs are taking desperate measures to cover costs.

Overdue payments by British businesses have been improving steadily over the past two years, and are now settled two days faster than in 2011, according to analyst D&B.

Two years ago, the average late payment was made 17 days beyond agreed terms, a figure that has now improved to 15 days, but has as far to go again if it is to match 2006's average of just 13 days.

Remember our old friend the Supply Chain Finance Scheme? Well, in the past couple of weeks, it's been making headlines once again - this time thanks to Carillion, the facilities management and construction services company.

Some of the most desirable fashion brands make less desirable customers, due to poor payment practices and frequent late payment, according to an industry news provider.

Business of Fashion spoke to several budding young designers about their experiences of supplying retailers within the UK and abroad - and found widespread unrest about the likelihood of being paid on time, in full and in line with agreed terms.

Company impersonation fraud is big business these days as scammers, fraudsters and criminals increasingly realize the advantages this type of fraud has over the more "traditional" types of fraud that target individuals.

We regularly deal with businesses that have fallen victim to this type of fraud and do what we can to help, but it is rare that a customer scammer will attempt to draw us into this kind of activity.  But that is exactly what happened to us and our debt collection affiliates in Germany recently.

The government's much-anticipated Business Bank got a kickstart of its own in the 2013 Budget, with the news that at least some of its measures are due to be introduced ahead of schedule.

But while a £300 million investment programme for SMEs was officially launched on April 10th by business secretary Vince Cable, just how far does it go to give small businesses the boost they need to grease the wheels of the UK's jammed economy?

Now we know that Debt Collection and Debt Recovery don’t have the best reputation in business markets, this is one of the reasons we take pride in displaying a small selection of the hundreds of client testimonials we have received over the last 30 years over on our testimonials page.

Nothing usual in that you may be thinking, but have you noticed that unlike some other agencies all of our references are clearly attributable to both a named company and an individual within that company?

Daring to speak out about late payment on Twitter could cost one woman £120,000 in fines and legal costs - all because of an unpaid £146 invoice.

The BBC reports that 55-year-old Lesley Kemp of Milton Keynes carried out £146 of transcription work for a company based in Qatar.

But when Resolution Productions paid her late - and expected her to cover the cost of their own £25 bank charges - Ms Kemp vented her frustrations on Twitter.

As a fully licensed debt collection company that has been incorporated since 1984, we have a long history in providing advice on how to choose an ethical and trustworthy debt collection partner. But unfortunately sometimes this message doesn't get through to those that really need it and many businesses up and down the country can find themselves unwittingly in bed with unlicensed, unregulated and unethical 'debt recovery' companies.

Sometimes, businesses fail.  If a failed company is a customer of yours it can be an expensive and potentially disastrous situation.

In most cases their will be little you can do, except wait and see if any money is left for creditors when the affairs of the company are formally finalised.

A married couple and their son have been banned as company directors after failing to pay more than £186,000 in tax.  Heather & Lance Shepherd and their son James Shepherd, who ran a company called Shepherd Security Ltd in Preston have been disqualified from acting as directors for a total of 15 years following an investigation by the insolvency service.

The Late Payments Directive, known more technically as Directive 2011/7/EU or the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013, came into force on March 16th and should mean better protection for businesses of all sizes - from freelancers to big brands, and including the public sector - when chasing late payments.

Generally speaking, the Directive puts 30-day payment terms on contracts where a longer deadline is not mutually agreed, and allows you to charge fixed fees, statutory interest, and reasonable recovery costs on any action you take after that deadline has passed.

At some point in the life of every business they will face difficulties in getting a client to settle an invoice.

Now you are faced with the very real prospect that this unpaid invoice may become a bad debt and bad debts can cripple an otherwise profitable venture.

Remember Dodgy Dave, the debt collector you don't want to meet? Well, we described that article as "a work of fiction" but warned "this kind of person is out there".

Now it seems Slippery Stu - or, to use his real name, Stuart Paul Cooper - is a real-world example of the kinds of debt collecting 'methods' we outlined in our Dodgy Dave article.

Take one technology, media and politics website. Add a 28-year-old online entrepreneur who used to be called Milo Wagner, but is now called Milo Yiannopoulos. Don't add any paid invoices to freelance contributors - these could leave a sour taste in the mouth. Finish with an unpaid editor and a legal claim for £16,853.

You've got The Kernel's secret recipe, and it's one that's been stewing for some time. Contributors have reportedly been disputing payments for several months, and an estimated £10,000 or more is still owed to past writers and in copyright claims to photographers whose works were allegedly used without permission.

Cashflow is the very lifeblood of your business, if it runs low a business will struggle to continue. If it runs out it will cause a corporate “heart attack” and kill even a profitable business stone dead.

So what can you do to minimise the impact on your business when you are faced with a short term cashflow problem?

When late payment goes beyond the limits of amicable pursuit, and it becomes apparent that the funds will never be willingly forthcoming, the remaining option is to go to court, in order to force the debtor to pay.

Depending on how much you are owed, you may be able to do this in small claims court, or you might have to launch more formal legal proceedings, which are likely to prove more expensive.

The so-called 'Late Payment Directive', officially named Directive 2011/7/EU on Combating Late Payment in Commercial Transactions, is due to come into effect in less than a month's time, on March 16th 2013.

With just 24 days to go until that time, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has revealed the results of its recent consultation on the Directive, along with the finalised set of regulations that will be introduced in March.

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are struggling to tackle late payments from clients who, in the worst instances, miss three or more invoices per year.

Almost half (47%) of SMEs surveyed by Barclays said that their least reliable customers fail to pay on time at least three times each year.

Web designer Frank Jonen has taken extreme action against his late-paying client, San Francisco-based gym chain Fitness SF.

Mr Jonen's web design firm has been working on the new Fitness SF website and brand identity for over six months; but he ultimately took the decision to replace their homepage with a simple text statement.

The Institute of Credit Management (ICM) and business minister Michael Fallon have warned that it is "crazy" to fail to credit check new and existing customers.

Each month, the ICM publishes a new top tip to help safeguard small businesses' cash flow, and at the end of January its latest advice, written in collaboration with Mr Fallon, was released.

Many small businesses are caught out when clients refuse to pay their invoices. For a small startup, a handful of unpaid invoices can make the difference between a healthy bank balance and a full-on cash flow crisis.

When your non-paying client is located outside of the UK, unpaid invoices become even more of a headache. Chasing the debt yourself might be expensive, impractical and fruitless. If you’ve researched debt collection online, you’ll probably have noticed that there’s plenty of self-help when your client is in the UK - but if they’re overseas, there’s very little official advice on what you should do.

“A sale is not a sale until the money is in the bank”

A simple sentiment, but one that can often be lost in the thrill of securing that next big sale.  But when the agreed upon payment day passes and you have no sign of the promised payment, what is the best way to go about securing the funds?

If you extend credit to your customers you are effectively providing finance to them for the credit period.

If your business does not have the cashflow to support the credit it has extended you could be just one bad debt away from insolvency.

The Daily and Sunday Telegraph have launched a series of articles reporting on late payments - and on the battle lines being drawn by those affected by and involved in settling overdue invoices.

In a Daily Telegraph report, for instance, Steve Sutherland - owner of architectural glazing specialist Dortech - is described as "putting his tin hat on" amid fears of a backlash from customers after he called time on a 13-year relationship with construction brand Balfour Beatty.

Credit Insurance can be a valuable tool in a company’s credit control armoury and recent years have seen an explosion in availability of different types of cover.

From traditional Whole Turnover to Catastrophe or Single and Multi Buyer cover brokers can now offer a variety of policies to suit most businesses.

Will I get the money my company is owed?

This is the question we hear most often from clients that find they unpaid invoices due from an insolvent business.  This short guide, written by our very own Daryl Bennett, is intended to answer this most important question.

But to answer this question first we need to understand exactly what is meant by the term insolvency, Sid Home our resident Credit Management expert explains.

Small firms in Ireland are waiting an average of 62 days for their invoices to be settled, but when it comes to debt collection Ireland's entrepreneurs are still reluctant to take action.

These are the findings of the Small Firms Association's Late Payment Survey, published in early January, which looks at the issues affecting the credit control and debt recovery Ireland's small businesses use to keep their accounts - and their non-paying customers - in check.

Insolvency turns £4.7bn of non-payers into never-payers

Each year, £4.7 billion of unpaid invoices in the UK are simply wiped away by insolvency and winding-up procedures, according to an Experian report.

From the smallest 'micro firms' to the biggest brands, when a company leaves the market completely by going out of business, the rest of the supply chain is likely to feel at least some impact not just in terms of lost custom, but by going unpaid for work already done.

When it comes to cashflow, it isn’t just about ensuring your invoices are paid on time.  It encompasses the entire flow of money in and out of your business and covers your businesses dealings with your own suppliers.

So do you treat your suppliers as you would like to be treated?

Invoicing is an integral part of every business, so taking the time to ensure that your paperwork really works for you is often a wise investment.

In part three of the Managing Cashflow guides from the ICM and BIS you can find a wealth of useful information to help your company avoid the common invoicing pitfalls, reduce delays and remove excuses for non-payment.

A Christmas Collection

The payment was late: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of this story I am going to relate.

Once upon a time - of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve - old Scrooge sat busy counting his unpaid invoices.

After ensuring your company really knows your customer, knowing when you can expect your invoices to be paid is the next step in an effective credit control process.

Agreeing payment terms in advance helps to ensure both parties accept and understand their obligations and allows for the creditor to forecast the arrival of funds, a key survival strategy in today’s turbulent economy.

One of the single most important aspects of effective credit control in any business is ensuring that you know exactly who you are dealing with, before any credit is provided.

If you don’t know who your customer is, it is impossible to correctly identify the risk involved in providing credit and means your company is doing business “in the dark”.

The Prompt Payment Code and the Supply Chain Finance Scheme - what's going on?

The current economy is turbulent enough, without seemingly conflicting schemes being launched to help businesses with credit control and late payment.

But in recent weeks, both the Prompt Payment Code and the Supply Chain Finance Scheme have been making headlines for companies with slow-to-pay clients.

Many businesses involved in the retail and supply sectors find the run up to the festive period can be the businest and potentially most profitable time of the year.  But it can also be one of the most difficult times of year to keep a healthy cash flow as it's not only legitimate businesses that are gearing up for a bumper holiday period; fraudsters are also busily laying the foundations for a variety of Christmas cons that could leave many already struggling companies out in the cold come January.

If you're a small-business owner and you've never heard of the Supply Chain Finance Scheme, announced today, sit down and put anything breakable well out of reach, because you're going to want to smash something pretty soon.

The SCFS is one of those initiatives that you hear about, think "how the hell did they come up with that?", and then realise it was a government idea.

Late payments are a pain for all of us, clapping the irons on our cashflow, disrupting client relationships and generally causing a world of stress until they're resolved either directly or through the intervention of a debt collections specialist like Safe Collections.

But on an international scale, late payments cause even bigger headaches for economies across the EU, leading to an annual debt of €23.6 billion (£19 billion) according to European Commission figures.

We regularly speak to Freelancers and Contractors who are uncertain on how to handle the credit control process after an invoice has been issued.  Credit Control (occasionally called "Dunning") is no black art and it is simply a mix of common sense and a considered approach to ensuring any monies are paid in full and on time.

Below you will find an easy to understand infographic outlining a suggested process for any contractor issuing invoices on 30 day terms.  If your business terms are longer or shorter then just adjust the steps below to suit your client.

You could be putting your business at risk by failing to carry out routine credit checks before extending a line of credit to customers.

Any time you conduct work on behalf of a client, or supply goods to them without demanding payment upfront, you are effectively creating a line of credit - and increasing the total degree of risk to which your own company is exposed.

We always say that a sensible approach to invoicing can help to cut down on the number of problems you face - and that's still true. Chasing up invoices, making sure they've been received by the client, and querying any payments as soon as they become overdue can all help to encourage clients to pay up on time.

But when an invoice goes unpaid, it's easy to find yourself becoming more and more lenient in the hope that your client will eventually pay - while they become less and less reasonable in their reasons for delaying.

The videogames industry is a key contributor to the post-industrial UK economy, at a time when the creative industries and services sector are steadily growing in importance.

But safeguarding this contribution means ensuring the continued health of companies working in the industry - and the sector's representative body TIGA (The Independent Games Developers Association) is doing just that by encouraging all those working in the videogames sector to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code and avoid late payment.

Recast Late Payment Directive Consultation

Businesses that have been surviving at the edge of affordability - commonly called 'zombie businesses' for their inability to survive any further change in the health of their cashflow - could be particularly keen to see the Late Payments Directive introduced as planned.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills is running a consultation until October 19th on the Late Payments Directive (or European Directive 2011/7/EU, to use its proper name), which should help many small businesses to receive full payment of their invoices within 30 days - and to charge interest on top of any debts that go unpaid for longer.

 

Local authority late payments are almost as much of a problem now as when, in 2008, the government first introduced a ten-day target for settling its invoices in the regions, reports the Forum of Private Business.

Following on from our mock interview with Dodgy Dave the Debt Collector below you can find an infographic containing Nine Top Tips to avoid dodgy B2B Debt Collectors.

The tips are from the pen of our MD Sid Home.  Sid is a former British Transport Police officer and has been the Managing Director of Safe Collections since the company was incorporated in 1984.

When you've been left out of pocket by a non-paying client, it's only natural that you should want to claim back what is rightfully yours.

So how do you know who to trust? We spoke to Dodgy Dave the Debt Collector - a prime example of the kind of person you probably don't want to trust with your money.

Late payments are a burden that all businesses must bear, and we fully understand and appreciate the annoyance that they can cause to all of our clients, whether big or small. So when a customer leaves you with an unpaid invoice, it's equally understandable that you might choose to 'encourage' them to pay up in any way possible.

Increasingly, that for some people means taking to the social networks to name and shame the non-paying client and try to embarrass them into paying. There are clear problems with this approach - for a start, you have to wonder whether a business owner happy to renege on a contract is likely to be shamed into settling their account simply because of a bit of bad word of mouth. But we were curious to find out just how often naming and shaming actually works - so we asked you.

Continuing our series of articles on debt collection in the USA, this article covers the Statute of Limitations and Interest Rates on a state by state basis. This article is based on a recent review conducted by our American Debt Collection partner via their network of state based debt collection attorneys.

Before considering legal proceedings to recover an business debt in America we would recommend you first read the preceding three articles in this series.

Part 1 - USA Debt Collection Procedures

Part 2 - Ten Questions to ask before Suing a Debtor in the USA

Part 3 - USA Debt Collection - Court Witnesses

An official hospitality centre for African nations during the London 2012 Olympic games has been forced to close amid allegations that suppliers have unpaid invoices totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The center, situated opposite the Royal Albert Hall, featured an exhibition area and restaurant open to the general public as well as reception area for games participants, sponsors and officials.

The government's ongoing pledge to help small businesses keep their cashflow looking healthy has taken a new turn - and it's like 'improving' policing by asking criminals to turn themselves in.

Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills work with representative groups of small firms on the Small Business Economic Forum.

Night of the Living Debt as 'Zombie Businesses' take over the UK!

Watch your backs people - there's a zombie revolution taking place, and the bloodthirsty brutes have got a taste for your money.

R3, the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, says there are already 146,000 'zombie businesses' out there, including much of the retail sector, leaving Britain's high streets looking like something out of a horror movie, financially speaking.

Gloomy news from the Forum of Private Business in recent weeks, as FTSE 100 companies are again being urged to abolish the late payments culture by settling their invoices on time, and banks are again being urged to lend more to cash-strapped small businesses.

In an ongoing climate of tight availability of finance in all its forms, and with outstanding invoices totaling tens of billions of pounds, it can be easy to wonder what's the point in chasing payments?

A failure to follow the 'golden rules' of credit control is leaving many SMEs facing a significant burden of payment chasing this summer, says RBS Invoice Finance.

The bank's specialist team has compiled figures showing that small firms are currently receiving payments an average of 30 days beyond the agreed deadline.

In part two of our series on Debt Recovery in the USA our American Debt Collection agent outlined the 10 questions any creditor must ask prior to taking a claim to court in the USA. Whilst many of the points raised in this piece are not entirely dissimilar to the questions any creditor should ask before pursuing legal action, one critical point is often overlooked.

If your company is considering taking legal action in the USA to recover unpaid invoices, you will be expected to provide at least one witness at trial. Our US affiliate explains:

Many businesses that work with local authorities are facing a 'postcode lottery' to determine whether their accounts are settled on time, or whether they must deal with late payments from their council customers, says the Forum of Private Business.

The claim is significant because, back in 2008, the government called for councils to pay their suppliers' invoices in no more than ten days - a way to keep small businesses' cashflow healthy, as well as to ensure liquidity within the wider economy as a whole.

Following on from the news that UK PLC's are sitting on a staggering £64 billion excess of capital the latest figures from Bacs Payment Schemes show overdue payments to UK SMEs are now at a record breaking all-time high of £35.3 billion.

The data was compiled at the end of 2011, and showed a £2 billion increase in late payments in the space of just six months.

Simple credit control measures could help one in ten businesses nationwide to stay operational in the face of delayed payments.

According to figures from Yorkshire Bank and its north-of-the-border equivalent, Clydesdale Bank, 10% of companies would not be able to survive if their clients took over 90 days to pay their invoices.

Late payments to creditors by UK PLC’s are being used to add to the working capital companies have at their disposal, according to a new report from Deloitte.

The professional services provider has analysed the working capital performance of 20,800 companies with global operations over the past five years, enabling it to compile a £64 billion estimate of excess working capital in the UK - a rise of £3 billion since 2010.

 

In our first blog post on USA debt collection we discussed the three pre-legal stages an American debt recovery agency will use to attempt recovery. But what happens when they have done their best to collect, but the debtor refuses to co-operate?

In this instance your only option to collect the debt may be to consider taking legal action. As with any legal claim here in the UK you can expect to pay the court costs and lawyers fees. But unlike in the UK you as a creditor will be required to attend any hearing, generally at your own cost.

Business loans have been making the headlines recently, but it's not all bad news - particularly for companies that have improved debt collection over the past year or so.

There's a perception in the media that businesses need loans in order to succeed. And in some cases, yes, that's true - an injection of cash can be useful for all kinds of reasons, from setting up a new firm to undergoing expansion or a change of direction.

 

Here at Safe Collections we have decades of experience in helping our customers recover unpaid invoices and bad debts both in the UK and across the globe.  One of our key markets is the USA and we have been working closely with our US debt recovery affiliate since 1986.

Robert is the Vice President of International & Corporate Quality at our affiliate office in New York and here he explains the Three Phase USA debt collection procedures they follow in recovery of overdue accounts from US based debtors.

A headline-grabbing report from the Forum of Private Business and Graydon reveals that formal credit control processes are in place at fewer than half of the UK's small businesses.

The survey looked at 500 companies across the UK, and just 44% said they had formal credit control procedures to fall back on if they are not paid promptly by debtors.  However, many others admitted to making use of a spur-of-the-moment approach to payments, with 16% juggling payments as they go along and 38% mixing formal credit control processes with informal payment-chasing.

Credit control is an important part of running any business effectively, but for small-business owners it can have an even greater significance.

When you rely on a regular income to cover your outgoings, overheads and employee wages, any delay in payments from clients can have a severe impact on your company cash flow.

 Easter weekend is traditionally a time to think about finances, with Maundy Thursday in particular famous for its centuries-old ceremony in which the British monarch gives alms to specially selected individuals.

But this year, a new CIFAS report highlights the prevalence of financial fraud throughout the UK, and hints at why making use of professional credit control and debt recovery services can help your company avoid losing money to fraudulent transactions.

Cash flow is king. Profit is sanity. Turnover is vanity. Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business and ensuring it flows freely is essential.  Read a sample of our free guide to credit control below, authored by our very own Sid Home MICM and request a copy of the full and unabridged version free.

Following on from the success of our free Late Payment iCalc for iPhone, in November 2010 a BlackBerry App was released. This free app brings exactly the same functionality to users of BlackBerry handsets.

In May 2010 Safe Collections became the first company to release a free iPhone App to help UK business owners. The app makes it easy to calculate both the late payment costs and interest on any overdue invoice.

In 2009 our founder and Managing Director was interviewed for a piece in The Independent On Sunday, this article is reproduced below with their kind permission. in 2009 we still went by our original name of Creditsafe Ltd, whilst our name may have changed our thirty year commitment to credit management and debt collection excellence has not.

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Hitting the Headlines: Safe Collections in the Guardian

in About Safe Collections by Adam Home
If you're a Guardian reader, you may have seen Safe Collections' collections and partnerships manager Adam Home quoted in a Guardian Professional article on May 12th. Tim Aldred's piece looked at the case for credit control teams as a way for businesses to…

Hitting The Headlines: The Independent on Sunday

in About Safe Collections by Adam Home
In 2009 our founder and Managing Director was interviewed for a piece in The Independent On Sunday, this article is reproduced below with their kind permission. in 2009 we still went by our original name of Creditsafe Ltd, whilst our name may have changed our…