Wholesaler Palmer & Harvey has entered administration after failing to restructure significant debts owed to suppliers. The Palmer & Harvey Group, the UK’s fifth-largest privately owned business and the country’s largest tobacco supplier, had been in takeover talks with Carlyle, the private equity firm.
But after talks broke down, directors from several Palmer & Harvey group companies made an application to London’s High Court to enter administration to help ease an increasingly unmanageable debt burden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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”.
Safe Collections is proud to announce that we are now the official Debt Recovery partner of Halton Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will I get the money my company is owed?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.