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.