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.