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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.